5 Matt Lauer
Sure, you know Matt Lauer now; after all, his smiling face is often the first thing you see every morning on your television. But Lauer wasn’t always such a big deal. After dropping out of Ohio University just four credits shy of his bachelor’s degree in 1979, Lauer worked random broadcasting jobs throughout the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t until 1997—at the age of 40—when Lauer really made it big by getting his “Today” show co-anchor position. His success a little later in life hasn’t gone unnoticed either; he’s won several Daytime Emmy awards.
4 Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell always had a history of being cruel. He never liked discipline, found school boring and refers to himself as the “world’s worst teenager,” recognizing that he had quite the bad attitude in his younger years. Cowell had an interest in film, television and music from early on and landed a job in the mailroom of EMI Music Publishing in 1979. After working his way up, Cowell opened up his own record company Fanfare Records in 1985. While that should’ve been the top of Cowell’s game, the company went under and he moved back in with his parents. It wasn’t until 2001, at 42 years of age, that Cowell got his big break by landing a judging position with Britain’s “Pop Idol.” His honesty and demeanor was a hit with audiences, and “American Idol” was born in the U.S. in 2002.
3 Sharon Osbourne
You probably never realized that rocker Ozzy Osbourne was hiding such a powerful woman behind him. In 2002, however, Sharon Osbourne made her big television debut in the MTV reality show “The Osbournes.” She was 49 years old at the time. Mrs. Osbourne captivated audiences worldwide and received numerous job offers for just being herself in front of the camera. She scored several Emmy awards for producing “The Osbournes,” wrote a book, hosted a self-titled daytime television show and was awarded a judge position on the talent search show “The X Factor.”
2 Howie Mandel
After years of working as a door-to-door carpet salesman, Howie Mandel got his entertainment break in 1979 at the age of 24. Mandel was on a business trip in Los Angeles, took a chance and made an appearance at a comedy club’s amateur night. He got big laughs from a television producer who put Mandel on the comedy game show “Make Me Laugh.” Mandel went on to do voiceover work and comedic roles in television, but still wasn’t a major star. It wasn’t until 2005’s debut of “Deal or No Deal” that Mandel—then 49 years old—really caught the eye of audiences everywhere. The show was so successful, it aired several nights a week and earned Mandel an Emmy in 2008. His fame didn’t stop there. Mandel went on to write a book, became executive producer of the television show “Mobbed” and earned the spot of co-host of “America’s Got Talent.”
1 Regis Philbin
Everyone knows Regis, but he struggled his way up to the top. After graduating from Notre Dame and serving in the U.S. Navy, Philbin worked several entry level gigs in Southern California. He started out as a film delivery man for a news station in Los Angeles and worked his way up to a news and sports writer position. After several failed on-air hosting positions, it seemed that Philbin wasn’t going anywhere. It was 1983—at the age of 52—when Philbin landed the co-host position of New York City’s “The Morning Show.” The show struggled in its early days, until Kathie Lee Gifford joined in 1985 and the show was renamed to “Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee.” It was then that Philbin’s career truly skyrocketed.