Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on October 27, 2009

Today: How a woman built a glamorous career she didn’t start full-time until she was 66.

She was Mimi Weddell, a wife, mother and a working woman whose personality was so outsized, that if Hollywood had done her biography, Katherine Hepburn could have played the role.

For her personality and charm stood out in any gathering. Later in life, she became known for her collection of colorful hats, as she dressed fashionably, as Katherine Hepburn also did in many of her movies.

In her youth, Mimi dreamed of being an actress and a model but she had bills to pay and instead took clerical jobs in New York City. She became a secretary and later became an assistant to the fashion editor of The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Mimi tried to break into show business, determined to harness her powerful presence on stage.

In her spare time, she’d take acting and dancing lessons and on occasion would land a small part in an off-Broadway play or get a little modeling work. But it didn’t measure up to her dreams

Then a much bigger job captured Mimi’s heart. She became a wife and a mother. In 1946, she married Dick Weddell, an executive with RCA Music and the couple would have two children, Sarah and Tom. Mimi lovingly and happily devoted herself to her family.

With Dick’s income, the family lived comfortably. But then in the mid -1950’s he lost his job and their world came crashing down as they desperately struggled to pay their bills.

Mimi pitched in, doing office temp work and periodically she got modeling jobs. Eventually, Dick got a job as an art dealer and their income stabilized, allowing Mimi to focus on her family.

Then in 1981, Mimi’s world came crashing down again. Dick died and Mimi, now 66, an age when many people think of retiring, had to go back to work, for he left her with many bills to pay.

But this time she was determined for her work to fulfill her dreams. With her children grown, Mimi was at an advanced age and if she was ever going to succeed as an actress and model, it would have to be now.

However, acting is youth oriented and for women over 40 it is especially hard to find work. And by its nature, acting is filled with rejection.

You’re too old, too young, too tall, too short or not right for the part. And the competition for roles is intense.

Mimi knew what she was up against and soon was knocking on doors looking for acting work and auditioning for parts. This meant she had to absorb a mountain of rejection, however hurtful.

But she refused to let rejection defeat her. Her motto was, “Rise above it.”

To become more attractive to producers and directors she picked up where she’d left off so many years earlier taking acting, singing and dancing lessons and working out at the gym.

The rejection certainly came, but as she knocked on enough doors, so did acting roles. Mimi had small parts in 10 movies, such as in Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo” [1985] that starred Jeff Daniels, Mia Farrow and Danny Aiello.

She was in “The Thomas Crown Affair” [1999], starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo and in “Hitch” [2005], starring Will Smith.

Mimi appeared in episodes of television series such as “Law & Order” [1990, 1997] and “Sex and the City” [1998]. And she appeared in print and television ads for such well known sponsors as Burberry, Juicy Couture, Louis Vuitton and Nike.

Finally in 2008, 93 year old Mimi landed her first staring role. It was in “Hats Off,” a documentary of her life. For 10 years film makers Michael Arlen Davis and Jyll Johnstone had followed her with their cameras.

They captured her auditions and her acting, singing and dancing lessons, her workouts and her beauty sessions. They also captured her extensive hat collection and her time with her family.

They interviewed other actors, directors, producers and Mimi’s family to bring insight into such an extraordinary life as hers.

Mimi never slowed down until 2009, when at the age of 94; it was time for her to leave the stage. She passed away in her home, surrounded by family and friends.

But don’t be sad for now comes the most gratifying part of our story.

Her home was a big apartment in Manhattan’s prestigious Upper East Side that Mimi and Dick bought back in 1970 when it was easily affordable. So large that for 20 years Mimi comfortably shared it with her daughter Sarah, Sarah’s husband and their son.

This meant that Mimi not only had a glamorous career, but had the joy of being with family and friends. To the end, her life was filled with love and happiness and a sense of fun and fulfillment.

Success Tip of the Week: What ever your age, if you have an unfulfilled dream, do as Mimi did and make this the week you begin to pursue it.

Editor’s Note: For more information about Mimi, please see her Los Angeles and New York Times obituaries: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-mimi-weddell4-2009oct04,0,7336710.story and http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/movies/06weddell.html?_r=1

In the next KazanToday: A successful entrepreneur who got her business idea in a most unlikely place.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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