While public interest in her television series continues to be limited, the public’s interest in her personal life has taken off since she began dating Ellen De Generes in December. It’s not a passion of mine to become political in any way, but I do think it’s important to see gay men and women having big careers and very full, rich lives.”The fact that de Rossi answered the question at all — and that she used the “g” word, the first time she’s done so on the record — is the latest sign of a small but significant strategy shift in how de Rossi publicly handles her personal life.

While de Rossi may not be happy with all the attention focused on her personal life, she is becoming more comfortable with it, as evidenced by her response in a recent interview with style magazine “If I told you I haven’t really thought about it, you probably wouldn’t believe me. In the past, de Rossi has consistently shied away from saying anything about her personal relationships in interviews, never officially acknowledging her well-known (in entertainment circles, at least) relationship with girlfriend Francesca Gregorini, but never denying it either.

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She always arrived alone to high-profile events like the Golden Globes, and only met up with Gregorini at the after-parties, where the two rarely allowed themselves to be photographed alone together.“It sounds so trite, but my private life is mine,” de Rossi told Australia’s in May of 2003.

“When you have the paparazzi hiding in the bushes outside your home, about the only thing you can control is how you respond publicly.

For exactly the reason she states — because it important that people “see gay men and women having big careers and very full, rich lives.” And even with all of the progress we’ve made on that front in the last few decades, today most Americans can still count on only two hands the number of gay women that fit that criteria.

While it is certainly not de Rossi’s or De Generes’s responsibility to represent all lesbians, as public figures, their sexuality does carry more weight than most people’s, whether they like it or not.

The 59-year-old host was all smiles as she had her mystery date walking beside her.

Her date, meanwhile, donned a black long dress which she paired with matching boots.

"That had never happened to me in my life, where I saw somebody and experienced all of those things you hear about in songs and read about in poetry.

My knees were weak." De Generes — who turns 54 Thursday — proposed with a 3-carat diamond ring in 2008.

De Rossi is also a frequent audience member at the tapings of De Generes’s talk show, and De Generes has begun to mention her relationship with de Rossi in interviews, as she did as a February 5th call-in on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show — although like de Rossi, she says very little about the relationship beyond acknowledging its existence.