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17 Famous People Who Were Once Rejected

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about various topics including celebrities and entertainment.

Oprah Winfrey was once told she was unfit to be on television.

Oprah Winfrey was once told she was unfit to be on television.

It is unbelievable that Oprah Winfrey was fired from being a reporter. She was told she wasn't fit for television. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because his coach said he wasn't good enough. It was suggested to Elvis Presley to give up singing and go back to being a truck driver. Sidney Poitier was encouraged to get a job as a dishwasher.

It is amazing that none of these successful people took the advice of those who tried to get them to give up their dreams.

Was booed offstage during his very first performance

Was booed offstage during his very first performance

A lot of successful people today were told in their past that they would never amount to anything.

You might know most of the people in the chart below. You might not know what they had to go through to get to where they are today.

They were rejected when they first started out. However, they did not give up after they were advised to do something else. That should give you a lot of hope for accomplishing your goal even when people tell you that you won't succeed.

From Rejection to Success


Lucille Ball

Was rejected as a movie star and agents didn't think she would ever be an A-list celebrity.

Had thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins.


Were told they couldn't make it because nobody liked their music.

Still popular with listeners around the world today.

Walt Disney

A newspaper fired Walt Disney stating that he wasn't imaginative with good ideas.

His theme parks, movies and merchandise earn billions each year.

Harrison Ford

Agents rejected him after his first film because they thought he would never be a star.

Has a career with over six decades of acting.

Michael J. Fox

Producer rejected him for being too short.

He is an actor, author, comedian, producer, activist and voice-over artist.

Theodor Seuss Giesel

His first book "To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" was rejected 27 times.

Became a very successful writer of children's books.

Michael Jordan

Cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn't good enough, according to his coach.

He is one of the most famous basketball players in history.

Stephen King

His thriller "Carrie" received 30 rejections.

His wife encouraged him to resubmit it one more time. He now has hundreds of books published and is one of the best-selling authors of all time.

Marilyn Monroe

Modeling agents agreed that she would be better as a secretary.

After her death, she is still remembered as a model and actress.

Sidney Poitier

Was rejected by a casting director who advised him to become a dishwasher.

Is an Oscar winner and is one of the most well-loved actors.

Elvis Presley

After only one performance, he was fired from singing. Agents told him he would be better off as a truck driver.

Many years after his death, he is still admired because of his music.

Colonel Sanders

His secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times.

Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken is sold all over the world.

Jerry Seinfeld

During his very first performance, he was booed off the stage.

Well-known today as a successful comedian.

Steven Spielberg

Was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television.

Thirty-five years after his rejection, he returned to college and received his degree in 2002. Today, his name is synonymous with television.

Sylvester Stallone

His "Rocky" scripts were rejected over 1,500 times. When finally accepted, he was asked not to star in them.

His movies grossed over a billion dollars and are still watched today.

Vincent Van Gogh

Was rejected as a painter. He sold only one painting to a friend at a very small price.

He completed over 2,100 art pieces before he died at age 37. Today, they bring in millions of dollars.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah was fired from being a television reporter. Officials told her she was unfit for television.

Oprah's daytime talk show aired for 25 years. Today, she has her own television network named after her, "OWN."


If at first you don't success, try again!


Perhaps someone in your past has said you would be nothing, but you don't let them be right. Prove them wrong just like so many famous people did when they were told they would amount to nothing.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Never give up on your dream.
  • Go back to school.
  • Take some night courses.
  • Take online courses.
  • Become an apprentice.
  • Learn to start your own business.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on April 18, 2018:

Did you know Oprah Winfrey was fired from a reporter's job because producers told her she was not fit for television? Did you know that Sidney Poitier was told not to act but to become a dishwasher instead? Did you know Elvis Presley was encouraged to become a truck driver because officials said he couldn't sing or play the guitar? None of these people gave up even though they were advised to do so. There is a long list of others who didn't give up even though they were rejected at first.

Treasure Tweet from United Kingdom on April 04, 2011:

A howlingly refreshing and reassuring hub!.I cannot but visit again.All thumbs up for revmjm.Will ya?.Yes.All must.

cheerfulnuts from Manila, Philippines on April 04, 2011:

revmjm, this is truly inspiring. Thank you.

Scroll to Continue

Vibs245 from India on April 04, 2011:

This should reach to everyone,so that next time you have more addition to the list. Thank you for such an encouraging hub in an interesting manner.

LittleFairy on April 04, 2011:

Your article lifted my spirits, now I know that I can suceed no matter what people say. voted up!

smanty on April 03, 2011:

That's very interesting. I had no idea the Beatles didn't make it their first try.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on April 03, 2011:

Quite a few of you read this article over the weekend. Thanks a lot for reading and responding!

funmihills on April 03, 2011:

uhnmmm,quiet captivatin writings.thumb up..

futurenetads from india on April 03, 2011:

wow very Inspiring hub, thanks for the article.

keep writing ......

sergius tang on April 03, 2011:

needed that!

davidkaluge on April 02, 2011:

" Those we now call great men were those that tread on a path which many people are afraid to tread on."N.K.David. It takes courage to keep walking in that path of loneliness when everyone thinks your are failure. Even everyone has nothing positive to tell you about your work. That is the mystery in my book, "it is time we truly know..." because although it is general spirituality, it covered virtual any question we can think off depending on how you direct it. Just keeping on that path even if alone

Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on April 02, 2011:

This is my favorite hub, to date! No hesitation in saying that. Wow! This holds the spirit of creation itself. Faith despite what the universe around you "says." This is pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and learning to fly without wings.

One of many success stories I've experienced started in first grade in West Texas. My teacher once gave me a paddling and sent me home with a note pinned to my chest for telling science fiction stories in the school yard. This was one year before Sputnik, so space was not yet cool.

My father worked for Humble Oil (Exxon), and we moved a lot. In the middle of first grade, we moved to Southern Oregon. My teacher there pitied me for being the slowest student in the reading circle, but marveled at my prowess in math. She sent me home with a different kind of note: an offer to tutor me in reading to get me over the hump I was experiencing.

Years later, when my first science fiction novel was published, I sent her a copy for having faith in the slowest reader in class.

And there's more where that came from....

Thanks revmjm, for helping us remember to fly, even if we don't have wings.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on April 02, 2011:

this is awesome- very inspirational. It always amazes me what Oprah went through and her now successful life. I read a book by Michael J. Fox that really inspired me because of how he's dealt with his parkinson's. That list you compiled was really well done and of course those of us that write like to see the authors on that list, esecially J.K Rowling. Well done!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on April 02, 2011:

bee, thanks for reading and responding.

bee on April 02, 2011:

Thanks for wishing people well Revmjm! May God bless! and good luck to prairieprincess! you can do it!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on April 02, 2011:

prairieprincess, thank you for reading and for your kind remarks. Feel free to share this article with your career development class.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on April 01, 2011:


Thank you from my heart for this hub. This comes at the right time, as I struggle with career choices. Too many times I have let others' bad words shape my opinion of myself. Thank you for the very powerful reminder that we should not give up what God has put in our hearts to do.

I also like it because it could really truly encourage others. In fact, I want to bring this to my career development course, and share it with my students. Blessings and thank you!

dearabbysmom on April 01, 2011:

Your list is good info to post (one of our local Boys & Girls Clubs has a few of these posted) and to tuck away for times when we feel discouraged. What a benefit to the world that the people on your list did not give up.

John Preston Dennis from Atlanta, GA on April 01, 2011:

Great article! I am reading this book called Think and Grow Rich. It has the story of Henry Ford and several other people in it. It was amazing to read the quotes from the people and how they just don't take no for an answer. One of these days I will be a famous composer and writer!

palmbay on April 01, 2011:

Really great hub! Inspiring!

Hurlygirl001 from Denver, CO on April 01, 2011:

This is a very interesting topic. What a great read!

ckrishnaa57 on April 01, 2011:

The people who reject these geniuses have to be praised and worshipped otherwise we would not have seen these geniuses done well for the society. Definitely the people who rejected them might have been a motivation factor to these geniuses for their achievements to the society.

If you have a chance to be rejected by anybody think them as your "Guru (Guide)" because they are indirectly showing you the way to get recognition.

davidkaluge on April 01, 2011:

Thanks the hub moved me and above all it remind me of the story in my book,"it is time we truly know..." by N.K.David. The story of the boy called He. I hope the world will someday get the meaning of the story. He failed and was left behind by his mates. All expect one counted him out but what...I said,"people can plan for your failure or count you out but only can decide what happens next because nobody can stop you but you." thanks for writing a hub that moved a mover.

ritakriti from India on April 01, 2011:

Just superb....Read each and every single word and line of yours. I am really inspired with this.

Chirag on March 31, 2011:

Inspiring and awesome!

The best HUB I have ever read..

Hime on March 31, 2011:

this is extremely inspiring.

Sunil Bhojwani on March 31, 2011:

This is one of the finest piece of write-up I have seen. Truly, It's tough time when no one is with you. The only two things which you have is your Confidence & Will-Power which eventually drives you to your destination, irrespective of blocks. Last but not the least as I have and still going through such a phase from which all this great people have passed.

Trust your Instinct, because it always knows what is right and wrong.

kapde1 from New Delhi on March 31, 2011:

Great post, it's enough to motivate anyone. Thanks for sharing.

Tracy Lynn Conway from Virginia, USA on March 31, 2011:

What a fabulous hub! I have never had to scroll down through so many comments. Just fabulous and so inspiring, Thank you!

allisonkorson from Grand Rapids, Mi on March 31, 2011:

I like this! Its awesome how many people were destined to fail but then beat all the odds.

trimar7 from New York on March 31, 2011:

I am going to book mark this site and read some of these to my students. They need to know that they should never let anyone ever convince them that they cannot be whatever they wish to be. Great hub - very inspirational!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 31, 2011:

Rochelle, you are absolutely right. I could write an article and design a chart about geniuses who remain failures. Thanks for reading and responding.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on March 31, 2011:

There must be thousands of prospective "geniuses" out there who just gave up after a defeat. Those you listed didn't.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 31, 2011:

BlissfulWriter, DavitosanX, Dexter,Dorothee-Gy,and SilverWebb, thanks for reading and responding to this article.


GreatSiteBabbler, you should keep working on the same goal. You need to bring closure to it. If not, it will come back to haunt you later. After you complete that, then start fresh on something else. Or simply add something new to the goal you might have dismissed.

GreatSiteBabbler from WorldWideWeb on March 31, 2011:

Really an inspiring hub. However, I 've a question:

Should one step back and start fresh for a new one or rather keep working on the same

SilverWebb from Australia on March 31, 2011:

What a beautiful hub. Thank you!

Dorothee-Gy from near Frankfurt/M., Germany on March 31, 2011:

Wow, I really like your compilation! Never let anyone tell you what you can or can't do! Wonderful!

Dexter on March 31, 2011:

This is the most inspiring hub I have ever read! Thanks for this information I will cherish it forever. The funny thing is that today I was feeling down and this hub made feel like anything is possible.

DavitosanX on March 30, 2011:

This is so inspirational! Let's all go and make our dreams come true :D

BlissfulWriter on March 30, 2011:

Good job coming up with such an extensive list. That why one should not always believe in what others say, but to believe in oneself.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 30, 2011:

Ms. Teh, thanks for reading and responding.

Ms. Teh on March 30, 2011:

They say being stubborn is a negative attribute:) It's the only thing that's worked for me.

Bryan Eaddy on March 30, 2011:

Awesome! One of the best hubs I've ever read.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 30, 2011:

daisyf1305 and Greensleeves Hubs, thanks for reading and responding.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on March 30, 2011:

Nice page - it's interesting to read these kind of stories, particularly the ones where so-called experts have dismissed someone out of hand; someone who has subsequently gone on to greatness.

Daisy Fabelo from Orlando Florida on March 30, 2011:

wow!!!! absolutly awesome your hub inspires brings shills that stream down to the core. Thank you I will be back again and again...

reeltaulk on March 30, 2011:

As simple as this photo is of Oprah I Love it! I love it because it says so much. I love her reeltime videos she started posting on Facebook, they are so natural and down to earth. She deserves to enjoy the rest of her life chillaxing and having a great time doing whatever she chooses to. Sometimes when observing her in her videos I get a feeling like she is the kind of individual that if she likes you she will forever have your best interest at heart, she would definitely be a great mentor not because she is rich but because her experience and journey has enriched her.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 30, 2011:

Hound Cat and chim4real, I am glad this article was enjoyable to you and you learned something. Thanks for reading and responding.

Blotspace on March 30, 2011:

This is so inspiring.. :)

chim4real_2006 on March 30, 2011:

Really, this hub has educated me more. I have learn a lot of this from this article. Really i will give it to a friend who has almost lost hope. I believe God that it will help that friend of mine.

Hound Cat from Los Angeles area of Southern California USA on March 30, 2011:

Great read. Proves there is always hope. I also learned the power of keeping a positive attitude in the face of negativity. Thanks.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 30, 2011:

malonge, you are exactly right. Thanks for reading and respondin to this article.

malonge on March 30, 2011:

Very interesting reading. We tend to think that the people we see as successful, got there very easily. It isn't the case. Hard work and perseverance got them through.

KenWu from Malaysia on March 30, 2011:

That's just awesome!!!!!!!! Rated UP!!!

TajSingh from United Kingdom on March 29, 2011:

Try and try until you succeed! This hub will serve as a good reminder and inspiration for people who are struggling to gain success.

sean kinn from Key West and Budapest on March 29, 2011:

Persistence! Great Hub. :-) SK

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

It was nice of you Balinese, to read and comment.

Balinese from Ireland on March 29, 2011:

thank you - really great hub and have boost my motivation to not give up

thanks again

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

DeBorrah K. Ogans, thanks for reading and responding to my article. As you can see, you are one of many who have enjoyed reading it. I think most of us can relate to what people did to try to hold us back.

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on March 29, 2011:

revmjm, What a marvelous article! This is quite an impressive list of those that have been rejected at one time or another! This provides the motivation and incentive to persevere onward moreso... Especially when the odds are against you! As you so wonderfully stated:"Perhaps someone in your past has said you would be nothing, but you don't have to let them be right. Prove them wrong just like all those famous people on the above chart did." AMEN!!! WONDERFUL!

Thank you for sharing, In HIS Love, Grace, Joy Peace & Blessings!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

CreativeLearner, thank you so much for reading and responding.

CreativeLearner from Coventry, United Kingdom on March 29, 2011:

This is an inspiring and excellent hub. Thank you!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

taskeinc and SilverGenes, thanks for reading and responding to this article.

SilverGenes on March 29, 2011:

I've bookmarked this hub for those moments when I need reminding (and they occur almost every day at least in some way!) but more than that, I want to thank you for taking the time to put this together. Within each mini story in the table of success lurk some very strong lessons.

B. E. Shaw Sr. from Atlanta on March 29, 2011:

Fantastic hub ..

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

iamanasha, I am glad this article listed your mood. Thanks for reading and responding.

iamanasha from the Queendom of Forgiveness on March 29, 2011:

This is amazing. It lifted my mood. I was feeling hurt from a recent set back in my own business. Thank you!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 29, 2011:

raghavrathi, I think most of us have been rejected in some way. Unfortunately, some never recovered from that rejection. Fortunately, some went on to beat the odds and did become successful.

Raghav Rathi from Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India. on March 29, 2011:

definitely , it is a really helpful hub.....

same is the story with me too...

even my work was rejected by quite a few publishing houses at first.

My dad told me never to give up. thats what i did n today, thankfully, i have gained some amount of recognition....

a really inspiring hub....!!!

cheers! Raghav

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

SarahLinny, I hope you saw how many times the famous people in the above chart received rejection letters before they became successful. Don't give up.

Carson Tartt from Tampa, FL on March 28, 2011:

This is a great hub! I just got a rejection letter in the mail this morning and have been fighting the blues all day - thank you for putting this up because I know I got the sauce even if the school that rejected me doesn't!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

CR James,cmoneyspinner, and Sydney, thank you all for your wonderful comments. People like you motivate me to keep writing.

Sydney on March 28, 2011:

incredible Hub. Made me feel sick to my stomach because I've been told the same thing and am now starting to "make it" at what I was told I am a piece of "***" at and more. sometimes people are put down because of others fear, fear for you, or fear of your talent and competition. but usually when you are put down it means you've got something, otherwise they wouldn't need to put all that effort into it. just takes a while to realize that. Thanks for the hub! Made my day :-)

cmoneyspinner on March 28, 2011:

It's a good thing people know who they are and don't let others tell them what they can or can not do!

CR James on March 28, 2011:

Thank you for this amazingly inspiration hub. This could be "life-changing" information for someone who needs this message. (This is the first hub I've ever bookmarked!)

Enjoy your day RevMJM!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

alezafree, thank you so much for reading and responding.

A Freeman from Las Vegas, NV on March 28, 2011:

Thank you. This is intersting, inspiring and just what I needed to read!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

dingz magsayo, thanks for your comment.

dingz magsayo from Philippines on March 28, 2011:

very inspiring

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

kristine, I am glad this article was for you. Continue to be successful!


create a page, Good for you. I am glad you proved your history teacher wrong.

create a page from Maryland, USA on March 28, 2011:

Revmjm your hub reminds me of an experience I had with my history teacher when I was in high school. She told me that I would fail history in my final exams and I was not accomplishing anything in class. I proved her wrong by passing history and I later completed my undergraduate studies with history as my major. I decided from I was a little girl that I would do whatever I wanted to do with God's help.

Thanks for the reminder and this was an excellent hub. Keep up the good work.

Kristine Manley from Atlanta, GA on March 28, 2011:

FABULOUS! Thank you for the encouraging Hub. I needed to read this and this was for me.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

Brian,lonelyromance, kasiapl, and Chris: Thank you all for reading and responding. I enjoyed writing this article. It has gotten over 900 views in just a few days already. I am glad you are counted amoung that number.

Chris on March 28, 2011:

This page is so inspiring. I love how it ends with Lincoln, who is, without a doubt, one of best presidents. It really gives me hope for my nation, my community, and myself.

Kathy from New Jersey , USA on March 28, 2011:

Really great and inspiring it shows that anyone can accomplish anything they want when they believe in them selves :)

lonelyromance from Netherland on March 28, 2011:

very helpful. thnkxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. i think i will be able to use this in my networking business

Brian Gosur on March 28, 2011:

What a great post revmjm. This is truly a post that hits right at the heart of so many people, myself included. People who have talent and answers to many of the world's problems today are stifled because of the biting words of others.

Awesome hub.

God bless you.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

chaipoo1090, I am glad you were able to read my article. Thank you for your kind remarks.

chaipoo1090 on March 28, 2011:

wow this s so good...its the most inspiring hub i've ever read...thank you for such a wonderful piece of work

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

mojefballa, Lisa, and craftdrawer: Thanks for reading and responding.

craftdrawer on March 28, 2011:

What a great Hub I really enjoyed reading it!

Lisa HW from Massachusetts on March 28, 2011:

I think one problem may be that people who, themselves, have some degree of success/talent in an area, often become so accustomed to "being among the best" they can't even imagine someone who does things differently from them might actually know a little something too. (They can get a little too sure of themselves). Another part of the problem may be that it takes a certain level of "understanding" or "talent" or "success-leaning" thinking to recognize it in others. Also, too: ego. A whole lot of people think that anyone who doesn't do things their way doesn't know "the right way" to do things. :/

Ikeji Chinweuba from Nigeria on March 28, 2011:

well written hub, keep it up

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 28, 2011:

TylerCapp, thanks so much for reading and responding. You are among many who have done so.

TylerCapp from Los Angeles, California on March 28, 2011:

Inspirational! Moving! You have truly made my day. I'm sure you've helped countless people out of their own personal ditch from this hub. It gives one a new perspective to see what these people faced and how they made it BIG. Vote this up, up, up!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 27, 2011:

gguy, OK... I'll wait for it.

gguy from new jersey usa on March 27, 2011:

Reverend, you run a tight ship!!! LOL, had a lot of work around the house this weekend, but it will be on in a few days!!

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on March 27, 2011:

tk4monarch, thanks for reading and responding. Your remark is well taken. However, if I had written all that information about Thomas Edison I would not have had space to list the others. It wasn't a profile of Edison. He was included in the list to prove my point that some successful people were considered failures before they became successful. It wasn't my intention to sell anyone short. Then I would have been doing was others have done to these successful people in the past. Apparently you know a lot about the background of Edison. Why not write an article devoted exclusively to him and his accomplishments?


gguy, I believe you were going to write an article about Walt Disney.

gguy from new jersey usa on March 27, 2011:

Reverend, TK has a good point, sometimes what we consider failure is really just steps on the way to success. Finding out what works starts by finding out what does not work, sort of a process of elimination.

tk4monarch on March 27, 2011:

You sell a few of these people short on their accomplishments. Thomas Edison had tried 5000 experiments to find a filiament for his light bulb and all the while all the great minds of the world were telling him to give up, what you are trying to do cannot be done. He replied, "I have not failed at all. I have succssfully discovered 5000 ways that do not work. Which puts me 5000 experiments closer to the one that will work."

And it took Edison another 5000 experiment until he found the carbon filament that glowed for forty hours.The tungsten filament that made the light bulb truly practical was developed by William D. Coolidge. Tungsten is a substance so brittle it was like making a wire out of talcum powder.

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