If you’re in your thirties or nearing 30 and your career hasn’t taken off yet, don’t stress. Some of the most successful and incredible women in the world didn’t find success until after they turned 30. Some of these iconic women thrived after 30, their careers took off after 30, and their success catapulted in their 30s. Sometimes the failures, rejection and roadblocks you experience in your 20s are what leads you to success in your 30s – remember that. It’s never too late to achieve your goals or carry out your dreams. Below are 30 women whose careers took off after age 30:
1. Meryl Streep: At age 30, Meryl Streep won her first Academy Award – which means she was just getting started! For the past few decades, she’s enjoyed an unofficial residency as the prom queen of Oscar Night.
Her road to fame wasn’t an easy one; in this clip she recounts how a famous producer once told her she was too ugly to be in his King Kong remake. “I remember as I was hovering around 40, I thought each movie would be my last, really,” she said recently. We all know recent cinematic history wouldn’t be the same without her legendary roles in The Devil Wears Prada or The Iron Lady.
2. Kristin Wiig: At age 32, Kristin Wiig made her Saturday Night Live debut. After moving to Los Angeles in her early twenties, she spent nearly a decade working a bunch of different jobs that included waitress, graphic designer and florist. After seven years on SNL, she left to pursue acting in feature films. Her sendoff from SNL included a serenade from the Rolling Stones.
At age 38, Wiig starred in the hit film Bridesmaids and ended up in all the gifs and memes you can dream up because of her hilarious starring role. Bridesmaids set a record in the box office for producer Judd Apatow, and today it’s still one of the most popular comedies that we all happily watch and re-watch on Netflix.
3. Jessica Chastain: At age 34, Jessica Chastain had the most memorable breakthrough in Hollywood ever. She went from relative anonymity to seven back-to-back feature films, including The Help. Chastain endured bullying as a child, and people advised her to dye her red hair blonde at the beginning of her career. “For a long time I was making movies that then weren’t coming out for some odd reason, which is why in 2011 I had seven movies come out at once. They just kept getting delayed,” she told Graham Norton. She also remarked to Glamour magazine, “I would have been a disaster. If I was 19 and I had the attention that I’m getting now, I would have just said stupid things.”
4. Tina Fey: Tina Fey is an absolutely incredible writer, producer and actress who found major success after age 30. She was hired as a Saturday Night Live writer in her mid-twenties, but it was after the age of 30 when her career really took off. At age 30, she was cast as Jimmy Fallon’s co-anchor on the popular “Weekend Update” sketch on SNL which was the start of it all, as she was arguably the funniest co-anchor that ever starred on that segment. This helped her develop fame and a fan-base. At age 34, Fey wrote the hit feature film Mean Girls, which is quoted all the time – so we’re always quoting Tina Fey. In her early 40s, Fey was starring in the hit sitcom 30 Rock and she created the hit series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
5. Mary Kay Ash: At age 45, Mary Kay Ash was a freshly widowed entrepreneur who started a cosmetics company with a $5,000 loan from her son. Over the years, her company blossomed into a direct sales giant that provided women with the potential to achieve both personal and financial success. 3.5 million people worldwide are presently Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants.
6. Madeleine Albright: At age 39, Madeleine Albright took her first paying job as a legislative assistant to Senator Ed Muskie. Prior to that, she had spent 15 years studying for a Ph.D while raising her family. She was 59 when she became the first female Secretary of State.
“I think that women can do everything, they just can’t do it all at the same time,” she told Makers.
7. Tory Burch: Tory Burch was 38 years old when she launched her now-famous fashion label, “TRB by Tory Burch,” as a retail store in Manhattan’s Nolita district. After its launch, her brand’s success sky-rocketed due to an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey as “the next big thing in fashion.” Today, her T-logo medallion is widely recognized as a popular fashion brand. Her company has grown internationally, and is known for its shoes, handbags, accessories, home decor and a beauty collection, available in 160 Tory Burch stores and over 3,000 department stores.
8. Julia Child: At age 36, Julia Child enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. She had no prior cooking experience, but her good-humored approach to French cuisine propelled her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to the bestseller list when she was 49. She ultimately published nearly twenty titles under her name and with others. Her popular cooking show, The French Chef, elevated her to a household name.
9. Barbara Walters: At age 34, Barbara Walters first appeared on The Today Show after years working behind the scenes. In an episode of Makers, she states that she wasn’t meant to get the role, as she had a writing background rather than a modeling one.
“They put me on for 13 weeks and I stayed on for 13 years,” she said. After The Today Show, she went on to become the first woman co-anchor of network evening news.
10. Arianna Huffington: Arianna Huffington was 55 years old when she launched The Huffington Post in 2005. The Huffington Post became one of the world’s largest online publications, and in 2011 she sold it to AOL for a whopping $315 million USD.
11. Debbie Harry: Founder of (and singer in) the punk band Blondie, Debbie Harry was 31 when the band released their debut album, and Blondie didn’t see worldwide success until their third album a couple years later. It was at age 33 when Blondie achieved mainstream success with the song “Heart of Glass.” As the band’s front-woman, Debbie quickly became a punk icon.
12. Toni Morrison: At age 39, Toni Morrison published her first book, The Bluest Eye. She’d previously been an editor at Random House publishing and an English teacher. But she was 46 when she started to garner national attention from her third book, Song of Solomon. She would go on to win a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize in Literature.
13. Kathryn Bigelow: Kathryn Bigelow directed somewhat successful movies in her 30s and 40s, taking long breaks in between projects, but it wasn’t until she directed the hit film The Hurt Locker in her late fifties that she noticed her career take off, and became one of America’s most recognizable directors. The Hurt Locker won six Academy Awards, including ‘Best Picture’. At age 57, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, and the success of The Hurt Locker propelled her to become a spokesperson for gender inequality in Hollywood.
14. Sheryl Crow: At age 32, Sheryl Crow made her first dent in the music industry when her song “All I Wanna Do” became a sleeper hit. Previously, her original debut album had been scrapped by her label and she’d supported herself by creating commercial jingles.
15. Nora Ephron: At age 48, Nora Ephron brought When Harry Meets Sally to movie theaters and forged her own category of romantic comedies. Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and Julie & Julia followed.
16. Louisa May Alcott: At age 36, Louisa May Alcott published the first part of her Little Women book series. The book was well received by the public and critics alike and has since gone on to become a literary classic.
17. Vivienne Westwood: At age 40, Vivienne Westwood held her first fashion show after a stint dressing punk band The Sex Pistols. In the mid-80s, she debuted her mini-crini skirt. It would become a part of the decade’s fashion legacy.
18. Marie Curie: At age 36, Marie Curie won her first Nobel Prize alongside her husband and Henri Becquerel. She won another independently at age 44, in chemistry. She was also the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, also won a Nobel Prize. Ultimately, the exposure to radiation from her work cost her her health and consequently, her life.
19. Amy Tan: At age 33, Amy Tan started writing fiction. At 37, she published her novel The Joy Luck Club, which was the longest running New York Times bestseller in 1989. She also wrote the screenplay for its film adaptation.
20. Viola Davis: At age 31, Viola Davis made her Broadway debut in the play Seven Guitars. 5 years later she won her first Tony. At 43, she received her first Academy Award nomination for her role in the film Doubt.
21. Betty White: At age 30, Betty White co-founded Bandy Productions and became one of Hollywood’s first female producers. At age 51, she joined the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. At age 63, she joined the cast of Golden Girls. Today she’s still going strong. She’s the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live, the oldest person to receive an Emmy nomination, and holds a Guinness Record for longest television career.
22. Amy Poehler: It’s safe to say that her appearances on Saturday Night Live made Amy Poehler famous, and she didn’t start working at SNL until she was 31. At age 37, she starred in the hit film Baby Mama and in her early 40s she starred in the hit TV show Parks and Recreation.
23. Jenna Fischer: Jenna Fischer was 31 years old when she began her adorable role as Pam on NBC’s hit sitcom The Office. Before she was Pam, she was virtually unknown, but her role on The Office lead to her landing great roles in hit films such as Hall Pass and Blades of Glory.
24. Vera Wang: Legendary fashion designer Vera Wang didn’t design her first dress until she was 40. The rest is history.
25. Lucille Ball: At age 38, Lucille Ball’s career reached new heights with the premiere of her television show I Love Lucy. She and husband Desi Arnaz spent $5,000 of their own money to shoot a pilot to convince CBS executives to give their show a chance. For six years, it was the most successful comedy series on television. After the show’s run, she became an astute business executive and the first woman to become the head of a production company.
26. Susan Boyle: When Susan Boyle sang the song “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables on the show Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, she was 47 and had never sung professionally before. The video of her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of the most-watched YouTube videos of the year, and after making it to the final round of Britain’s Got Talent she landed a record deal. She ended up achieving the largest-ever sales debut for a female artist, and broke global sales records – all in her late 40s. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.
27. Janet Fitch: Janet Fitch woke up on her 21st birthday knowing that she wanted to write a novel. However, her first novel didn’t get published until she was 39, proving that it’s never too late for your dreams to come true. When she was 44, her most well-known novel White Oleander was published. White Oleander was positively acknowledged by Oprah’s Book Club and adapted for film in 2002, starring big-name actresses such as Michelle Pfieffer and Renee Zellweger.
28. Anna Wintour: At age 39, Anna Wintour first stepped into her role as the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. She’s famously held the role down for decades now, commanding both the respect of the fashion industry and notoriety through a certain Meryl Streep film. Her career prior to Vogue included a tour through various magazine roles, from New York magazine to British Vogue.
29. Amy Schumer: Immensely popular comedian, writer and actress Amy Schumer was 32 when she started the hit series Inside Amy Schumer and she was 34 when she wrote and starred in the feature film Trainwreck. In her twenties, Schumer performed stand-up comedy and had some small appearances in TV shows, but it’s safe to say that it was in her 30s that her career truly took off in a big way.
30. J.K. Rowling: Rowling’s very first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published when she was 31 years old. I think you know how her life turned out after that.