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Healthy Aging

Five famous figures who found success later in life

Toni Morrison, Julia Child, Bob Ross, and others all proved that greatness doesn’t always require an early start.

Clockwise from top from left: Julia Child, Harry Bernstein, Bob Ross, Toni Morrison, and Samuel L. Jackson.Child, Morrison, and Jackson from Getty Images; Ross and Bernstein from AP

Toni Morrison

It may come as a surprise that the Nobel Prize-winning author didn’t release her first novel, The Bluest Eye, until 1970, when she was 39. Later, Morrison garnered national attention with 1977′s Song of Solomon and 1988′s Beloved, which won her a National Book Critics Circle Award and a Pulitzer Prize, respectively.

Julia Child

The world-renowned chef and cookbook author didn’t attain her legendary status until she was 49, when she released her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 1961. It would go on to become one of the most influential cookbooks of all time. Her pioneering television show, The French Chef, premiered when she was 50.


Bob Ross

Widely known for his idyllic natural landscapes, and his exceptionally chill TV presence, legendary painter Bob Ross didn’t actually find his calling until he was 40. After leaving the Air Force, where he would paint to alleviate the stress of his job, he began hosting his PBS show, The Joy of Painting, in 1983.

Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson had been in some films, but his acting career didn’t really take off until he was in his 40s, when he landed roles in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. He went on to appear in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994 — cementing his stature in Hollywood. Jackson’s 120-plus movies have grossed more than $13 billion worldwide.

Harry Bernstein

When the British-American writer retired from his career as a movie script reader, trade magazine editor, and freelance writer at age 62, Bernstein was just getting started. He gained literary fame at 96 with his memoir The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers. More books followed, including The Dream in 2008 and The Golden Willow: The Story of a Lifetime of Love in 2009, before his death in 2011.

Chelsea Henderson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @seahenderson.