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9 Successful People Who Made It Big Later in Life

March 30, 2016

From the late Alan Rickman to Vera Wang

It’s easy to be down on yourself for not having achieved everything you’d hoped to at this point in your life.

Fear not, though, because there are tons of people who didn’t accomplish their goals in their 20s, either. Next time you’re feeling behind because you haven’t yet started your own business, nabbed a six-figure salary or landed your dream job, just read through this list of late bloomers.

  • 1. Jon Hamm


    Jon Hamm appeared as an extra in productions like Larger Than Life and The Practice and was struggling right up until he got cast in Mad Men. It was his lack of experience at the age of 35 that made him perfect for Mad Men, as Matthew Weiner was looking for a fresh face that wouldn’t cost AMC a ton of money.

  • 2. Connie Britton

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    Somehow, Britton stayed under the radar until she was cast as Tami Taylor in Friday Night Lights, which premiered when she was 37.

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  • 3. Bethenny Frankel

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    Before becoming a Real Housewife, Bethenny Frankel appeared on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart at the age of 35 as the owner of a cookie company that later failed. She was in her 40s when she launched a low-calorie margarita company that became her Skinnygirl empire.

  • 4. Jane Lynch

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    Jane Lynch’s breakout role was in Christopher Guest’s Best in Show—and she was 40 when the film came out. After nabbing supporting parts in The L-Word and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she got the gig that would make her a household name: Portraying Glee’s Sue Sylvester.


  • 5. Alan Rickman

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    The late actor got his big break when he was 42 and played Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

  • 6. Vera Wang

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    Vera Wang started out as a figure skater, and then she tried her hand at journalism. She didn’t open her first bridal boutique until she was 40, but now she’s famous for her designs.

  • 7. Samuel L. Jackson

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    Believe it or not, there was a time when Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t famous. Quentin Tarantino changed that. Jackson appeared in True Romance in 1993, and after that, Tarantino created the Pulp Fiction role of Jules Winnfield specifically for Jackson, who was in his early 40s at the time.

  • 8. Judi Dench

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    Now, Dench may be one of the most revered actresses out there. But 20 years ago, most people didn’t even know who she was. Dench was in her 60s when her film career took off. While she had a fruitful career in the U.K., it was her role as M in Goldeneye that made her well-known in the U.S.

    Read more: Diane von Furstenberg Wants You to Know She Gets Down on Herself Sometimes, Too

  • 9. Melissa McCarthy

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    Gilmore Girls junkies have known Melissa McCarthy since she was in her 30s. However, the actress didn’t hit it big until she was 41, thanks to her hilarious work in Bridesmaids.