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The Surprising Hobbies of Oprah, Serena Williams and 12 Other Successful Women

Here's how some of today's most successful women spend their downtime.
Oprah Winfrey
Guest Writer
7 min read
This story originally appeared on Career Contessa

In an era where the 9-to-5 is more like a 9-to-9 and everyone seems to have a day job and a side job or two, it's sort of an incredible feat when you hear about women who manage to make time for hobbies, too. 

Related: The Unusual Hobbies of 8 of the World's Most Successful Business Leaders

That, at least, is a common topic of conversation around our offices, especially after we all inhaled The Cut's Get a Hobby Week earlier this year. Because it turns out (this newsflash also courtesy of The Cut), having a hobby that's not related to work makes you happier. So having a hobby? Work-life balance goals. 

We've got a few hobbies circulating at our own office. I spend at least one weekend morning thrifting, which has led to an amassed collection of discarded handmade pottery (does this count?). Lauren McGoodwin, Career Contessa's founder, is an avid collector of John F. Kennedy paraphernalia and reads every book she can find about him. Betsy Cruz, our graphic designer, skateboards and told me she "avidly tracks down zines -- like I go to obscure bookstores all the time." And Aliya, our marketing coordinator makes...stickers? 

In any case, in the interest of celebrating the leading women in our lives who also make time for a little fun, we've rounded up some of our favorites below. 

1. Oprah Winfrey throws fundraisers 

While she may not be running for president, Oprah Winfrey does get more than a little political in her free time. She’s known for throwing fundraisers for candidates from Obama to congressional candidates to a 21-year old Stanford grad who ran for city council in Stockton, California in 2012.

2. Rosario Dawson makes comic books

The self-proclaimed Star Trek obsessive loves attending Comic-Con conventions, but here’s a cool fact: she co-created a limited run comic book series called Occult Crimes Taskforce about a team investigating crimes in New York.  

3. Hillary Kerr is a foodie

She may be best known for her fashion empire, but turns out Kerr is a huge fan of the exploding LA food scene and was more than happy to take New York Magazine along on a week-long pilgrimage to her favorite Mexican places. Can food be a hobby? We say absolutely. 

Related: 8 Ways a Hobby Makes You Better at Your Day Job

4. Roxane Gay plays competitive scrabble

In fact, one of her essays in Bad Feminist centers on her passion for those wood-letter words. But really, it's the 2014 interview she did with Mother Jones that caught our eye, in which she said one of her best words played was "gestate." 

5. Mary-Kate Olsen competes in equestrian tournaments  

Proof positive that #HorseGirlsRule. Olsen has been competing in show jumping since 2013 at the Hampton Classic. As in getting on a horse and jumping over things. 

6. Susan Sarandon ping-pongs

A long-time player, Sarandon even opened a ping-pong centric bar at The Standard in Los Angeles. 

7. Lisa Ling is a long-distrance runner 

The award-winning journalist who's worked for The View, National Geographic and CNN, makes time for runs even when traveling the world. In an interview, FabFitFun asked: Where is the most unique place you've gone running?

Says Ling: "Well, that’s really Afghanistan. But the funniest experience, now in hindsight, is that I was staying in Iran and you obviously have to cover up when you’re there. I was so anxious to jog, so I would jog up like 30 flights of the stairs of the hotel. When I got to the top, I’d put on my long coat and head scarf and ride the elevator down, go back into the stairwell, take it all off and start again. I just couldn’t run in the long coat."

8. Laila Ali writes cookbooks 

The undefeated boxer has become increasingly outspoken about healthy eating in the last few years, especially given the often questionable diets of professional boxers. This year, she released a cookbook called Food For Life complete with recipes she cooks for her family at home. 

9. Ann Friedman hard boils eggs

Given that Friedman, the writer and a co-host of Call Your Girlfriend, wrote a touché piece on why not every hobby needs to become side hustle, we’ve got to give her some kudos for her own hobby: apparently, she's got a passion for making “over-the-top” deviled eggs, which she happily brings to parties but absolutely refuses to market/sell/brand ever. 

10. Zadie Smith dances

After taking tap dancing classes as a child, the author of Swing Time (fittingly) still uses dance as a way to decompress. As Smith explained in an interview with The New York Times, "Not long after I finished the book, I ran into [the writer] Teju Cole and he invited me out dancing. Nick [Laird, Smith's husband] said: 'You love dancing and you never go. Just go.' So I went for two or three hours, and I thought that nothing could give me more pleasure."

11. Serena Williams serves on a board

When she's not serving on the court, you know? (Couldn't help myself.) In May of 2017, Williams joined the board of startup SurveyMonkey. Fun fact: turns out Sheryl Sandberg orchestrated the introduction.

12. Zendaya is a U.N. AIDS ambassador

She's well-known for speaking out against bias or inequality, so it's not all that surprising that Zendaya also puts her beliefs into action as an activist. Here's a video she made with UNAIDS about how other young people can get involved, too.  

13. Jennifer Garner plays the saxophone 

Given that nobody cares anymore about Woody Allen’s musical talents (or Woody Allen in general because #metoo), it’s high time we start celebrating a woman on the scene. Cue Jennifer Garner ruling it at the saxophone, which she’s played since she was a kid

Related: 5 Hobbies That Can Make You Smarter (Infographic)

14. Kat Von D does literally everything 

Seriously. She hasn't had a television in two decades and instead prefers to spend her time cultivating countless hobbies from playing music to drawing. As Von D. explains to The Gloss, "My living room has pianos and stuff, ghetto ones and all fancy ones…I have instruments…my art room has a bunch of paper and pencils and I am just constantly creating. I garden a lot. I am completely imbalanced, which makes for a good artist, I guess. I don’t have much of a social life, everything is really structured, and I work really well with that….for me, I live and breathe creating. That’s what I am madly in love with and I have always have been. That’s how I do it."

(By Kit Warchol)

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8 Ways a Hobby Makes You Better at Your Day Job