All the Times Famous People Proved Their Biggest Critics Wrong

These celebrities went on to be famous despite their most vocal haters.


Oct. 29 2018, Updated 5:22 p.m. ET

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The path to fame isn't easy, and for many celebs, that path was paved with loud critics who doubted their aspirations. From being told they're not talented to dealing with major career rejections, these famous folks went on to be successful despite their haters.

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1. Lady Gaga

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The pop-star-turned-movie-star has had several setbacks throughout her career, from album disasters (Art Flop, anyone?) to being accused of plagiarism. But Gaga's path to fame started way back in her NYU days. Back then she was just Stefani Germanotta, a brunette college student who sang in a cover band was considered a little too ambitious for her classmates' liking. The teasing and bullying got so bad, one student even created a Facebook group called "Stefani Germanotta, you will never be famous." Wow, rude.

"Bullying really stays with you your whole life," she told Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. "And it really, really never goes away. And I know you're using words like 'superstar' and 'most-Googled' and 'billions of YouTube [views].' But I was never the winner. I was always the loser. And that still stays with me. And do I want to stick it to anybody? No. I just wanna make music."

Those classmates are probably eating their words now.

2. Meryl Streep

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She might be the most prolific actress today, but back when she was first starting out, Meryl thought she was "too ugly" to be famous. It probably didn't help that, when auditioning for the film King Kong when she was 27, the director called her an "ugly thing." Despite this, Meryl kept going on auditions anyway, and we all know what happened after that.

"For young women, I would say, don't worry so much about your weight," she said in 2014 during a commencement speech. "Girls spend way too much time thinking about that, and there are better things. For young men, and women, too, what makes you different or weird, that's your strength."

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3. JK Rowling

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The Harry Potter author's rise to fame is well known. A single mother on welfare, she was fired from her job at Amnesty International for writing stories while at work. She was famously rejected by 12 publishers before releasing her first novel. In 2016, she published her most scathing rejection letter by an editor who suggested that she take writing classes. Ouch!

"I pinned my first rejection letter to my kitchen wall because it gave me something in common with all my fave writers!" she wrote on Twitter.

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4. Shakira

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The "Hips Don't Lie" singer might be an international star, but back in school, she wasn't good enough to make it into the choir. "[My music teacher] thought my voice was too dissonant, my vibrato too pronounced," she said in 2016. "[My classmates] thought I sang like a goat." It's true that Shakira has a unique yodel, but that distinctive quality later became her ticket to fame.

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5. Gisele BĂŒndchen

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Before she became the highest paid supermodel in the world, Gisele was shockingly called "ugly" by her classmates who nicknamed her "saracura" because she was skinny like a bird.

"She was skinny and toothy, and walked with a curved back, not pretty at all," Cezar Oliveira, a former classmate, told The Daily Mail. "Her sisters were much more attractive than her, so she'd get ignored by the boys."

When Gisele started entering modeling competitions, her classmates teased her and said the only job she could book was one advertising broomsticks. Gisele's response to all the name-calling? "One day I'll be famous, then you'll see."

"She was always telling us that," her classmate Alessandro Bogado said. "It was exactly what happened. I think you can say that she had the last laugh."

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6. Harrison Ford

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During the early part of his career, he was called into the office of Columbia Pictures’ head of new talent division and told he didn't have what it takes to be a star. "He said, ‘Sit down kid, I saw the rushes from yesterday, you're never going to make it in the business—just forget about it,’” Harrison told late night show host Conan O’Brien in 2013. 

At first, it looked like the talent scout was right. Harrison didn't score any major roles in his 20s. It wasn't until 1977's Star Wars that he got his first breakout role at age 35.

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7. Taylor Swift

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Taylor spent a huge chunk of her childhood taking guitar lessons and visiting studios during her teen years, but her peers didn't think her hustle would amount to anything. "She would be in class and she'd be writing, rather than paying attention at all," said Chelsea Alford, Taylor's old pal. "Back in school nobody thought she was actually going to go anywhere." Well, jokes on them.

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8. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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When the former governor tried to transition from bodybuilding to acting, he had several roadblocks standing in his way. For one, casting agents thought his accent was too thick, his name was too unpronounceable, and his body was too big. "I did not listen to the naysayers and was just going after my vision," he said during a Q&A. "I was very happy it then worked out."

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9. Brad Pitt

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Before his first breakout role, Brad struggled like every other actor. He worked odd jobs, moved furniture, and even donned a chicken suit for El Pollo Loco. When he auditioned for the film The Accused, his performance was met with several seconds of silence and then, "Have you ever thought about acting classes?" Awkward. He didn't get the part, but he got his first big role in Thelma and Louise three years later.

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10. Walt Disney

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His name might be associated with some of our biggest childhood obsessions, but his career was a bit of a failure at first. He got fired from his first animation job at Kansas City Star by an editor who told him he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." Walt left and acquired animation studio Laugh-O-Gram, which he quickly drove to bankruptcy. For a while it looked like his former boss was right, until Walt and his brother started Disney Brothers' Studio in Hollywood. For a guy who "lacked imagination," he ended up doing quite well for himself.

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11. Elvis Presley

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Yep, even Elvis struggled at the beginning of his career. According to a famous story, when Elvis auditioned to sing for a local band, he was told to stick to truck driving "because you’re never going to make it as a singer." The band was probably kicking themselves for that mistake later.

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12. Stephen King

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Stephen had to really struggle to get his first novel Carrie made. While he was writing the draft, he originally trashed it because he thought it was terrible. His wife rescued the draft from the garbage can and told him to try again. 

After finishing the manuscript, he sent it off to 30 publishers who all passed on it. He had so many rejection letters, he collected them all and hung them on a nail in his bedroom. “The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it," he wrote in On Writing. "I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing."Although he had to hustle, Carrie was eventually published in 1974 and sold over a million copies. 

If there's a lesson to take from all of this it's that getting rejected is a badge of honor. Embrace it — after all, these celebs did.

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