15 Women Who Became Successful Later in Life and Proved It’s Never Too Late

2 years ago

About 57% of people admit that they have lost all hope of ever finding their dream job, according to a study. The average age when they give up on their ideal job is 30. Yet, there are women who’ve achieved tremendous success later in life, doing what they love. Some of these women even struggled at the beginning of their careers, but they persevered and became an inspiration for us to never give up on ourselves.

We at Bright Side want to recount the success stories of these women who show us that age is just a number.

1. Lizzo

21-year-old Lizzo lived out of her car for a year after her father’s death, as she tried to break into the music industry. She got her big break at 28 when her release Coconut Oil peaked at number 44 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. She won 3 Grammys this year.

2. Viola Davis

Viola Davis only played minor roles on screen when she was in her 30s, and she wasn’t even given credit for some of them. Her talent was finally recognized when she was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the one-scene role she had in the movie Doubt at age 44. She went on to win multiple awards in her 40s and 50s.

3. Betty White

Betty White began her television career after high school, but the war put a gap in her career. After the war, she went back to movie studios to find work, but was always rejected because she was “not photogenic.” She kept pursuing her dream no matter what and was nominated for an Emmy Award when she was 29. Today, at 98, she has multiple awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

4. Anna Wintour

At 26, Anna Wintour was fired from her job as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar after 9 months. She has been editor-in-chief of Vogue US since she was 39 years old. She was never afraid of changes and through the years, she became one of the greatest influences in fashion.

5. Jessica Chastain

By the time Jessica Chastain graduated from the prestigious Julliard performing arts school, she was already 26. Not only did her career begin late, but she also had a series of small roles and only got her first movie credit after she hit 30. Since the age of 34, however, she has become one of the most sought-after lead actresses in Hollywood.

6. Vivienne Westwood

The influential designer worked as a teacher up until she was 30. With her partner Malcolm McLaren, she brought punk into the mainstream when her creations were worn by punk bands. Their first catwalk show was called the Pirate Collection, and happened when Vivienne was 40 years old.

7. Ali Wong

The Always Be My Maybe actress passionately pursued comedy in New York where she only ate lentils and brown rice during her first year there. She performed up to 9 sets a night, moving from one venue to the next. It wasn’t until she was 29 years old that she was named one of the “10 Comics to Watch,” and began to appear in television shows, before becoming an actress.

8. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep didn’t begin her professional career until she was 26. Once, she was brought to Dino De Laurentiis to audition for King Kong, and he said to his son in Italian, “Why did you bring me this ugly thing?” She got her breakthrough when she was 29 and today she holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor.

9. Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks was a model before becoming an actress. She had been appearing in television roles since she was 24, but it was when she got her role in Mad Men at the age of 32 that she was widely recognized. She has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award 6 times and has won 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

10. Tina Fey

After college, Tina Fey worked as a receptionist, before moving on to be a writer for Saturday Night Live (SNL). She was about 29 years old when she became SNL’s first female head writer. She was 34 when she wrote Mean Girls, which was one of her most memorable works. At 38, she won a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Emmy Award for acting in the 30 Rock series.

11. Julia Child

Known as the important figure who brought French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Julia Child did not learn how to cook until she met her husband. She was a copywriter and then a top-secret researcher during World War II. She graduated from the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school at age 39 and her cookbook was published about a decade later. Her first television cooking show, The French Chef, had its debut when she was already in her 50s and the show also won some awards.

12. Sheryl Crow

After graduating from college, Sheryl Crow worked as a music teacher before becoming a backup singer for stars like Rod Stewart. She recorded what should have been her debut album at age 29, but scrapped it because it wasn’t up to par. Her actual debut album came out 2 years later but was slow to get attention, until one of the songs became an unexpected hit. To date, she has won 9 Grammy awards.

13. Kerry Washington

Kerry Washington began her acting career at the tender age of 17. It took her 8 years before she was finally making enough money annually to qualify for health insurance under the Screen Actors Guild. She got her biggest break at age 35, when she began playing Olivia Pope in the critically acclaimed series Scandal.

14. Marie Curie

At the beginning, Marie Curie could not enter the University of Warsaw because, back then, women weren’t allowed to attend college. Despite having obstacles along the way because she was a woman, she persisted in her studies and, with her husband, conducted research on radioactivity. She became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize when she was 36, but this was only after her husband lodged a complaint when the committee just nominated him and not her, because of her gender. She was also the only person to win the Nobel Prize in 2 different scientific fields.

15. Susan Boyle

Before auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent (BGT), Susan Boyle used all of her savings to produce copies of her singing to send to record companies, radio competitions, and TV shows. Initially, she didn’t even want to audition for BGT, because at 47, she believed she was too old. In the US, her first album topped the Billboard charts and all of her albums have appeared on the Billboard Hot 100.

What is your dream and would you pursue it even if you were older? Do you know of any other inspirational stories from women who were late bloomers? Share them with us in the comments!

Please note: This article was updated in April 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
Preview photo credit FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/East News


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This is such an inspiring article. Anna Wintour is one of my favourite women in the fashion industry. Except for stylish she is a true leading figure!


Viola Davis. The most talented woman in Hollywood right now. And her speeches are truly something. I love watching her show How to Get Away With Murder and the love and support she always expresses to the black community.


Reese Witherspoon is one of my favourite hollywood personas. I follow her book club on Instagram and she always suggests great books. If you are a bookworm like me, look it up ;)



I'm a big fan of all these talent shows like AGT and BGT, but I somehow missed Susan Boyle!

I just checked her performance - she is insanely awesome, what a woman ?


Such inspirational stories, really make me feel that I can also achieve a lot!


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