When we think about female icons of their industry, it may feel like we’ve known them their whole lives. And while some women break into the limelight in their early 20s, it takes others more time. But needing more time to get there doesn’t diminish the intensity of their abilities. Read about Erin manifesting her dream life here. And check out these 10women who didn’t hit their stride until they were out of their thirties.
These women are proof you can conquer anything over 40!
#1 | Viola Davis
Though she’s been an actor for all of her professional career, Viola Davis didn’t become a household name until she co-starred in the 2011 film, The Help. She’s won a Tony, an Oscar, and an Academy Award, but more than that, she pushes to play strong Black characters that go beyond expectation.
Her voice of strength: “I know the ropes, I’ve been in the casting offices, I’ve felt the discrimination, I’ve felt “the line”…so when someone gives me a stage to be able to say something, it’s already in there. By the time you’re 50, you have a built-in narrative of your own. Sometimes there is no sugar-coating it. Sometimes you have to challenge people’s belief systems in a progressive way.”
#2 | Vera Wang
You know you’re “made for more” when being a senior fashion editor for Vogue and a design director for Ralph Lauren doesn’t satisfy your creative muse. Vera Wang left those careers at 40 to design wedding gowns. Five years later, her personal design career took off.
Now she has an eponymous line of bridalwear, as well as fashion lines, that are known for their simplicity and sophistication.
Her voice of strength: “In the end, it’s not about failure, it’s about how much you love what you do.”
#3 | Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison loved and studied literature for her whole life. Her early career included her being a professor of literature and an editor for Random House. It was in 1970 her first novel, Blue Eyes, was published, but it was not well-received. She was 39 years old. Her next book, Sula, was nominated for the American Book Award in 1973, and each book after that earned her increasing accolades and fame.
Her voice of strength: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.” (from Song of Solomon)
#4 | Cheryl Strayed
Having Oprah include a book you’ve written in her book club is a pretty sure-fire way of skyrocketing your career. It was no different for writer Cheryl Strayed whose memoir Wild made the list in 2012. The movie portrayal cemented her status. Cheryl was 44 years old when Wild was published.
Her voice of strength: “You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.” (from Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar)
#5 | Vivienne Westwood
To anyone who likes fashion, it’s pretty clear Vivienne Westwood’s inspiration for her designs comes from the punk rock movement. She started her career creating jewelry, but when she was 30 years old, she began designing clothes for the Sex Pistols.
As the end of her collaboration with the punk group neared in the early 1980s, Westwood showed her innovation again by changing her design style and claiming her role as not just a designer, but someone who leads the design world.
Her voice of strength: “I’m not terribly interested in beauty. What touches me is someone who understands herself.”
#6 | Kathy Bates
Kathy Bates became famous for her role as Annie Wilkes in Misery when she was 42 years old. Before that role, Bates had been quietly earning awards and recognition on Broadway, and she continued to earn them after she broke into film. She’s been nominated or won an Emmy 14 times.
Her voice of strength: “I want to be defined as my own essence.”
#7 | Lisa Price
Lisa Price is known for creating Carol’s Daughter: a line of hair and skincare products that serve the needs of a diverse clientele. Price developed the line in her kitchen while she was working as a producer in New York City. What started as a hobby in the early 90s became a side-hustle when she began selling her products at small venues and through word-of-mouth. Then, in 2002, when Price was 40 years old, she landed a spot on Oprah and became mainstream quickly after that.
Her voice of strength: “You can’t knock a girl off a pedestal she built herself.”
#8 | Sallie Krawcheck
Sallie Krawcheck was 52 years old when she launched Ellvest, an investment firm designed for women. At that time, Krawcheck had a successful Wall Street career. It was then she realized traditional investment tools and methods were underserving women. She wanted to make sure women, who traditionally can feel “out of place” in money discussions, learn how to close the investing gap. Krawcheck believes giving more financial power to women has a significant positive ripple effect through an entire community.
Her voice of strength: “If you haven’t had a major fail in your career – face-plant level – you aren’t trying hard enough.”
#9 | Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington was a successful biography writer before she founded the global media empire Huffington Post in 2005. The site became an almost overnight success and launched Huffington into the spotlight. She was 55 years old. But that wasn’t where she stopped. Huffington was not immune to the pressures women face to be everything to everyone, and in 2007 suffered a collapse from exhaustion. So she launched ThriveGlobal: a company focused on supporting employee and personal wellness.
Her voice of strength: “But you have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid..”
#10 | Rachel Zoe
Rachel Zoe grew from being a well-known celebrity stylist to a brand. She became famous for her stylist work when she got a reality show on Bravo that followed her career. It was during this time that she began a style newspaper which she transitioned into an online publication. Then, in 2011, she designed her first collection of shoes and handbags. It was the bursting of the bubble, and from that point Zoe’s rise to being a household name was swift.
Her voice of strength: “Style is a way of saying who you are without having to speak.”
They may have been “late-bloomers,” but these 10 women are fierce advocates for the idea that you shouldn’t discount women who have passed 40. They are icons of female strength and determination.
Which female-over-forty icons inspire you? Who else should be on this list? Let us know in the comments.
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