13 Superstitions of Extraordinary People
In her new book Recipes for Good Luck, author Ellen Weinstein researched the superstitions and rituals of some of the most famous and successful people in modern history. As she writes in the introduction of this fascinating book, Weinstein hopes that learning about the quirks of these athletes, writers, scientists, artists and politicians will "encourage you to embrace the beliefs, rituals and routines that help you face the world with ambition and confidence and inspire you to go on making good luck of your own."
Check out the following excerpts from Recipes for Good Luck by Ellen Weinstein (published by Chronicle Books 2018) and see if you share any superstitions with the rich and powerful.
J.K. Rowling saves the title page for last.
Bestselling author of the Harry Potter series J. K. Rowling will only type her title page once the entire book she is writing is finished. The superstitious practice appears to be working for her: the Harry Potter series is one of the most popular book and film franchises ever.
Beyoncé has a pre-show routine that lasts hours.
Singer-songwriter and performance icon Beyoncé has a long and elaborate preshow ritual that takes a few hours: it includes a prayer and stretch with the band, getting her hair and makeup done in a massage chair, and an hour of peace while she listens to her favorite playlist. She follows this routine to ease stress before performing and to help ensure a great performance, which she is known to deliver. Queen Bey has earned more than twenty-two Grammy Awards over her influential career.
Barack Obama shoots hoops.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama is a big fan of basketball and loves to play when his schedule allows, especially on the day of an election. During his 2008 primary run against Hillary Clinton, he twice skipped the ritual and lost, and according to his former aide Robert Gibbs, after that, basketball time was not to be missed. Barack Obama won the 2008 primaries and went on to win the 2008 and 2012 elections to serve as the forty-fourth president of the United States.
Coco Chanel had a lucky number.
French clothing designer Coco Chanel (1883–1971) was deeply superstitious. It’s been said that she was informed by a fortune-teller that 5 was her lucky number, and she named her famed fragrance accordingly. Her apartment also contained a crystal chandelier created with shapes twisted into the number 5, and she liked to present her collections on the fifth day of May (the fifth month of the year) for good luck.
Dan Brown hangs upside down.
Author of the international bestseller The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s books have sold more than two hundred million copies worldwide. He uses inversion therapy to inspire suspense: he puts on gravity boots and hangs upside down from a special frame to see things from a fresh angle and shake himself out of writer’s block when he gets stuck.
Diane von Furstenberg has a lucky shoe coin.
Fashion designer and icon Diane von Furstenberg has a gold twenty-franc piece her father hid in his shoe during World War II that he gave to her when she was a girl. She tapes the coin in her shoe for good luck before every fashion show. Best known for her iconic wrap dress, von Furstenberg’s influential designs are available in more than fifty-five countries worldwide.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) wore many hats.
Author and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991), better known as Dr. Seuss, kept an immense collection of nearly 300 hats. When facing writer’s block, the place Dr. Seuss would go was his secret closet, where he would choose a hat to wear until he felt inspired. His whimsical habits helped him create some of our most popular children’s books—including the classic The Cat in the Hat.
Ellen DeGeneres performs a mint trick.
Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres throws a mint in the air and catches it in her mouth before beginning the opening monologue of her daytime talk show, Ellen, which has earned her twenty-eight Daytime Emmy awards to date. DeGeneres says she likes to have minty fresh breath for dancing in the aisles at the start of the show and for occasional kisses with guests such as Matt Damon and Colin Farrell.
Heidi Klum travels with her baby teeth.
Supermodel, TV star, and Victoria’s Secret spokeswoman Heidi Klum has been known to keep an unusual memento from childhood for good luck: a pouch with her own baby teeth in it. Klum has recalled dropping her pouch on an airplane and having to explain she was looking for her teeth on the floor.
Lucille Ball avoided birds.
Comedian and TV icon Lucille Ball (1911–1989) was not only the star of I Love Lucy and several other hit sitcoms, she was a TV executive, producer, and the first woman to run a TV production company. She also had a deep fear of birds. When Lucy was just three years old, her father died on the same day that a bird had flown into and became trapped in her house—and her fear developed after that tragedy. She refused to stay in hotels that had bird wallpaper or pictures of birds on the walls, and the stagehands on I Love Lucy were told to never place porcelain birds on the set.
Michael Jordan wore shorts under his shorts.
In 1982, basketball superstar Michael Jordan scored the winning jump shot that brought his college team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, their first NCAA championship since 1957, and launched his rise to stardom. From that game on and into his days as an NBA player, Jordan wore his UNC shorts for good luck under his Chicago Bulls uniform. He started the trendsetting change from midthigh shorts to longer shorts as a way of covering up his UNC pair that was underneath. Jordan went on to lead the Bulls to six NBA championships, earned the status of MVP five times, and has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Pablo Picasso held onto his “essence.”
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) would not throw away his old clothes, hair trimmings, or fingernail clippings for fear it would mean losing part of his “essence.” Picasso collected Picasso, and at the time of his death, he owned around fifty thousand works of his own, which ranged from prints and drawings to ceramics and theater sets. He is hailed as one of the last century’s most prolific and influential artists.
Serena Williams ties her laces a certain way.
Tennis great Serena Williams rules the court with her aggressive playing style and has won a record-breaking number of Grand Slam titles to date. The Olympic medalist has several distinctive pre-performance and on-court rituals: prior to a match, she ties her shoelaces the exact same way and reportedly will wear the same pair of socks during a tournament run. She also always bounces the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second.