Fred Astaire: In his first screen test, the testing director of MGM noted that Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer and kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of his humble beginnings.
Lucille Ball: During her career, Ball had thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins, also earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors. Before starring in “I Love Lucy”, Ball was widely regarded as a failed actress and a ‘B’-movie star. Even her drama instructors were unconfident in her potential, advising her to try another profession. She, of course, proved them all wrong.
Charlie Chaplin: It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was a too “nonsensical” to ever sell.
Harrison Ford: In his first film, Ford was told by the movie execs that he simply didn’t have what it takes to be a star. Today, with numerous classics under his belt, iconic portrayals of characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and a career that stretches for decades, Ford can proudly show that he does, in fact, have what it takes.
Marilyn Monroe: Monroe had a period of great success in her career and life. Despite a difficult upbringing and criticism from modeling agents that she should instead “consider becoming a secretary”, Monroe became a pin-up, model and actress that still strikes a chord with people today.
Jeanne Moreau: As a young actress starting out, this French actress was told by a casting director that she was simply “not pretty enough” to make it in films. He couldn’t have been more wrong, as Moreau when on to star in nearly 100 films, winning numerous awards for her fantastic performances.
Sidney Poitier:After his first audition, the casting director told Poitier, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well regarded actors in the business.
Christopher Reeve: The man who played Superman tragically became a quadriplegic, and never truly learned to be happy about his situation, yet he did learn to deal with it day by day. “In the morning, I need twenty minutes to cry. To wake up and make that shift, you know, and to just say, ‘This really sucks,’ to really allow yourself the feeling of loss. It still needs to be acknowledged.” – Christopher Reeve
Then, he’d say, “And now…forward!”
He had to take a moment everyday to acknowledge where he was, and what the reality of his situation was. However, he didn’t allow that to stop him. He traveled around the country speaking publicly on behalf of victims of spinal injuries, tirelessly raising money for his own and other foundations, and even became a movie director in the process. He took what he had and tried to help others in the best way he could.
Jerry Seinfeld: This incredibly popular comedian had started his career for the first time at a local comedy club in Manhattan. He looked out at the audience, froze and was eventually jeered and booed off of the stage. Seinfeld possessed extreme confidence, so he went back the next night, completed his set to laughter and applause, and kick started his successful career.
Steven Spielberg: Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times. He eventually attended school at Cal State University in Long Beach, only to drop out to become a director before finishing. Thirty-five years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.
He went on to direct some of the biggest movie blockbusters in history. Now he’s worth $2.7 billion and in 1994 received an honorary degree from the film school that had rejected him twice.
Oliver Stone: This Oscar-winning filmmaker began his first novel while at Yale, a project that eventually caused him to fail out of school. This would turn out to be a poor decision as the text was rejected by publishers and was not published until 1998, at which it was ill received by the public. After dropping out of school, Stone moved to Vietnam to teach English, later enlisting in the army and fighting in the Vietnam war, a battle that earning two Purple Hearts and helped him find the inspiration for his later work that often center around war.
Oprah Winfrey: Today, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most iconic faces on television. She is also one of the wealthiest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood, as well as numerous career setbacks, including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”
Winfrey’s childhood was terrible; filled with abuse and abject poverty. But, like most successful people, Oprah didn’t dwell on her troubling past,
“I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.”
– Oprah Winfrey