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Career Heroines Who Got Fired

Lena Dunham

Sometimes life isn’t the smooth career ladder our kindly guidance counseller promised. Sometimes those ladder steps snap as soon as you stand on them and next thing you’re scrambling through an obstacle course that is pothole upon pothole. Sometimes you get fired. While being dismissed can be professionally, financially and personally devastating, the important thing to remember is that you’re still essentially you at the end of the day, with or without a job. Here we look at five incredibly successful women who had to pack up their desks before going on to achieve all their dreams.

JK Rowling
Easily the world’s most successful author, JK Rowling had one tough road to dominating the bestselling charts. After divorcing in her early twenties she worked as a secretary at the London office of Amnesty International while balancing single motherhood. She spent her days writing stories on her computer and daydreaming about a boy wizard. When her bosses found out she was fired. She survived on social welfare while scraping by in Edinburgh. She has described her lifestyle at this time as being as “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless” and wrote in cafés where her daughter Jessica could sleep while she wrote the first Harry Potter novel. It was rejected by twelve publishing houses until Bloomsbury snapped up the record breaking novel. Rowling has now sold over 400 million copies of her novels.

Anna Wintour
The Vogue editor claims that losing her job as a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar because of her too edgy shoots was one of the best things to have ever happened to her. She lasted nine months in the job. She spoke about the experience at a New York fashion conference in 2010, “I recommend that you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.” Wintour has been editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and inspired Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

Lena Dunham
Before becoming the indie hipster millennial queen bee, Lena Dunham was actually fired by HBO, the company that now produces her show Girls, three years ago. Dunham had landed a small role in the Kate Winslet starring mini-series Mildred Pierce and lost the part the day she showed up on set. “I got sweetly dismissed” is how the Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” author describes her brief on-set dalliance.

Jenny Slate
The comedian slash actress slash star of Obvious Child was famously dropped from comedy show Saturday Night Live after saying the f-word live on air during her first sketch. She was a member of the cast for one season in 2009-2010 and her contract was not renewed. She went on to co-write and voice the viral sensation Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, scored a recurring guest role on Parks and Recreation and this year starred in Obvious Child, a romantic comedy that tackles abortion. Read our interview with Slate here.

Oprah
Oprah initially started out as a news anchor at a Baltimore television network but was fired because she was too emotionally involved in the stories she was reporting. She was demoted to a daytime presenter role and her empathy took that talk show from the bottom of the ratings to the top rated show in Chicago. and thus an empire and a book club was born. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun she spoke about how this early career blip shaped her, “Not all my memories of Baltimore are fond ones…But I do have fond memories of Baltimore, because it grew me into a real woman. I came in naive, unskilled, not really knowing anything about the business — or about life. And Baltimore grew me up.”

Were you ever fired, and was it the making of you?

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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