There is no definite time when to jumpstart your career despite how much pressure social media might put on you. Many may strike hot when they’re in their 20’s, but not everyone is lucky. In fact, many actors, writers, and comedians didn’t gather fame until their late 30’s well into their 40’s. But one must remember, your career isn’t a marathon, it’s a sprint and everyone gets to the destination at different times. Here are 8 public figures who had a late start in their careers.

Samuel L. Jackson 

PHOTO: Shutterstock

It’s strange to think of a time when Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t famous. However, unlike his peers in Hollywood, fame took its time. At the age of 43, Jackson landed his breakout role as the drug addict in Jungle Fever. It wasn’t until his role in Pulp Fiction that made him a superstar, and he was 46 when he filmed the movie. 

Leslie Jones 


We can’t get enough of Leslie Jones with her witty commentary on Twitter to her epic skits on the long-running sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. But for the majority of her career, she was an unknown comedian before she snagged the dream job with SNL and became the oldest member to join the cast at age 47. She starred in Ghostbusters at the age of 49. 

Morgan Freeman 

PHOTO: Reuters

The man with the golden voice began his career on the 80’s TV show, The Electric Company when he was in his mid-30’s. However, many didn’t take notice of his skills until he played Fast Black in Street Smart. He was 50 when it was filmed. He has gone on to star in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, which he won an Academy Award for Best Support Actor, The Dark Knight Trilogy,and the Now You See Me series.

Octavia Spencer 

PHOTO: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Octavia speared in numerous movies for years, but it wasn’t until film critics and moviegoers took notice of her ability in her groundbreaking performance in The Help. She was 41 when The Help was released. It earned her an Academy Award and this jumpstarted her stellar career including her lead role in the upcoming horror flick, Ma and expected to star in the Madame C.J. Walker limited series for Netflix.

Viola Davis 

PHOTO: Getty Images

Although she won a Tony Award in her 30’s, it wasn’t until her scene-stealing role in Doubt opposite Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman when she was 43. Since then her career has taken off, winning an Academy Award for her role in Fences and an Emmy for How to Get Away With Murder

Wendy Williams 

PHOTO: Wendy Williams

Many northeastern radio listeners were familiar with Wendy’s afternoon show that gave listeners all the tea in Black Hollywood and music. It wasn’t until she began her daytime talk show ‘The Wendy Williams Show,’ (July 2008) that gave her nationwide notoriety. She was 44 years old when Fox debut ‘The Wendy Williams Show.’

Toni Morrison 

PHOTO: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Before she was an award-winning author, Morrison was a teacher and raising her two children on her own when she wrote her novel The Bluest Eyes. The book was published right before she turned 40. It wasn’t until her third novel, Sula brought her critical acclaim and she was 46 years old when it published.

Mahershala Ali 

PHOTO: Van Van Alonso

Mahershala Ali has had quite a few career changes in his lifetime. During his undergrad years, he had his sights on being a professional basketball player and received a basketball scholarship as a point guard for St. Mary College but had a change of heart his junior year. He went on to attend grad school at TISCH to craft his acting chops, but he also had a promising rapping career as Prince Ali. He released two underground albums and started an independent label called Eye5 Recordings. Ali eventually focused on his acting but it wasn’t until critically acclaimed performance in Moonlight at 42 that gave him the spotlight for his skills. He would go on to win a Supporting Actor Oscar for Moonlight in 2016 and Green Bookin 2019. Not too bad for a former rapper and basketball player.

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Brittny Pierre

I'm just a girl who is obsessed with all things pop culture and red lipstick.

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