9 Women Who Became Household Names After They Let Go Of Their Fear Of Failure

"Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction."

The fear of failure can be so powerful that it stops us from doing things on the off chance we don't succeed. The latest #LikeAGirl campaign from Always spotlights this fear, and shows how it can be especially debilitating for teenage girls. As with other #LikeAGirl videos, Always's latest ad shows the benefits of overcoming those fears so girls, and people of all ages, can realize their full potential.


We love the concept of looking at failure as just the start of a journey, rather than the end.  Many women who have become household named have done just that, proving that so much is possible once you say goodbye to your fear of failure.

Below are just a few of those amazing famous women worth highlighting. Each have not only overcome failure, but have learned from the experience. Hopefully young girls struggling with their fear of failure can look to these people for a little inspiration. 

1. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television anchor.

It's hard to think about Oprah Winfrey failing at anything considering what she has achieved to date. However, Winfrey was actually fired from her job as a television anchor in Baltimore for "getting too emotionally invested in her stories." She learned from the setback to follow her heart. In her 2013 Harvard commencement speech,  she told graduates "There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction." 

2. Arianna Huffington was rejected by 36 publishers.

Arianna Huffington had already published a book, but she was rejected by 36 publishers for her second book. Since launching The Huffington Post, now HuffPost, however, she has written multiple books, including Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. About failure, she has said, "We need to accept that we won't always make the right decisions, that we'll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success." 

3. Carey Mulligan was rejected by every drama school she applied to.

Actress Carey Mulligan wanted to go to theater school, but her family sent her to boarding school. When she applied to drama school instead of university, she was rejected by every single one. One school even told her to "be a children's TV show presenter" instead. Mulligan went on to star in acclaimed films including Drive, Shame and An Education, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

4. Anna Wintour was fired from her job at Harper's Bazaar.

The legendary Vogue editor-in-chief is one of the most influential people in the fashion industry, but she has experienced setbacks. Wintour was fired from her role as the Junior Editor at Harper's Bazaar after nine months because her shoots were too edgy and she was told she didn't understand the market. Wintour later explained the benefits of getting fired in Alastair Campbell's 2015 book, Winners: And How They Succeed. "Everyone should be sacked at least once in their career because perfection doesn't exist."

5. Alicia Keys debut was originally rejected by her record label.

Alicia Keys is an accomplished singer and songwriter, but her "Songs In A Mirror" album was originally rejected by her record label, Columbia Records. She ended up getting out of the contract and signed with Clive Davis's label where she was able to release the album. "Songs In A Mirror" went on to sell millions of copies and earn multiple Grammys. She told HuffPost in an interview, "Failure isn't an option. I've erased the word 'fear' from my vocabulary, and I think when you erase fear, you can't fail."

6. J.K. Rowling was rejected multiple times when trying to get a publisher for 'Harry Potter.'

J.K. Rowling is an icon to muggles, witches, and wizards alike, but the Harry Potter author also understands the value of failure. She was rejected 12 times before finding a publisher for her magical series, and she has even shared her rejection letters on Twitter. In 2008, she released a book entitled Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, based on her 2008 Harvard University commencement speech. In it, she recounts the hardships she faced before finding success, "Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."

7. Vera Wang didn't make it to the Olympics or become editor-in-chief.

Vera Wang didn't design her first dress until she was 40. Despite being an accomplished figure skater, she didn't make the Olympic figure skating team, and she didn't become the editor-in-chief of Vogue. She changed directions by moving into fashion design and went on to start an extremely successful bridal business. What she learned through the journey is, "It's not about failure, it's about how much you love what you do."

8. Coco Chanel had to shut her shop during WWII.

Fashion designer Coco Chanel's burgeoning fashion business struggled during the Depression and World War II when Germany occupied France. She fired workers and shut her shops. After the war, she made her return to the fashion business at the age of 70. The label continues to this day and Chanel is known for succeeding in the fashion business during a time when few women had their own shops. One of her popular mantras was, "Success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."

9. Lucille Ball was dubbed a "failed B-movie actress."

Lucille Ball was nicknamed the "Queen of B movies" prior to "I Love Lucy." She went on to star in the hugely successful sitcom, and in 1962, she became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu. One of her most inspirational quotes was, "I'd rather regret the things I've done than the things I haven't done."

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