When you’re in your twenties and you haven’t yet made headlines, it can seem as though you’ve already missed your “moment.” We seem to be under the perpetual impression that the only successful people find their peak early in life — and that, if we’re in our twenties and we aren’t famous, we should let go of any fanciful notions we might have about finding success or recognition.
The truth is, such assumptions are plain bullshit.
It’s true. By putting yourself in an age box, you’re shortchanging all of your abilities in favor of some perception of prosperity which is entirely dependent on youthfulness. While it may be easier to get recognition when you’re younger (I’m not going to dispute that fact), there is no law that states you automatically go in the “Unsuccessful Bin” once you hit the age of thirty and you aren’t searchable on Getty Images.
The next time you feel discouraged by the time ticking by, just remember that life is full of changes and surprises — and you may find success in the most unlikely place at the most unlikely age. Here are some inspiring women who were somewhat late bloomers in life, and didn’t get the credit they were due until well after their twenties:
1. Martha Stewart
Despite previously owning a catering company, Stewart did not earn her stripes until the publication of her first book, Entertaining, at the age of 41. Her brand, Martha Stewart Living, was launched seven years later.
2. Vera Wang
Wang commissioned her first wedding dress in 1989 for her own wedding, at the age of 40. The gown cost $10,000, and Wang opened her first bridal boutique the following year.
3. Kerry Washington
Despite supporting roles in Save the Last Dance and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Washington never really gained traction in the public eye until her supporting role in Django Unchained — which she got at the age of 35. Following this role, she earned the part of Olivia Pope in Scandal, and the rest, as they say, is entertainment history.
4. Julia Child
The famous chef’s first cookbook wasn’t published until she was 39, and Child didn’t even learn how to cook until the age of 36. She then made her television debut at the age of 51, on The French Chef, proving that you can indeed make a career change late in life.
5. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling didn’t get the first Harry Potter book published until she was 31 years old, and received plenty of rejection letters before she did. She was also a single mother at the time. So, the next time you feel like giving up because someone tells you “No,” just remember that one of the most prolific and iconic authors of our time would never have been published if she had listened to the haters.
6. Jessica Chastain
Despite attending the prestigious Juilliard School, Chastain was at a bit of a loss following her college graduation. By age 31, the actress had never been cast in a major film or television production — however, she was soon cast in Tree of Life and The Help, both of which garnered Oscar nods for Chastain. But, the success came after years and years of rejection, which could have easily caused Chastain to give up on her chosen career path.
7. Judi Dench
Despite being a household name, Dench didn’t snag a leading role in any of the Royal Shakespeare Company productions until she reached the age of 34. And her film career didn’t even take off in the United States until Dench was in her 60’s!
8. Kathryn Bigelow
The Oscar-winning director received very little media attention prior to The Hurt Locker, which earned her accolades from the Academy (including Best Picture and Best Director). Bigelow was not publicly recognized as an essential and influential director until the age of 57.
9. Anna Wintour
Though it seems that Anna Wintour must have been (impeccably) groomed for her job as editor-in-chief of Vogue, Wintour didn’t snag her first editorial position until she was almost thirty. The kicker? The job was for an erotic women’s magazine called Viva (not exactly couture). Wintour was 39 before she assumed her current position at Vogue.
10. Christina Hendricks
Despite playing the iconic and career-changing role of Joan Holloway on Mad Men, Hendricks was relatively unknown before she scored the secretarial part on the hit TV series — and she was 32 years old when the first season of the show aired.
11. Jenna Fischer
Fischer had little success as an actress before she was cast in the hugely-successful American remake of The Office at the age of 31. Following her foray as Pam Beasley, Fischer landed several roles in mainstream comedies, which included Walk Hard and Blades of Glory. Bonus: she got to kiss John Krasinski. Like, a lot.
12. Connie Britton
It seems almost unfathomable that someone as confident and sexy as Connie Britton could have been passed over for a role — but it definitely happened. Britton lost out to Renee Zellweger for the supporting role in Jerry Maguire, a movie which could have made her career. However, Britton finally had her day many years later when she was cast as Tami Taylor on the successful and iconic series, Friday Night Lights. Britton was 39 when she earned the role, and her career has pretty much been gold ever since.