DIVORCE

8 Famous Women Who Reinvented Themselves After Divorce

06/04/2015 07:55 pm ET

When you're newly separated, finding refuge in your career or meaningful personal projects is a gift. Divorce is crippling -- without a doubt -- but it's also an opportunity to pursue all the goals and dreams you put on the back burner during your marriage. It's a chance to reinvent, to plot a life of your own making.

To inspire you, we've rounded up a list of eight famous women whose divorce was a catalyst for bigger, better things.

  • Martha Stewart
    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
    Today she's a lifestyle powerhouse but before she was a household name, she was a fashion model-turned-stockbroker married to a publishing executive named Andy Stewart.

    In 1972, the couple and their daughter moved to Connecticut where Martha launched a successful gourmet catering company. But Martha's career truly took off after her 1990 divorce. With the launch of her lifestyle magazine Martha Stewart Living in 1991, her company became Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. A successful cable TV cooking show and radio show followed, proving that divorce truly can be a good thing.
  • Nora Ephron
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Nora Ephron's 1980 divorce from fellow writer Carl Bernstein inspired Heartburn, an autobiographical novel that was adapted into a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep six years later.

    Post-divorce, the late writer went on to pen over a dozen books and screenplays, including much loved scripts for "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle." In her final book I Remember Nothing, Ephron reflected on moving on from the divorce.

    “The divorce has lasted way longer than the marriage, but finally it’s over. Enough about that," she wrote. "The point is that for a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most important thing about me. And now it’s not.”
  • Cheryl Strayed
    Jonathan Leibson via Getty Images
    In the wake of a divorce and her mother's death from lung cancer, a devastated, 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed set off on a solo, 1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail -- a trek she'd later document in her bestselling 2012 memoir, Wild. In a revealing essay that ran in The Sun literary magazine, Strayed opened up about her divorce from first husband Marco Littig.

    "We loved each other, but love was not enough. We had become the Insanely Young, Insanely Sad, Insanely Messed-Up Married Couple," she wrote.

    Post-divorce, the writer also legally changed her last name from Nyland to Strayed, to symbolize the uncharted path her life had taken.
  • Tina Turner
    AP
    Musical duo Tina and Ike Turner's notoriously messy marriage -- Ike was reportedly physically and emotionally abusive -- ended in divorce in 1978. Tina kept the surname after the split and went on to become even bigger as a solo artist. In a 1986 interview with Ebony, Turner said she hoped her story would inspire others to make big leaps in their lives.

    "If you are unhappy with anything -- your mother, your father, your husband, your wife, your job, your boss, your car -- whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it," she said. "You'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out."
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
    Suzi Pratt via Getty Images
    Following an emotionally shattering divorce, writer Elizabeth Gilbert embarked on a year-long journey to Italy, India and Indonesia. When she returned, she penned Eat Pray Love, a memoir chronicling the whole soul-searching trip.

    “I'm choosing happiness over suffering, I know I am," Gilbert writes in the best-selling book. "I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises.”
  • Wendy Davis
    Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Getty Images
    Before she pursued politics, former Texas state senator Wendy Davis was a 21-year-old divorced mom struggling to put food on the table for her young daughter.

    To make ends meet, Davis worked at a doctor’s office and as a waitress, all while attending community college. Ultimately, she was accepted to Harvard Law School. After graduation, the single mom returned to Texas where she served on the Fort Worth City Council and won a Fort Worth seat in the Texas Senate in 2008.

    "I'm not an overnight sensation," Davis said during her 2014 Texas gubernatorial campaign. "I'm a Texan. And I'm a Texas success story. I am the epitome of hard work and optimism."
  • Eva Longoria
    Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
    Eva Longoria separated from Tony Parker in November 2010 amid reports that the NBA star had been caught "sexting" with a former teammate's wife. Unshaken by the tabloids' attention, the actress continued to work on "Desperate Housewives" while devoting more time charity and social causes. (It's not for nothing that she was named philanthropist of the year by The Hollywood Reporter in 2009.)

    In 2013, Longoria earned her master's degree in Chicano studies from California State University after three years of study.
  • Sharon Olds
    AP
    In 2013, Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Stag's Leap, a collection the Pulitzer board described as a “book of unflinching poems on the author's divorce that examine love, sorrow, and the limits of self-knowledge."

    In an interview with The Huffington Post shortly after she received the honor, Olds opened up about the raw experience of writing about being left by her husband after 32 years of marriage.

    "I think not writing is a lot more painful than writing," Olds said. "Working -- though it's really a kind of playing -- to make something that can stand on its own, a small song, that's fun."

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