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30-something prodigies

30-something prodigies

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Not every awesome person was fabulous before 30.

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You know that weird cultural pressure to 'make it' before you turn 30? It's bullshit. As these legends prove, things start getting really good once you leave your 20s. 

ALBERT EINSTEIN There’s something a wee bit comforting in the knowledge that Albert Einstein dropped out of his first high school and failed his first university entrance exam. While the father of modern physics eventually excelled at uni (and invented a little thing called the Theory of Relativity), he didn’t quit his day job as a patent clerk until he turned 30.

JARVIS COCKER Britpop legend Jarvis Cocker formed Pulp while he was still in high school, but the band struggled to hit the big time all through the ‘80s. Lineups changed, studio sessions were rushed and record companies came and went. It was a general schmozzle, and Jarvis had all but given up when the chart success of album His ‘n’ Hers came just in time for his 31st birthday.

BARACK OBAMA OK, Barack Obama is a spring chicken by US presidential standards. But while he wasn’t exactly wasting time before hitting the big three-oh (he was studying law and working as a community organiser), it wasn’t till he reached 35 that the future White House tenant entered politics and won his first election.

DAVID LYNCH It took David Lynch six years to make his first feature-length film, Eraserhead, which was bankrolled by friends and family – he even took up a paper route to make payments at one point. The film was deemed ‘unreleasable’ by most movie companies, but it eventually hit cinemas when the auteur was 31 and became an instant cult classic.

JANE AUSTEN While Jane Austen tinkered around with writing from her teenage years, her first novel – Sense and Sensibility wasn’t published till she turned 35. Even then fame and fortune hardly beckoned. Having published anonymously (as “A Lady”), Austen’s name was not widely known outside her home town in Hampshire and her royalties remained fairly small.

ANDY WARHOL Andy Warhol was 33 by the time he hosted his first solo studio exhibition. Before then he was known only as a commercial illustrator, an image he initially tried to fight against because it hurt his cred as a painter. In his 30s he embraced the contradiction and became a pop art legend.

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD The grandmamma of punk and new wave fashion was a primary-school teacher until she opened her first store on London’s Kings Road in 1971. And while her outrageous clothes caught the attention of the underground, it took the popularity of the Sex Pistols – her ripped up, potty-mouthed muses – to launch her career as a fashion legend at the age of 35. 

This list was original published in frankie issue 35, May/June 2010. 

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