Success After 30: 11 Famous People Who Made It Later

The universe glorifies the sparkling, invincible 20s and duly expects every 20-something to seize the day and come up with a million dollar screenplay or iPhone app. We’re at our freshest, most dewy and witty state, so why not? Well, I’m not rich yet. I haven’t been offered a book deal, and I can’t even manage to switch my glasses with contacts because I freak out and start crying when anything touches my eyeballs. Yeah, I’m still patiently waiting for the day I’ll make it.

Which could very well be any day in my 30s.  There are actually a LOT of people who worked super hard in their 20s, only to finally gain recognition later on.  It’s refreshing to know that success does not always come so quickly; celebrities like Kate Walsh, who scored the role as Dr. Addison Montgomery in Grey’s Anatomy at age 36, give me hope.

Here is a list of inspirational human beings who were rejected in their 20s, maybe didn’t measure up to Hollywood’s standards right away, perhaps waitressed too many shifts in LA, but totally made it in their 30s and beyond, because maybe all it takes is time, perspective, hard work and the confidence a lot of us don’t have in our 20s.  Thank you, guys. You are (partially) the reason why I haven’t tossed my laptop and notebooks out the window to pursue accounting. The other reason is because I would have to die of boredom because I hate numbers. Also, I already spent way too much time in college reading Edith Wharton.

1. Jon Hamm

Seductive Jon Hamm was bussing and waiting on tables in Hollywood until he was 29 years old! No one would hire him to play young roles because he looked too old and was too young to play old roles. Finally, he was cast in a television show called Providence and by the time he turned 30, he was on set of We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson. But his huge breakout role was in 2007. At the age of 36, he beat 80 actors of the role of the smoking hot (literally) Don Draper in Mad Men.

2. Vera Wang

Vera Wang started out as a figure skater who failed to make it to US Olympic figure-skating team. She later became an editor at Vogue but was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. So, she took it in her own hands and started designing wedding gowns at 40, and is now an incredibly famous and lucrative fashion designer. So take that, everyone.

 3. Jenna Fischer

Jenna had some small roles here and there before The Office, but the NBC sitcom showcased what Jenna Fischer could do.  She was 31 when she started her role as Pam, and since then she’s been in several indie movies where she is utterly adorable.

 4. Julia Child

Julia moved to Paris with her husband in 1948. Julia was 36 at the time, and had never really tried decadent food such as oysters and sole meuniere (buttery fish – it’s amazing) up until that point. She was fascinated by French cuisine and enrolled herself the famous Le Cordon Bleu to learn how to cook. By the time she was 50, she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a revolutionary book for Americans who wanted to learn how to cook French food.  Her show, The French Chef was wildly successful, as was Julia Child & Company and Dinner at Julia’s. You foodies out there with blogs, keep going! Because you never know.

 5. Amy Poehler

Amy started her career with the Upright Citizens Brigade in her late 20s, but didn’t start working on SNL until she was 31. Now 41 and fabulous, Amy stars in Parks and Recreation (which may be the most hilarious television show in the world) as the tenacious Leslie Knope.

 6. Tina Fey

Tina Fey performed shows for The Second City up until 1997, and that same year she was hired as a writer for SNL. In 1999, she became the head writer, and in 2000 she started performing in sketches. From 2006 to 2013 (sad!), Tina (43) starred in 30 Rock. 

 7. J.K. Rowling

Rowling was 32 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published. When I was little, I bought her autobiography after I inhaled the first three Harry Potter books because I, too, wanted to write. Rowling apparently got by on napkins, which she used as paper to write the first few chapters of Harry Potter. Even if this isn’t true, Rowling is now the 12th richest woman in the UK.

 8. Alan Rickman

Speaking of Harry Potter, Rickman’s breakout performance was at the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which was a role he earned at age 36.

 9. Leonard Cohen

Cohen started his career as a poet in Canada, but he was in his 30s when he released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, which was a masterpiece.

10. Hillary Clinton

I have to include Hillary because of all the scrutiny she’s been facing as a potential presidential candidate. A lot of the Republicans claim she’s getting too old to run for president, but I think that’s stupid. This lady can do anything, although she really started her career as a public figurehead in 1977  when she co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and became the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978. She was named the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979, and was twice listed as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. She was 32 at this point.

11. Kelly Oxford

Kelly is one of my favorite people in the world and I don’t even personally know her. Does that make me weird? No. Because Kelly Oxford is awesome. And hilarious. In 2011, she made it to Time’s top 140 Twitter feeds list, and just this year she published her book, Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar. Sometimes I wonder when this crazy success will happen to me, but the 36-year-old reassures her fans that she spent years writing and blogging on the internet before she achieved any kind of recognition. After getting rejected by NBC and CBS, Warner Bros bought her script called Son of a Bitch.

See? We still have tons of time to take over the world.

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