From Mindy Kaling to Marissa Mayer, 10 high-flying women who began their careers as interns

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Not all stars were born into money and success. rounds up the famous women who got their foot in the door as interns, from Mindy Kaling to Marissa Mayer

Hands up if you started your career making coffees. Or juggling printer cartridges while trying to fix a paper jam. Or walking down a busy high street looking like a game of Bukaroo because you couldn't hold all the bags you were carrying.

With the release of Warner Bros' new comedy The Intern - which sees Robert de Niro become a 70-year-old intern working for a fierce entrepreneur played by Anne Hathaway - these memories may come flooding back. 

But you will be happy to know you’re not the only one who experienced intern-hood. Just like you, there are plenty of famous and hugely successful names who have paid their dues.

From storming into their boss’ office asking for work to organising fashion shows, these stars have done it all. Come read about their experiences: 

Mindy Kaling

Before launching her own show, the comedian cut her teeth on Late Night with Conan O’Brian when she was 19 years old. Due to an aversion to photocopying, Kaling says she was the worst intern. Rather than doing ‘what she was hired to do’, she would follow the copper-haired comedian, Conan, around and try to soak up his genius approach to joke-telling. Clearly it paid off. 

Jodie Foster

The Oscar-winner actress started out with a summer internship at Esquire when she was 20 years old. However, the silver screen was clearly more appealing than a 9-5 job. Foster soon became a fixture on the magazine’s pages rather than its offices. 

Oprah Winfrey

The TV host and unofficial American royalty landed her first TV opportunity as an intern at WLAC-TV, a CBS affiliate channel in Nashville, Tennesse. She impressed the station, who brought her on as a full-time anchor-reporter. She went on to become the first female African-American news anchor in Nashville.

Ursula Burns

The CEO of Xerox started working at the company as a mechanical engineering summer intern while completing a master’s degree at Columbia University. From there, she worked her way up from positions in product development and planning to executive assistant and vice president. She became the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company.

Chloe Sevigny

The actress was walking down the street in a cool hat when she was spotted by Sassy magazine editor-in-chief Jane Pratt and offered an internship with the publication. According to Pratt, the young Sevigny was never the typical tea-brewing intern. She made a ‘funky environment even funkier’, and didn’t have a problem approaching the editor. Pratt spotted her star quality early on, and it’s no wonder she went on to become such a stellar style icon and fashion world fixture. 

Marissa Mayer

The CEO of Yahoo! did internships at Stanford and the Union Bank of England. Having received 40 job offers after graduating, she went on to become the first female engineer at Google and worked her way up to become President of Google Product Search. From there, she was poached by Yahoo! In 2014, Mayer was ranked sixth on Fortune‍ '​s 40 under 40 list and the 16th most-powerful businesswoman in the world.

Lauren Conrad

The reality star started out interning at Teen Vogue before going on to build her own fashion and media empire. She is now a television personality, fashion designer and author, but we can remember when she was still sorting the fashion cupboard. 

Ashley Olsen

Olsen interned for Zac Posen during her brief stint at New York University. Posen was impressed when Olsen came in person and knocked on his door to ask for her internship, which he says is "4 steps further than most interns go". Olsen went on to run labels The Row and Elizabeth and James with her twin Mary-Kate. 

Betsey Johnson

The fashion designer interned at Mademoiselle Magazine’s fabric library after graduating from Syracuse University in New York. While working there, she noticed that editor Betsey Blackwell had dozens of pairs of shoes in her office and so she drew a shoe on a thank you card she sent to her. The next day, Blackwell took the picture to the art director and said, ‘Betsey can draw!’ After that she was given a lot of freelance artwork and that’s how she made her start in the fashion business.  

Andrea Jung

The CEO of Avon Products landed a prestigious summer internship at Bloomingdale's before starting at Princeton University. She joined Avon in 1994 as president of the US marketing group and ascended to senior level positions from there. 

The Intern is out in cinemas 2 October. 

Stylist's verdict on The Intern:

Casting Robert De Niro as a 70-year-old intern at Anne Hathaway’s Net-a-Porter-esque online fashion website is tantamount to genius. Thanks to Nancy Meyers’ whipsmart script and direction, and the chemistry between the two leads it’s much more than your average fish-out-water comedy – a thought-provoking look at our notions of what makes work such an integral part of our lives whatever stage we’re at. Plus look out for our favourite non-girl in Girls, Andrew Rannells, and a rather lovely nod to De Niro’s most famous scene in Taxi Driver.


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Stylist Team