In research interviews, interviewees are usually well aware of why they were selected, and in their narratives they often construct ‘default identities’ in line with the interviewers’ expectations. Furthermore, narrators draw on shared cultural knowledge and master narratives that tend to form an implicit backdrop of their stories. Yet in this article we focus on how some of these master narratives may be mobilized explicitly when default identities are at stake. In particular, we investigate interviews with successful female professionals from diverse geographical contexts. We found that the interviewees deal with challenges to their ‘successful professional’ identities by drawing on categorical narratives or categorical statements. As such, the interviewees talk into being a morally ordered gendered worldview, thus making explicit gendered master narratives about their societies and workplaces. In general, this article shows that categorical narratives and statements can bring (the typically rather elusive) master narratives to the surface and that these can thus contribute to the narrators’ identity work.