Late bloomers

Thinking you’ve left it too late to do what you really want to do? Think again.


Vera Wang – designer

After a childhood as a championship figure skater, Vera studied art history and worked as a fashion journalist until she was 38. Only then did she go to work for fashion designer Ralph Lauren. She stayed for two years before starting her own bridal wear company at the age of 40. Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens both sold clothes they designed and made but were both 41 before they had their first shows as fashion designers.


Grandma Moses – painter

Anna Moses spent most of her life as a servant and farm hand. The mother of five was widowed at 67. When arthritis made it difficult for her to continue her life-long love of embroidery, she took up painting. Her first work shown in New York’s Museum of Modern Art when she was 79. For the next twenty years she continued to paint, exhibit and received awards from around the world for her work and cultural influence.


Colonel Sanders – restauranteur

Harland Sanders worked in many jobs before opening a roadside restaurant, in his forties. He noticed that his fried chicken was particularly popular but as he perfected the recipe, he bought a new restaurant, which was destroyed by fire; World War II put an end to that business and he had to find work with other employers. He wasn’t in a position to license the first KFC franchise until he was 62. The company grew rapidly across the USA and twelve years later, in 1964, he sold the business for $2million.


Ang Lee – film director

Despite graduating from film school with awards for his student films and attracting a leading agent, Ang Lee spent six years completely unemployed, didn’t get to direct a feature film until his late thirties and didn’t come to public attention until he was 41.


Judge Judy – judge

Reportedly the highest paid television personality in the USA, Judy Sheindlin was 54 when the Judge Judy show started in 1996. Previously Judy had worked as a lawyer and then criminal court judge. She was featured in a newspaper article in 1993, which led to a segment in the popular tv show 60 Minutes.


Leslie Jones – comedian

Leslie knew she wanted to be a stand-up comedian in 1987 but despite racking up years of experience and encouragement from some of the leading names in the business, she didn’t secure her first television role until she was 46, and that was as a writer. The following year she became Saturday Night Live’s oldest person to join the show as a cast member and also the show’s first African American woman cast member.


Samuel L Jackson – actor

Samuel made a living as a stage actor and in small roles in film and television but struggled to come to prominence until a role in a Spike Lee film when he was 43. He was 46 when Pulp Fiction, his thirtieth film role, shot him to stardom. He is widely reported as the second highest all-time box office star.


Charles Darwin – scientist

Although Darwin had the idea for natural selection in his late twenties, he didn’t publish his theory, backed by twenty years of research, until he was fifty years old. Even then, it was only news of another scientist about to publish his own version of the same concept that prompted Darwin to make the move with what he had. Within twenty years the concept of evolution was accepted as a fact.


Image by / IPGGutenbergUKLtd


First published in Widows and Widowers magazine, Issue 13

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