Late Bloomers: 25 Celebs Who Only Found Fame When They Were Older

Millennials put a lot of pressure on themselves to have their lives totally figured out in their twenties. Perhaps it’s because they live in the age of sharing and comparing lives on social media, but a lot of people between the ages of twenty and thirty are dealing with stress, anxiety and, sometimes, depression, because all their dreams haven’t come true yet.

And although being ambitious and disciplined can be a good thing, it might be time to lower those harsh expectations. Success doesn’t mean any less when it comes later on in life!

While comparing themselves to others can be damaging, it could be worth looking at the lives of successful people who didn’t make it until later on, just to put things into perspective.

If the talented actors, musicians, and other creatives of the world can teach fans anything, it’s that it’s never too late to make it. They also teach critics that hard work and persistence pay off. Whether they find success at 28, or 35 or 46 or 61, no one will get there at all if they lose hope and give up.

Keep reading to find out which celebrities didn’t give up—and who didn't make it until they were a little bit older.

25 During His Twenties, Chris Pratt Lived Out Of A Van


One celebrity who definitely didn’t have it figured out when he was in his twenties is Chris Pratt.

The now-famous actor spent much of the decade living out of a van.

There is a silver lining though, and that’s the fact that the van was on a beach in Hawaii. We probably wouldn’t mind living out of a van if that were the case either! Pratt took waiting jobs to make ends meet, and was 35 by the time his blockbuster hit Guardians of the Galaxy came out.

24 Jessica Chastain Was In Her Mid Thirties Before She Made It


Jessica Chastain is notoriously private about her real age, but fans have been able to work out that she was somewhere around the age of 35 when Zero Dark Thirty came out. During those years in her mid-thirties, Chastain appeared in some big films, including The Tree of Life and The Help, but she had to persist for quite a few years to get to that stage. Now, she has fans following her to her house (although we’re not sure that’s something to envy!).

23 Samuel L. Jackson Became A Movie Star In His Forties


Business Insider reported that all in all, Samuel Jackson has made more money at the US box office than any other actor in existence—a total of $5.753 billion.

But if you’d had told him that in his twenties or thirties, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.

The actor got only small roles in theater and some movies during the ‘70s and ‘80s. He didn’t gain critical acclaim until he did Jungle Fever when he was 43.

22 Amy Poehler Wasn’t Famous In Her Twenties


At the turn of the millennium, Amy Poehler’s life changed when she became a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live’s 2001-2002 season. She was 30 at the time, and before then, had only ever had smaller roles on television shows or in comedy sketches on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Throughout the decade, Poehler continued to shine, with roles in Mean Girls, Blades of Glory, and of course Parks and Recreation. It’s a good thing she persisted through her twenties!

21 Tiffany Haddish Starred In Girls Trip At 37


The world is now in love with Tiffany Haddish, but the comedian certainly had her share of struggles and waiting on the road to global fame.

Her big break came when she starred as Dina in Girls Trip when she was at the age of 37.

Prior to that, she was struggling to get noticed in the Los Angeles comedy scene. At one point on her journey, Haddish was even homeless and had to accept $300 from Kevin Hart to pay for a hotel room.

20 Sheryl Crow Was A Teacher In Her Twenties


When she was in her twenties, country star Sheryl Crow was on a totally different path—she was working as a music teacher at an elementary school in Missouri. She did have some pretty cool gigs on the side—in the 1980s she sang backup for Michael Jackson and began work on her first album in the early ‘90s. But the self-titled record was rejected by the label. Refusing to give up, Crow circulated her music through file-sharing networks and achieved mainstream success at the age of 31.

19 Vera Wang Didn’t Start Designing Until She Was 40


Now she’s a household name. But it wasn’t until Vera Wang was 40 that she even started designing the clothes that have now made her an icon.

In her earlier years, Wang pursued her passion for figure skating but was ultimately rejected from the US Olympic team.

She moved on to an editor position at Vogue but was again rejected from the role of Editor-in-Chief. She moved her focus to wedding gowns when she was 40, and as you know, never looked back.

18 Andrea Bocelli Wasn’t A Household Name In Italy Until His Thirties


For Italians and other fans around the world, Andrea Bocelli is a living legend. A love of music came to him early on—music was all that could calm him as an infant, and he started playing the piano when he was just six. After high school, he pursued a profession in law and worked as a lawyer for one year. It wasn’t until the tenor was in his mid-thirties that he recorded a demo called "Miserere" that ended up launching him to national fame.

17 Judi Dench Became Famous In Her Sixties


The role that garnered Judi Dench serious critical attention was M, which she played in the James Bond film Golden Eye in 1995. At the time, she was just shy of turning 60.

And of course, she continued to play the role until Spectre in 2015.

On her long journey as an acclaimed actress, she’s received one Oscar win and seven nominations. But in the first half of her life, her acting was confined mostly to the theatre.

16 Kathy Bates’s Breakthrough Came When She Was Over 40


Today we knew Kathy Bates for the iconic roles she’s played and the major films she’s appeared in, including Titanic, About Schmidt, P.S. I Love You, and The Blind Side. But we all remember the film that made Bates a star: Misery, where she played the obsessive Annie Wilkes. At the time Bates played one of the most memorable characters to ever grace our screens, she was 42. Before landing the role, she’d only appeared in a few television shows and movies.

15 Steve Carell Became An International Star At 43


Before he did the US version of The Office, Steve Carell had appeared in a few comedy films, like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Bruce Almighty.

But before starring on The Office, mainstream audiences probably couldn’t put a name to his face.

Today, he’s had the lead role in various comedy blockbusters and even starred in the 2014 drama Foxcatcher, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. When he first starred on The Office, he was 43.

14 Kristen Wiig Found Mainstream Success After 30


Like many of her fellow comedians, Kristen Wiig didn’t get her big break until she became a full cast member on Saturday Night Live. That blessing came to her when she was 33. At the time, she’d already been involved in a lot of improvisational acting and different comedy gigs. In 2005, when she was 32, the course of her life changed when she started writing for SNL. Being a full cast member opened huge doors for her, and she’s gone on to receive four Emmy nominations.

13 We Didn’t Hear About Nicki Minaj Until She Was Nearly 30


Nicki Minaj has been an unstoppable force on the mainstream music scene for nearly a decade now, but the rapper didn’t make it as such until her late twenties. And if we’re being honest, that’s a pretty big achievement!

After school, Minaj supported herself with waitressing jobs while she was trying to create a name for herself as an underground rapper.

She wasn’t signed until she was 25, and didn’t start appearing on other artists’ songs until the age of 27. Her own record came out when she was 28, and she achieved international fame around 2011, when she was nearing 30.

12 Alan Rickman Didn’t Start Studying At The London Academy Of Dramatic Arts Until He Was Nearly 30


Though the late Alan Rickman’s talent began to show when he was a child, he didn’t start studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London until he was nearly 30 years old. For a decade after, he appeared in plays and minor TV shows. He didn’t end up on Broadway until he was 41, when he earned a Tony Award. There was still a way to go before he reached mainstream success, though. After starring Hans Gruber in Die Hard, at the age of 46, he finally received commercial praise.

11 Harry Potter Wasn’t Published Until J.K. Rowling Was 32


And speaking of Professor Snape, the author who created the Slytherin Professor and everything else in the Harry Potter universe did not publish her debut novel until she was 32.

During her twenties, J.K. Rowling was a struggling single mother who relied on welfare to survive.

While living in poverty, she plunged into depression, which served as inspiration for her Dementor characters in the series. Little did she know that not even ten years later she would be a literary legend!

10 Pharrell Williams Was In His Late Twenties Before He Started Producing


Born in 1973 in Virginia, Pharrell Williams is currently 45 years old (we know, he doesn’t look it) and is one of the biggest names in the music business. From behind the scenes, he’s played a pivotal role in the mainstream music industry for years, producing hit songs for top artists, but he didn’t achieve attention in his own right until later on. He wasn’t successful as a producer until he was in his late twenties and early thirties.

9 Ken Jeong Was A Doctor Until His Forties


In the 2008 movie where Katherine Heigl's character unexpectedly became a mom, Ken Jeong played a moody obstetrician. By 2009, he broke out (from the trunk of a car) through his role as Leslie Chow in The Hangover.

But before that Jeong was practicing as a physician.

He received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. After playing Chow, when he was in his late thirties, he was able to stop working as a doctor and focus on his acting full time.

8 Ricky Gervais Didn’t Achieve Fame Until His Mid Thirties


Like his US Office counterpart, Ricky Gervais didn’t rise to prominence until he was well into his thirties. Before then, he was working at radio stations in the U.K., which inspired him to come up with the concept of a TV show based in an office environment. During this time, Gervais had no passion for his job and was always getting fired. But he was television by the time he reached his mid-thirties, and earned international attention around eight years later when he started starring in Hollywood movies.

7 Susan Boyle Found Viral Fame At 47


Though you can’t argue against the fact that Susan Boyle has a phenomenal voice, industry professionals didn’t take her seriously until she got the chance to sing for the judges on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.

After blowing away the audience and viewers around the world, Boyle became a viral sensation.

Since she did Britain’s Got Talent, she has released seven albums, all of which went on to become bestsellers in the United Kingdom. At the time she did the talent show, she was 47.

6 Melissa McCarthy Rose To Global Fame In Her Forties


At the age of 30, Melissa McCarthy she had a role on Gilmore Girls as Sookie St. James. But it wasn’t until she played the hilarious Megan in 2011’s Bridesmaids that the big roles started flowing in for her. When McCarthy did Bridesmaids, she was 41, and fans couldn’t get enough of her. Since then, she’s starred in Spy, The Heat, The Boss and Ghostbusters. Not only has she seen success as an actress, but McCarthy is also thought of as a role model for many young girls around the world.

5 Octavia Spencer Didn’t Start Receiving Serious Acclaim Until She Was 39


Octavia Spencer has been working as an actress for a long time, appearing in films like 2002’s Spider-Man next to Tobey McGuire and 2008’s Seven Pounds next to Will Smith.

But the serious critical acclaim didn’t come until she did The Help in 2011 at the age of 39, which earned her an Oscar for supporting actress.

Since then, Spencer has starred in Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water, which have also earned her awards.

4 Liam Neeson Didn’t Do Schindler’s List Until His Forties


Before he was known as the world’s toughest and sneakiest dad in Taken, Liam Neeson was famous for his breakout role in Schindler’s List. However, the actor didn’t play Oskar Schindler until he was in his forties. Before then, he’d only done less well-known films like The Mission in the 1980s. After doing Schindler’s List in 1993, Neeson was offered roles in major films like Star Wars: Episode 1, Batman Begins, Love Actually, and The Grey.

3 Ty Burrell Is Grateful He Wasn’t A Young Star


In 2009, Ty Burrell scored the coveted role of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, which launched him to international fame.

And now that he’s been a household name for ten years, Burrell believes that he wouldn’t have been able to handle it if he’d made it as a celebrity before his forties.

“I was not a mature young man and would probably have gone off the rails,” he said. Maybe everything does happen for a reason?

2 Jay-Z Had His First Hit At 28


It’s hard to remember a time when Jay-Z wasn’t a rap god. Believe it or not, he actually didn’t break into the music industry until his late twenties, unlike his wife Beyoncé, who was singing in a girl group from childhood and had label interest at 15. His first hit came at 28, and since then, Jay has sold 100 million records and won 21 Grammy Awards. Pretty impressive! Who said the early bird catches the worm?

1 James Gandolfini Was 38 When He Was Cast As Tony Soprano


James Gandolfini’s professional life was defined by the role of Tony Soprano, the mob boss from New Jersey. At the time that David Chase offered him this role, which would earn him $1 million per episode, Gandolfini was 38.

For nearly ten years, Gandolfini hooked the interest of viewers around the world as he played Tony between 1999 and 2007, when the series ended.

In 2013, Gandolfini experienced a heart attack and passed away while visiting Italy at the age of 52.

Sources: This Is Insider, Nicki Swift

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