Late Bloomers: The Inspirational Women Who Changed Career Late In Life

It seems that every other day you read a story of another twentysomething who has wowed the world with an amazing invention, or landed a huge book deal, or is starring in a movie that's sure to get her an Oscar nod, or was just promoted to senior vice president for the coolest company around. And you look at your own accomplishments and think, blah. You're struggling to pay the rent and student loans. You're beholden to a horrible boss who definitely doesn't know your full potential. Or worse, you're stuck working in a field you hate, but you're not sure how to switch gears and do something you love. So you sit around with your best friends and you bitch and moan and wonder if things will get any better.

Good news: It will get better. Your career is long. So long. Most of us start working full-time jobs around 22 or 23, and we're likely to work until we're 70 or longer. That's 50 years. And let's be real: Who wants to peak at 25? It's likely you'll have a half-dozen different careers over the span of your life — chances are you'll be doing a job at 50 that doesn't even exist today.

Ahead, we rounded up nine amazing women who didn't find huge success right away, but when they did, they soared. Bookmark this story and pull it up whenever you're feeling a little unsure of your future — use it as a motivator to seek out your own success. If they can do it, so can you.

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Photo: Neil Rasmus/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.
Martha Stewart (born 1941)
Stewart was a model and worked on Wall Street before launching a catering business from her basement. Her first cookbook was published when she was 41, and she didn't launch Martha Stewart Omnimedia until she was 56.
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Viola Davis (born 1965)
Davis won a Tony in 2001 for her role in King Hedley II, but she didn't become a household name until the age of 46, when she earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 2011 film The Help. In 2015, she became the first African-American actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role on How to Get Away with Murder. She finally took home an Academy Award in 2017, for her magnificent turn as Rose in Fences.
Photo: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock.
Vivienne Westwood (born 1941)
Westwood dropped out of art school because she couldn't imagine being able to make a living as an artist. She worked in a factory and later as a primary school teacher, marrying Derek Westwood in 1962 and having a son.

It wasn't until she met punk impresario Malcolm McLaren that she dared to imagine another life. At 30, she quit her teaching job and became an architect of the punk movement. These days, she's a world-famous designer, dressing celebrities in her creations for film and red carpets.
Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock.
Amy Schumer (born 1981)
Schumer's 20s were all about the hustle. She started doing stand-up in 2004, starred in a Comedy Central reality show in 2008, and did a Butterfinger commercial in 2009. She started her 30s off with a bang, coming in fourth on Last Comic Standing in 2011. This has been Schumer's decade: Her sketch-comedy show Inside Amy Schumer premiered in the spring of 2013, and in 2015, she teamed up with Judd Apatow for Golden Globe-nominated Trainwreck.
Photo: Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock.
Vera Wang (born 1949)
Wang was a professional figure skater until she quit at 23 to take a job at Vogue. She worked there for 15 years, leaving in 1987 to become an accessories designer at Ralph Lauren. Wang didn't open her own bridal boutique until she was 41, and finally gained national recognition at 53, when she designed Nancy Kerrigan's costume for the 1994 Olympics.
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Phyllis Diller (born 1917)
Diller, who was one of the first female comedians to become a household name, had a whole other life before she was discovered by Groucho Marx at the age of 38. She was a fairly typical housewife and a mother of six, until her husband encouraged her to start doing stand-up in 1954. Diller landed her first movie role at 44, and by 49 had her own variety show, The Phyllis Diller Show.
Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Sophia Vergara (born 1972)
Vergara did have fame at an early age — she started modelling in her teens and starred in a Pepsi commercial in 1989. But she didn't land her first English-language role until she was 30, and spent most of the 2000s struggling to establish herself in the US (so many failed sitcoms). Vergara finally made it big in 2009, at the age of 37, with her role on the runaway hit Modern Family.
Photo: MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock.
J.K. Rowling (born 1965)
Rowling has one of the best rags-to-riches stories ever written — and it's all true. It took her seven years to write the first Harry Potter book, and for many of those years she was a struggling single mother on welfare. She was 30 when she finally finished the manuscript, and the book was rejected from 12 publishing houses. In the end, she received a $3,000 advance from Bloomsbury; the first print run of Philosopher's Stone was just 1,000 copies.

Obviously, we know how Rowling's story ends — in 2017, Forbes named her the highest paid author in the world.
Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images.
Julia Child (born 1912)
Child didn't even learn to cook until she moved to France with her husband Paul Child in 1948. But she didn't mess around, taking classes at the Cordon Bleu. Child started a cooking school with two friends and, with their help, began writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The 726-page tome wasn't published until Child was 49. She began her career as a TV chef in 1963, and continued writing and cooking until well into her 90s.
Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Hillary Clinton (born 1947)
Sure, Clinton has pretty much always been successful — she was the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979. But it wasn't until after her husband's presidency that she really came into her own. Clinton became the first female Senator from the state of New York in 2000, and after her failed 2008 presidential campaign, she became Secretary of State at the age of 62.

Trump may have won the presidency but you can bet this isn't the last we've heard of Clinton.
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