15 Badass Women Who Got A Late Start In Their Careers And Still Crushed It

It is normal to stress about being “successful,” and it is also normal to not achieve it for a long time. Is there an age you’ve set for yourself by which you expect to have reached a certain level of success? Do you feel as though it’s “too late” for you to chase your dreams?

Know that it’s not. Know that everyone is on their own path, and that there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all measuring stick for the “right age” to do anything, to “become someone.” It’s alright to spend your 20s and even your 30s figuring yourself out — you’re building your foundation for success, even if it doesn’t always feel like that.

To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of 15 totally badass women who might be considered “late bloomers,” in terms of success. These incredible ladies are indisputable proof that hard work, passion, and determination are always worth it.

15. Julia Child:

Julia Child, cooking legend and the very first celebrity chef was 50 when she hit her stride. After years spent writing her cookbook, creating recipes, and getting rejection letters from publishing houses, Child was ready to throw in the towel. A young female editor at Knopf discovered the manuscript, got Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, and five months later Julia Child was on every kitchen television set in the nation.

14. J.K. Rowling:

Though Rowling had reportedly come up with everyone’s favorite wizard when she was 25 years old, it wasn’t until she was 32 that her “loads” of rejections turned into a green light of Harry Potter.  What’s more, Rowling was at rock bottom when she began writing the Harry Potter series — a recently-divorced, recently-fired, depressed single mother living off welfare.

13. Kathryn Bigelow:

Bigelow had directed several small action films but it wasn’t until Hurt Locker won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2008 that she became both famed and iconic. She was 57 at the time.

12. Toni Morrison:

Toni Morrison is a staple of every required reading list in the nation, known for her powerful novels as well as her status as both a Nobel and Pulitzer prize winner. Before Morrison’s first novel was published (The Bluest Eye), she was a single mom working as an editor for Random House. She was 40 years old.

11. Kathy Bates:

Bates has starred in dozens of films, but it she didn’t land her breakout role until she was 43 years old. The 1990 film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery won Bates both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for portrayal of sadistic superfan Annie Wilkes.

10. Laura Ingalls Wilder:

Wilder had a difficult life. After the death of her one-month old son, her husband became paralyzed and she took over his duties running the farm. At 43 years old, Wilder’s daughter Rose encouraged her to write a memoir. It was rejected several times, though publishers agreed to turn her work in a fictional children’s book. Wilder was 65 years old when “Little House in the Big Woods” was published.

9. Gladys Burrill:

You may not have heard of Gladys Burrill, but she is one incredible woman. Forget the fact that she’s been an aircraft pilot, a hiker, a mountain climber, and a horseback rider– she ran her first marathon at 86 and completed the Honolulu Marathon at 92, gaining her an entry into the Guinness World Book.

8. Anna Mary Robertson Moses:

Better known as Grandma Moses, the legendary artist began her prolific painting career at 78, though she’d been interested in art from a young age. She began to write her memoir, “My Life’s History” at 92. In 2006, one of her paintings sold for $1.2 million.

7. Christina Hendricks:

Hendricks was the embodiment of a struggling actor for the majority of her life. “I’ve been to a million auditions and have been rejected a million times,” she told Flare.” The now 43-year-old was eventually cast in the life-changing role of Joan Harris in Mad Men, which kicked off her successful acting career.

6. Dorothy Allison:

Allison is known for her New York Times bestseller “Bastard Out Of Carolina,” but her first real taste of success came with the publication of her short story collection “Trash” in 1988, when she was nearly 40. Her first poetry book wasn’t published until she was in her mid-30s.

4. Lynn Shelton:

You may not recognize her name, but you’ve certainly heard of her projects. Shelton is an award-winning television and film director, having directed episodes of Master of None, New Girl, and The Mindy Project, to name a few.  But the now-50-year-old Shelton didn’t start taking herself serious until she was in her late 30s. She’d worked as a film editor and did a little acting, but didn’t have the confidence to really go for what she wanted. In an interview with the New York Times after the commercial release of her first film, Humpday, in 2009, she described her slipshod method:

“I just did not have the confidence to do it. And then I had to find a backdoor way in. I couldn’t even go to film school, I had to start making my little movies and learning about editing.” So she did!

3. Jane Lynch:

Though Lynch got some screen time in her 40s with cult favorites such as Best in Show and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, it wasn’t until she landed her “big break” on the TV show Glee that she became famous. She was 51 years old.

“If you were to tell me five years ago that this would have happened for me, I would have told you that you were lying. But it just feels so right and so wonderful,” she told USA Today. “I think if this had happened for me younger, I would be so unstable in my energy—fearful that it would all be taken away.”

2. Kerry Washington:

Washington landed the lead role of power-woman Olivia Pope in the hit TV series Scandal when she was 35 year old. Years later, she says she is still growing and learning. “I don’t think I’m even close to fulfilling my potential,” she told AskMen. “And I think also that, unlike a pianist or a flutist, an actor has an instrument that is constantly changing.”


1. Patricia Field:

Though she had worked as a stylist in New York for a couple decades, it wasn’t until Field opened her Greenwich Village boutique that she was able to funnel her creative energy into something big. Field met Sarah Jessica Parker in 1995 when she was 54 years old on the set of Miami Rhapsody, and the rest, as they say, was history. Field has since been nominated for five Emmys (one of which she won.)