Life, Take 2: Five Remarkable Late Bloomers
Allison Ford | DivineCaroline
June 20, 2011
I turned thirty last month, which of course means that any chance I may have had to be notable or notorious has vanished along with my ability to stay up past midnight. Because, of course, in our culture, if I haven’t “made it” by now, it’s probably never going to happen. The world loves a wunderkind, whether it’s five-year-old Mozart or the latest tween sensation. College kids create billion-dollar tech companies, teenagers win Olympic medals, and the rest of us might as well just get out of their way. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously stated, “There are no second acts in American lives.” Easy for him to say—The Great Gatsby was published when he was only twenty-nine.
But there are plenty of people in the world (including me) who continue to feel that even if a person isn’t rich and famous by age twenty-five, it’s still possible to make a mark on the world. Many notable people had false starts on their life journeys and didn’t make it big until an age when the young go-getters were already getting their first lifetime achievement award.
Before she was one of the country’s most powerful and respected media personalities, Stewart was a married stockbroker with a young child. At the age of thirty-two, she left her job to focus on spending more time with her daughter and to restore the historic Connecticut farmhouse she and her husband had just purchased. It was instantly obvious that Stewart had a flair for all things domestic, and at age thirty-five, she started her own catering company. At one event, she was introduced to the publisher who eventually published her first cookbook, Entertaining, in 1982. Stewart was forty-one years old at the time. In the 1980s, she published many more cookbooks, appeared on television shows like CBS’s The Early Show, and authored newspaper articles. Her eponymous television program began in 1993, and by the time her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, went public in 1999, making Stewart a billionaire, she was fifty-eight years old.
Born in New York City in 1922, Stan Lee enjoyed remarkable success early in life, but he didn’t become a household name in the world of comics until his forties. After Lee graduated from high school at age sixteen, his cousin helped him get a job at Timely Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. Lee, who always wanted to be a writer, started out by delivering lunch, filling inkwells, and doing other menial tasks, but by age nineteen, he was writing his own material, developing his own superheroes, and promoted to editor-in-chief. He wrote and edited all genres of comics, but by the late ’50s, his creativity had stagnated and he considered switching careers. He embarked on one last effort to create some new superheroes, deciding to design these new characters according to his own specifications, not those of the company or the reading public. Lee’s new heroes included the X-Men, Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Avengers, Iron Man, and Daredevil. His most enduring creation, Spider-Man, debuted in 1962 when Lee was forty and became Marvel Comics’ most popular character ever.