Famous people who found success after 40
If you pay too much attention to those “30 under 30” lists, you might think that all the major accomplishments in our society belong to the young. Though there is a lot of emphasis on youth in our culture, youngsters aren’t the only ones shaking things up. These actors, business owners, writers, and artists made their mark on the world after blowing out the candles on their fortieth, fiftieth, or even eightieth birthday cakes. You’ll be amazed to discover that some of the most famous and influential people in the world didn’t really hit their stride until a more mature age. Read on to see who these incredible late bloomers are and be inspired by their life lessons.
1. Susan Boyle
“There are enough people in the world who are going to write you off. You don’t need to do that to yourself.”
An appearance on Britain’s Got Talent when she was forty-seven years old would change Susan Boyle’s life forever. The Scottish singer stunned the show’s judges when she sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.
Though she was much older than most of the contestants and looked rather dowdy, when Susan Boyle opened her mouth to sing her voice proved all their prejudgements wrong.
Susan Boyle is living proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover, especially an older book.
NEXT: This outrageous lady used to be more comfortable backstage, but now she’s a star in her own right.
2. Sharon Osbourne
“I’m at the age where I don’t have to kiss arse or play nice!”
While now she may be known for being an opinionated firecracker, Sharon Osbourne did not come into the spotlight herself until she was fifty years old.
After decades of managing her rockstar husband’s career, Sharon Osbourne became a household name when their TV series The Osbournes hit airwaves in 2002. Since then, she’s been a host on The Talk and a judge on The X Factor and America’s Got Talent.
Sharon Osbourne famously speaks her mind, and she’s comfortable with who she is thanks to her more mature age.
NEXT: This actor is at home in art house films and big budget blockbusters, even though he got a late start.
3. Samuel L. Jackson
“If you have an opportunity to use your voice, you should use it.”
In Hollywood, it can be hard for folks over thirty to get noticed, let alone those over forty. Yet Samuel L. Jackson made his big breakthrough at forty-three in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever.
After landing that part, Samuel L. Jackson has become a household name thanks to roles in Star Wars, Quentin Tarantino movies, and the infamous Snakes On a Plane.
Thanks to his life experience and perspective, Jackson is able to bring extra humor and truth to every role he plays.
NEXT: He founded a multi-billion dollar company when he was forty-four.
4. Sam Walton
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Today, Wal-Mart is worth over $386 billion, but Sam Walton never dreamed it would amount to that much when he opened the first Wal-Mart store in 1962.
Though Walton had owned and operated stores before, it wasn’t until he started Wal-Mart that his incredible success began. Today the Walton family is worth $175 billion.
Though Wal-Mart has been criticized for labor practices and undercutting local businesses, the company succeeds by maintaining focus on what their customers want and need.
NEXT: He changed careers at fifty-five and became the leader of the free world.
5. Ronald Reagan
“There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.”
Before he was a politician, former president Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star with leading roles in movies like the 1942 film King’s Row.
When Reagan ran for his first political office, Governor of California, he was already fifty-five years old. He eventually became President at seventy, and his presidency is still highly praised in conservative circles today.
Reagan was able to succeed in his second career in politics thanks to his dedication to lifelong learning.
NEXT: This comedian got no respect, until he became a later-in-life legend.
6. Rodney Dangerfield
“Look out for number one and try not to step in number two.”
Known for zippy one-liners and self-deprecating humor, Rodney Dangerfield is a comedy icon. Though Dangerfield was a working comic for decades, his big break came when he had a few decades under his belt.
First, at forty-six he had an outstanding appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that brought his profile up. However, it wasn’t until he was sixty years old that he appeared in his first movie, the beloved comedy classic Caddyshack.
By staying true to his particular brand of comedy, over time Rodney Dangerfield built up an incredible and enviable career in show business.
NEXT: This popular talk show host has a net worth of over $150 million thanks to his success after fifty.
7. Regis Philbin
“I missed so many opportunities along the way to do what I wanted to do because I didn’t have the confidence to tell myself, much less anybody else, ‘Yes, this is the business I wanted to be a part of,’ and not feeling that I had the talent.”
Before Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee made Regis Philbin a talk show giant, Regis had worked behind the scenes in television for decades.
He got his start as a page for The Tonight Show before going on to be a news writer. Regis was fifty-seven years old when he hit it big with Kathie Lee. He has also hosted Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Million Dollar Password, and America’s Got Talent.
NEXT: This businessman super-sized his career after fifty.
8. Ray Kroc
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Ray Kroc, the franchising mastermind behind McDonald’s’ massive success, spent a big part of his professional life as a paper cup salesman before becoming a french fry tycoon.
Then, he moved on to selling machines capable of making five milkshakes at a time, which led to his interest in the original McDonald’s. It wasn’t until he was already fifty-two years old that Kroc bought his first McDonald’s, and the rest is McHistory.
Today, McDonald’s is worth over $100 billion and has 36,000 locations thanks to Kroc’s hard work.
NEXT: What’s another word for late-bloomer? Consult his book to find out.
9. Peter Mark Roget
In his time, Peter Mark Roget was an acclaimed physician whose work led to the discovery of laughing gas and the development of London’s sewer system, however, his name lives on thanks to completely unrelated work he undertook in retirement. Roget liked writing lists of words, and he compiled and published his first Thesaurus in 1852 when he was seventy-three years old.
The first Thesaurus had 15,000 words in it, and it was organized in a new and innovative way. Instead of arranging words alphabetically, Roget ordered words according to themes, making Roget’s Thesaurus the perfect reference book when you’ve got a word just on the tip of your tongue.
NEXT: This award-winning actor had his first major role at fifty-two.
10. Morgan Freeman
“I always tell my kids if you lay down, people will step over you. But if you keep scrambling, if you keep going, someone will always, always give you a hand. Always. But you gotta keep dancing, you gotta keep your feet moving.”
We first saw Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy when the star was already fifty-two years old.
Since then, he’s played God twice thanks to his signature deep commanding voice and won awards for his performance in Million Dollar Baby. Before he found fame and critical acclaim as an actor, Morgan Freeman worked for years in the theater and appeared on the PBS kids show The Electric Company.
Morgan Freeman ultimately got ahead thanks to his perseverance.
NEXT: You can thank this late-blooming inventor for all those cheap dinners in college.
11. Momofuku Ando
“Peace will come to the world when the people have enough noodles to eat.”
When it comes to cooking up something cheap, tasty, and easy, instant ramen hits the spot like nothing else. Momofuku Ando was the genius behind the invention of our favorite instant noodles, and he founded both Top Ramen and Cup Noodles.
Even more impressive, Ando was already forty-eight years old when he invented the instant noodle.
By making noodles cheaper and easier than ever before, Ando believed he was helping to make the world a better place, which ultimately made him a success, too. For helping us survive college, our hats are off to you!
NEXT: Feeling inspired to learn something new? This next person created something that can help.
12. Lynda Weinman
“Metrics and quantitative statistics must be balanced with intuition, heart and qualitative insights.”
If seeing all these success stories makes you want to get out there and learn a new skill, Lynda.com is one popular destination where you might end up.
Lynda Weinman founded her online education company when she was forty years old after a varied career. Weinman had worked as an animator, owned a fashion boutique, and had been a professor of digital media before she founded her site.
In 2015, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com for $1.5 billion. Despite working in a techie world, Weinman attributes her success to paying attention to the human element.
NEXT: This beloved classic author didn’t write her first book until she was over sixty.
13. Laura Ingalls Wilder
“If enough people think of a thing and work hard enough at it, I guess it’s pretty nearly bound to happen, wind and weather permitting.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books offer incredible insight into what life was really like for settlers in the American West.
Wilder created memorable characters and captured true-to-life detail in part because she already had so much life experience when she sat down to write. Wilder wrote the first Little House on the Prairie book when she was sixty-five years old, and the series has nine books in total.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have been translated into forty different languages and are read all over the world, quite a feat for a humble prairie girl.
NEXT: This actress broke the Hollywood mold when she became a star at sixty.
14. Kathryn Joosten
“Some people in Hollywood think of me as a model for dramatic midlife transitions: suburban housewife to Emmy-winning actress. But I never plotted a master plan for following my dreams.”
Before she was captivating audiences on The West Wing and Desperate Housewives, actress Kathryn Joosten had already had a career as a nurse and been a stay-at-home mom.
Following a divorce, Joosten began exploring her creative side in community theater productions. Eventually, her passion for acting led to her breakout role on The West Wing when Joosten was already sixty years old.
Joosten always felt she owed her success more to luck than anything else, remaining humble and grounded despite her sudden fame.
NEXT: This lady discovered the joy of cooking later in life, but that didn’t stop her from sharing her new passion with the world.
15. Julia Child
“You learn to cook so that you don’t have to be a slave to recipes. You get what’s in season and you know what to do with it.”
With her lilting voice and lust for life, Julia Child continues to charm and delight millions of fans all over the world.
Though she is best known for her dedication to French cuisine, Julia Child didn’t grow up with a culinary background. She was first introduced to French food in her thirties and her first book was published when she was thirty-nine years old. Child went on to become a star two years later thanks to her first television show.
NEXT: This golden girl really knows how to make us laugh.
16. Betty White
“I’m a health nut. My favorite food is hot dogs with French fries. And my exercise: I have a two-story house and a very bad memory, so I’m up and down those stairs.”
She cracked us up in The Golden Girls and gave us a chuckle in her Snickers commercials, but Betty White’s first big part came to her when she was fifty-one years old when she landed a role in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Prior to that, she had taken small parts in radio and TV without major success. As White has aged, her career seems to get better and better, a rare accomplishment for a woman in Hollywood.
NEXT: This writer and artist created his own universe.
NEXT: This actress got a late start in film, but she’s still gotten seven Oscar nominations.
17. Judi Dench
“I don’t really want to retire. I intend to go on working as long as I can because I still have a huge amount of energy.”
Before she became an international movie star, Dame Judi Dench was an acclaimed Shakespearean actress, already famous in her own right for her work on the stage.
However, when Dench appeared as M in the 1995 James Bond flick GoldenEye, her uniquely commanding presence stole the show. Thanks to her many decades in the theater, Dench has an incredible ability to perform on film and she shows no signs of slowing down.
18. Peter Dinklage
Peter Dinklage played a role in more than 30 movies and over a dozen TV shows before his most successful role in “Game Of Thrones”. Prior to that, he’d even been nominated for a SAG Award. However, nothing came close to the super-stardom he achieved after being cast as Tyrion Lannister in the HBO hit series.
He was 41 when the series launched and now, nine years later, he is at the height of his career as he recently turned 50. According to IMDb, later this year he’ll voice Mighty Eagle in The Angry Birds Movie 2. He’ll also lend his voice to the sequel to The Croods, which is scheduled for release in December 2020.
19. Stan Lee
“The only advice anybody can give is if you want to be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.”
The iconic comic book creator spent his career in the comic industry, but didn’t start to write the Marvel Universe comics until he was in his forties. Stan Lee passed away in 2018 at the age of ninety-five and was mourned by fans all over the world.
Stan Lee proves that by continually honing your skills and creating new things, it’s possible to strike gold.
NEXT: This housekeeping superstar didn’t get her start until her forties.
20. Martha Stewart
“Sometimes, I shake if I have to do something that I’ve never done before –– maybe not noticeably, but inside. But I’ll do it, because I know it’s not an insurmountable task; I’ve done plenty of tasks in my life.”
Before she was the queen of cooking, crafting, and entertaining at home, Martha Stewart had already had a couple of careers.
In college, she was a model for Chanel, and later she worked as a stockbroker. She didn’t write her first cookbook until she was forty-one years old. Based on the success of that book, Martha Stewart has built an empire, including ventures like her magazine, television series, and home goods.
Martha Stewart is someone who continually branches out to try new things, and this ability to keep learning and growing has contributed greatly to her success.
NEXT: This commentator got into television in her fifties and never looked back.
21. Joy Behar
“I don’t get jealous of people. Jealousy is such a waste of time because you’re jealous of them, and they go about their lives and have a wonderful time, so what’s the point?”
Before she joined the cast of The View at fifty-four years old, Joy Behar had worked as a high school English teacher and a stand up comic.
These experiences ensured that once the cameras at The View started rolling, Joy wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Her funny and opinionated personality won over American viewers, and Joy has gone on to write a book and hosted her own show.
NEXT: This innovator brought automobiles to the middle class when he was in his forties.
22. Henry Ford
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Though Henry Ford didn’t invent the horseless carriage, his Model T automobile was the first truly mainstream, middle-class car on the market.
Ford was forty-five years old when he released the first Model T. Before he changed the face of American transportation, Ford had some training as a machinist and he also had worked on his family’s farm. Over a hundred years later, Ford’s company is still going strong with a net worth of $143.9 billion.
NEXT: Necessity was the mother of invention for this advanced artist.
23. Grandma Moses
“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I am satisfied with it.”
Though she would become a highly acclaimed American folk artist, Grandma Moses didn’t begin to paint until she was seventy-six years old.
Moses had previously loved embroidering pictures, but when arthritis made holding the needle too painful she picked up a paintbrush. She even learned to paint with both hands, so that if her right hand began to hurt she could continue working with her left. Her paintings were critically acclaimed, and a documentary about her life was nominated for an Oscar in 1950.
NEXT: This writer created mature beauty from the pain of his troubled childhood.
24. Frank McCourt
“Every life is a mystery. There is nobody whose life is normal and boring.”
The author of Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt won a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel at sixty-six years old. However, McCourt had to tap into some painful memories of his poor childhood with a parent plagued by alcoholism to pull it off.
Drawing on his difficult childhood with the wisdom and maturity of age, McCourt was able to craft a compelling autobiography that went on to be adapted into a popular feature film. McCourt has written two more books, ’Tis and Teacher Man.
NEXT: He noticed a gap in the retail experience and built a booming business in it.
25. Donald Fisher
“I soon found I hated to lose more than I loved to win. As I competed in the pool, and later in business, that attitude would become ingrained — a guiding principle.”
You may not know Donald Fisher’s name, but you’ve probably slipped into his jeans at least once or twice.
At the age of forty-one, Fisher founded The Gap with his wife Doris with the goal of creating a store that sold Levi’s in every size, cut, and style. Though he had no retail experience when they opened the store, The Gap has since become a retail giant with thousands of locations around the world.
NEXT: This octogenarian actress sunk her teeth into a meaty role.
26. Clara Peller
“Where’s the beef?”
We usually go out of our way to avoid commercials these days, but back in 1984, Clara Peller’s Wendy’s ads became something of a meme. Peller, at age eighty-one, had landed the role after working as a manicurist on the set of another commercial.
The agency loved her voice and no-nonsense style and eventually hired her on as an actress. Peller made a series of commercials for Wendy’s that had us all wondering where we might find the beef. She made a cameo on SNL and appeared in a string of movies and TV shows before she passed away in 1987.
NEXT: He became a yoga pants tycoon after forty.
27. Chip Wilson
“People love to help. I don’t have to be insecure and know it all.”
Though he’s made some controversial statements, we can all agree that Chip Wilson’s stretch in the yoga wear industry was a big success. When Wilson was forty-two years old, he founded the upscale fitness wear company Lululemon Athletica.
Wilson is often credited with originating the athleisure trend, so to all you who still hate leggings-as-pants, he’s the guy who might be responsible. Though Wilson stepped down from Lululemon in 2015, the company is still going strong. So is Wilson, who has a net worth of about $4 billion.
NEXT: He wrote survival of the fittest, not survival of the youngest.
28. Charles Darwin
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
Among the most famous scientists of his age, Charles Darwin didn’t begin to make his mark until later in life. Darwin was already fifty years old when he wrote On the Origin of the Species.
Over twenty years before he wrote his seminal work, Darwin sailed around the world on the H.M.S. Beagle and had the opportunity to observe many different lifeforms. In his book, Darwin laid out his theory of evolution. Though at the time his ideas were highly controversial, Darwin’s theories are now widely accepted in the scientific community.
NEXT: This final late-in-life glow-up is finger-licking good!
29. “Colonel” Harland Sanders
“You got to like your work. You have got to like what you are doing, you have got to be doing something worthwhile so you can like it – because it is worthwhile, that it makes a difference, don’t you see?”
Bet you didn’t know the Colonel was a real person?
Yes, it’s true. “Colonel” Harland Sanders did exist, and he didn’t start selling chicken at KFC until he was sixty-five years old. Before he patented his eleven herbs and spices, Sanders worked various jobs for the railroad and even sold life insurance at one point. Sanders’ Kentucky Fried Chicken has become big business today. The company is currently worth about $7.4 billion.
NEXT: This designer didn’t hit the big-time until her forties.
30. Vera Wang
“Success isn’t about the end result, it’s about what you learn along the way.”
Her name is synonymous with upscale bridal couture, but designer Vera Wang didn’t dip her toe into the fashion pool until she was forty years old.
Before she dressed her first celebrity brides, Vera was a figure skater, then she worked as a journalist. Now, she’s made exquisite wedding dresses for clients like Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner, and Kim Kardashian.
Though Vera Wang has found incredible success in her later-in-life career, she remains grounded and humble. We could all use a little more of that attitude.