25 Famous Women on How Getting Fired Makes You Stronger

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Getting fired from a job you love (or even hate) can be gut-wrenching and exhausting, most of all because it demands change. Below, smart, successful women share how the experience made them stronger in their respective fields — in Hollywood, business, politics, and the media. Read on for stories from Anna Wintour, Kerry Washington, Nicki Minaj, Hari Nef, and more.

Joan Rivers

“I am so much freer now because I always say: What are you going to do? Are you going to fire me? Been fired. Going to be bankrupt? Been bankrupt. Some people aren’t going to talk to me? Happened. Banned from networks? Happened. So I can say anything I want, and it has freed me totally, totally. And I talk much more freely now than I ever dared to talk before.” —NPR, June 2010

Anna Wintour

“I worked for American Harper’s Bazaar … They fired me. I recommend that you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.” —Teen Vogue’s annual Fashion University, October 2010

Jenny Slate

“I had dreamed of being on Saturday Night Live, so when I got cast in 2009, I was so happy. But it felt like an explosion when I accidentally said ‘f–k’ on live TV during my very first sketch…Lorne [Michaels] and I never talked when I was fired at the end of the season; I got the news online. I’ve still never watched the clip of my f–k-up. That’d be like watching yourself fall down the aisle at your wedding! … I ordered 50 million pizzas and invited all of my friends over. It’s important to let yourself go through all the emotions. But if you start seeing yourself as a victim rather than as all of the other amazing things you could be, it’s time to snap out of it. It took me a few years to get back to myself; I developed stage fright, so I went to a hypnotist. But quiet contemplation isn’t all it takes to get you through a screwup. Join a meditation group; go on vacation. Do something. (Just don’t become an alcoholic.)” —Glamour, June 2014

CEO Sallie Krawcheck

“If you don’t get fired at least once, you’re not trying hard enough. This isn’t quite true yet, but it is becoming truer. As the pace of change in business increases, the chances of having a placid career are receding. And if in this period of rapid change, you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances.” —LinkedIn, November 2012

Kerry Washington

“When you look back, don’t you feel like there is a logic to how things have fallen into place? Like, if only I could have known then what I know now, I would have cried a lot less! Those heartbreak moments. Before Scandal, the only other two pilots I’d ever done were shows that got picked up, but I got fired. They recast my character on both shows … But if I had gotten picked up on one of them, I wouldn’t have been able to do Ray. You know what I mean? It seems at the time like a my-career-is-over moment, but it makes perfect sense in the end.” —The Hollywood Reporter, May 2013

Carly Fiorina

“I was fired in a boardroom brawl. And you know why? Because I challenged the status quo. It is what leaders must do. And when you challenge the status quo, when you lead, you make enemies. It’s why so few people lead.” —CNN, August 2015

Ellen DeGeneres

“I was fired for being gay, and I know what it feels like. I lost everything, but look at me now. I could buy [the Mississippi] governor’s mansion, flip it, and make a $7 million profit.” —The Ellen DeGeneres Show, April 2016

Jill Abramson

“Is it hard to say I was fired? No. I’ve said it about 20 times, and it’s not. I was in fact insistent that that be publicly clear because I was not ashamed of that. And I don’t think young women — it’s hard, I know — they should not feel stigmatized if they are fired. Especially in this economy people are fired right and left for arbitrary reasons, and there are sometimes forces beyond your control.” —Cosmopolitan, September 2014

Nora Ephron

“People actually think that there’s a good way to be fired. They get fired, and no matter what they were doing before being fired — losing an unwinnable war, running things into the ground, failing to meet the metrics, or merely holding onto a job that was destined for downsizing — they complain afterwards about the way they were fired instead of about what really bothers them, which is that they were fired at all … My favorite of these Firing Victim scenarios is the one called, ‘They fired me on my birthday.’ You can’t imagine how many people walk around complaining that they were fired on their birthdays … Here’s my point: There’s no good way to be fired and there’s no good day to be fired.” —The Huffington Post, November 2006

Gossip columnist Liz Smith

On getting “let go” from the New York Post at age 86: “I was more shocked than anyone. I thought I was indispensable. Looking back, I just wasn’t what the powers that be wanted. And I don’t think it had anything to do with [Rupert] Murdoch himself. He liked me well enough and I had been nice to his family when they were virtually unknown here. I went to see him after they fired me and I asked for my job back. He was very sweet and complimentary and finally he said, ‘Well, you know, it’s an editorial thing, Liz. I can’t interfere with the Post’s editors.’ I burst out laughing. I said, ‘Of course you can!’ And then he started laughing, too. But then he said he was sorry and kissed me on the cheek, and that was that. But the whole thing hurt my feelings and my stature as a columnist. I’ve had to struggle to make an adequate living since then … You’ve got to remember I had worked for the Daily News for 15 years. I was the enemy at the Post, so I was never completely accepted. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you can’t depend on anything. The world can change in a minute.” —The Hollywood Reporter, April 2015

Nicki Minaj

“The last job I had was as an office manager in a little, tiny room where I literally wanted to strangle this guy because he was so loud and obnoxious. I would go home with stress pains in my neck and my back. That’s when I went to my mother and said, ‘Look, I’m not going back to work.’ I’d been fired like 15 times because I had a horrible attitude. I worked at Red Lobster before that and I chased a customer out of the restaurant once so I could stick my middle finger up at her and demand that she give me my pen back. I swear to God I was bad.” —Billboard, November 2010

Hari Nef

I did a theater internship, and it was awful, so I tried fashion, first at VFiles and then with Jennifer Venditti, the casting director. She needed me during Fashion Week, but I was helping my friends who were designers with their shows on the side, and she could tell I was distracted, so she fired me. She probably thought I had All About Eve’d her. I also worked for Fabien Baron, the creative director, where I was known as the intern who always fell asleep at her desk. It was right around when I started hormone-replacement therapy, and I was sleepy for the first six months.” —Time, September 2016

Janelle Monáe

“I was working at Office Depot, believe it or not, you know, pushing ink. I was living in a boardinghouse with six other girls. I couldn’t afford my own apartment, selling CDs independently. And I didn’t have a computer — I couldn’t afford it. And so, Office Depot, you guys have like 200 computers on display … Long story short: I respond back to someone who was like, ‘I loved you. I saw you on the library steps — I was one of three people. You were amazing.’ Then this voice of God just came, Office Depot: ‘Janelle Robinson to the back.’ And I go back and my boss said, ‘Listen, we’re gonna make this easy for you: You’re fired. Go do what you love. You don’t wanna be here’ … But luckily it led me to stay focused on what I loved.” —The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, December 2016

Jill Soloway

“Diablo [Cody] and I went one year riding on our little feminist dreams [with United States of Tara] … It kind of exploded. I got fired, and they brought some dudes in. It starts with: You’re fired from United States of Tara. You’re fired from Grey’s Anatomy, because Shonda [Rhimes] doesn’t really feel like you’re giving it your all. But, O.K., wait, you’re going to go work with HBO! No, you’re not — they’re actually going to work with this person Lena Dunham, and everybody wonders if you guys are related. Or: ‘She really seems like she was sprung from your rib, Jill.’ People were, like, it’s you, but younger and better … I was getting ready to make [Transparent], and I didn’t know it.” —The New Yorker, December 2015

Model Paulina Porizkova

“When I was fired from America’s Next Top Model … two things hit me simultaneously: the heavy thud of realization that I am not wanted, not liked, not worth my salt, not loved — yes, I know this sounds a little over-the-top, but I have the tendency to run with the negatives — and the lightening of a burden lifted; I would no longer have to worry about missing my children’s recitals, date nights with my husband, and all that family life has to offer. It was a curious mixture, one I imagine akin to standing in a falling elevator, but knowing you can jump up at the last moment to prevent gravity from crushing you. And you can walk off. Not unscathed maybe, with a permanent distrust of elevators perhaps, but alive.” —The Huffington Post, August 2009

Chelsea Handler

On being a waitress: “I got fired from every job I had. I once waited on a group of 10 people, and one guy collected the money from the check and tipped me $20 on $600. I told him in front of everyone, ‘Jews like you give Jews like me a bad name.’ That was my last waitressing job.” —W Magazine, December 2008

Editor Dominique Browning

“Within months of House & Garden folding, the entire economy was in freefall. Advertising was vanishing, layoffs and buyouts were announced. I was beginning to feel like an antique, an artisan whose skills were no longer even respected, much less needed. Editing? How quaint. Managing creative people? All we’re trying to manage is to get rid of more of them. It was strange and maddening to be forcibly retired. Even the generational rhythms were out of whack. It seemed just yesterday that my father retired. How could we have reached the same stage of life together?” —The New York Times, March 2010

Kim France

On getting fired as editor-in-chief of Lucky: “Speaking really honestly about this, the day I was fired was a tough day. I had the usual host of bad feelings that you have, but I was also very clear, even in the very first hour it happened, that it was not a bad thing for me. During that period of time, I was suffering from daily migraines. I believe very strongly in mind-body connection, and I had a really strong feeling that stress I was feeling at work was not helping this. I had a feeling that walking away from this job or being kicked out the door was going to help, so I knew from the very beginning it was for the best, even though I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I closed on an apartment three weeks before I was fired! And I was fired on Rosh HaShanah, on the Jewish New Year. It’s not like I was without resentment over that. But at the same time, I saw family that night and there was nobody in my family who thought it was a bad thing.” —Racked, December 2014

Tig Notaro

“When I was first starting out doing stand-up, I did a guest spot and I was hired to come back and work at the club … I repeatedly bombed and got fired halfway through the week. When I showed up to the venue, I didn’t know I had been fired yet. Everybody was in a panic, running around looking for what they were calling the ‘Emergency Fill-In Comedian’ … I thought something happened to Nancy [Norton]. And I started to realize that nobody was talking to me. I realized that I had caused the emergency. So, I was heading out to the parking lot and I ran into Nancy. She said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Oh, I just got fired’ … And she was just furious … She told me in the parking lot, she said, ‘You know, be glad that people in this area and this club don’t get you because this is not an impressive club.’ She said, ‘They totally get me, and that’s my problem and I’ll deal with that in my own time, but be glad you got fired from this place.’ It’s just part of the process of being a comedian. And even if you’re not a comedian, whatever you do, there’s going to be the not ideal situation. Life is going to go on. I feel like no one particular moment makes or breaks me.” —Fast Company, August 2015

Jenji Kohan

“I’m a big personality, shall we say? I realized early on my path it would be easier if I were in charge. Right after The Fresh Prince, I wrote my first pilot. Weeds was my 17th. I thought, if I have to climb the ranks, it’s just a lifetime of being fired. I need to find a side door! Every season I would write between one and three pilots hoping to win that lottery. It’s not only that I don’t play well with others — I can. [But] I wanted children, I wanted to call the shots in my professional life. It’s hard to do that on staff because you serve at the will of the king. So after Fresh Prince I wrote a pilot that was similar to Friends, and that got me onto Friends. Then I got fired from Friends. So I went to Nepal and quit showbiz — but then I wrote a Frasier spec in the Himalayas. That made me realize, maybe I’m not quite done.” —The Los Angeles Times, June 2011

Amy Adams

“When I did Junebug I was actually getting fired from a television show simultaneously called Dr. Vegas. And uh, they thought I wasn’t sexy enough as Rob Lowe wrote about in his book. I was like, Oh well I knew that but nobody told me but then I found out it was true. [Laughs] It was, I think, the third television show I’d been let go of. So I was really thinking I wasn’t going to be doing this anymore. I thought the industry was telling me it wasn’t going to happen. And so I said, Ok, well sometimes when the world and life speaks to you, you have to listen. And so if I’m fighting for something that doesn’t belong to me then it’s going to create unhappiness. And I was just seeking my own happiness.” —The Frame, September 2016

Cat Marnell

On leaving in 2012: “All I was doing was like, taking baths. I was just like, domo arigato. That’s what happens when you go off all your medication, you’re fucked. You have to understand, I’ve been on a big cocktail of drugs since I was 15, and when those things ran out I couldn’t call my psychiatrist because I didn’t have my phone. And my body just couldn’t get up and go to the office and get the phone and face them, and be like, ‘Oh yeah, I haven’t done posts,’ and have them angry at me, especially when I’d just met with HR. So, I was just like, fuck it. You know, fuck this life. I have that saying tacked up next to my bed. This was just my way of quitting basically. I knew I was going to get fired, and I was just ready.” —The Cut, June 2012

Cheryl Strayed

“I would say two things. What do you want? Explore that and pursue that path. And why are you getting fired? Make a list right now of all the reasons you’ve been given. If they’re the same reasons over and over again, think about how to address that issue in your life.” —The New Yorker, December 2016

Sophia Amoruso

“There is no way around it, and it doesn’t matter which side of the desk you’re on: Getting fired straight-up sucks. One of the many jobs I was fired from was a sales associate job at a luxury shoe store in San Francisco …When I finally made it back to the store well past my thirty-minute lunch break, the owner was there. I’d been perpetually late, perpetually grimy, and I’m sure that this had been a long time coming. She collected my key, gave me my final paycheck, and sent me on my way. This was actually the last time that I was fired. Seven years later, I can’t quit and no one can fire me.” —#GIRLBOSS, May 2014

Amy Pascal

“All the women here are doing incredible things in this world. All I did was get fired.” —Women in the World San Francisco, February 2015

25 Famous Women on How Getting Fired Makes You Stronger