Entertainment Weekly

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THE PRICE OF NICE

ELLEN DEGENERES BUILT HER BRAND AS THE QUEEN OF KINDNESS. TURNS OUT SHE’S MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT. AND MAYBE THAT’S OUR PROBLEM AS WELL AS HERS.

IF YOU HAVE THE FORTUNE OR curse to work around entertainers, people will ask you what they are really like. Whoever the object of fascination is—Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé—that inquisition invariably starts with a naive but tricky interrogative:

Is she nice?

Now, of all the qualities it takes to make it in Hollywood (good genes, talent, drive, narcissism), niceness doesn’t rank so high. We accept that successes in other professions can be prickly. There’s no great shock in discovering that a Picasso or a Zuckerberg doesn’t play well with others. We admire Michael Jordan and know he’s not buddy material. Not so with

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