An actress who is known as much -- if not more -- for her offscreen life as for her onscreen performances, Anne Heche had the distinction of being one of Hollywood's most surprising success stories and also one half of its most famous lesbian couple. Heche's hyper-publicized former relationship with actress and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres was particularly notable -- and refreshing -- for its degree of openness, something that made the two women veritable poster children for gay pride in Hollywood and elsewhere.
Born in the small town of Aurora, OH, on May 25, 1969, Heche was raised as part of a fundamentalist Christian family. Her father, an itinerant choir director, was constantly running from both debt and his immediate family; the former was due to his lack of a steady job and the latter to his secret life as a gay man. Both conditions resulted in a tumultuous childhood for Heche, who began performing in dinner theatre at the age of 12 to help pay her family's bills. Her life changed dramatically when she was 13 and her father died of AIDS, something that revealed his other identity and confounded Heche's entire family. Compounding the tragedy was her brother's death in a car accident just months later; following this double blow, Heche lived with her mother in Chicago and kept acting to help pay the rent. When she was 17, she moved to New York and was cast as identical twins on the long-running soap opera Another World; Heche stayed with the show through 1991, earning a Daytime Emmy Award for her work in the process.