Ever Hollywood’s ultimate ‘sweetheart’, Jennifer Aniston cannot possibly have a mean bone in her body. It’s amusing, then, that in recent years she has played some truly heinous characters: the sexually aggressive, ill-tempered Dr Julia Harris in Horrible Bosses and its sequel, stripper Rose O’Reilly in We’re the Millers, and Carol Vanstone, a CEO who threatens to fire people and cancel the Christmas party if the staff don’t clinch a big deal, in the 2016 comedy Office Christmas Party. She enjoys these roles, though.
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‘It’s so absurdly mean and un – apologetic that it’s fun for someone who could barely return a meal if it was incorrect,’ she says. Most of us know that Jen’s career really kicked off thanks to her longterm role as Rachel on the hugely popular ’90s sitcom Friends, which Jen looks back on with huge affection. ‘It’s something that people have been able to carry with them. It’s comfort food, and it makes them feel better when they’re feeling down.’ When Friends ended (we’re still upset about that, by the way) and Jen’s film career took off, she tended to be typecast in formulaic rom-coms like Along Came Polly and The Break-Up. ‘I was in that box for a while, and understandably so – you don’t know what you can do until you do it,’ she says.
Films like Cake (2014) and war drama Yellow Birds (2016) allowed her to explore more dramatic terrain. And the interesting thing is how much she has to offer as an actress in the more complex roles. In fact, if she weren’t an actress, Jen reckons she’d be a psy – chologist, because she has a knack for assessing people’s personalities. ‘I’m sort of that go-to person with friends, and I kind of feel like I under – stand the human condition a little bit,’ she told Chelsea Handler, who is a close personal friend, on her celeb talk show Chelsea Lately . Although Jen started out on TV, she has had a remarkable film career that’s made her one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses. But she confesses to a desire to return to especially with the opportunities now provided by streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and HBO.
‘Television is where it’s at,’ she says. ‘I really think the shows are more interesting, there are more opportunities for women. That’s where the work is. That’s where the quality is.’ Having a good time can be tricky when you’re as heavily scrutinised by the media as Jen is. Ever since her 2005 divorce from Brad Pitt and his subsequent involvement with Angelina Jolie, the tabloid media have continued to paint Jen as sad, loveless and childless. The slightest physical change is a sure sign she’s finally pregnant (seriously, what has she been doing with her life?); a paparazzi snap of a serious-looking Jen must mean that she’s depressed about a 12-year-old breakup (eye-roll). Typical headlines include the likes of ‘Jen’s Finally Pregnant’, ‘Twins for Jen’, ‘Pregnant and Alone – Jen’s dreams fall apart as Justin refuses to get married and storms off to NYC without her’, and tabloids often feature her on the beach somewhere with an obnoxious arrow pointing at her stomach. As women we face a similar absurd type of scrutiny (albeit on a smaller scale); our bodies and life choices are considered to be up for commentary. And we just put up with it.
Which is what Jen did for years. Eventually, though, she’d had enough. In September last year she shared her feelings in a Huffington Post opinion piece that she penned herself. The article starts: ‘For the record, I am not pregnant. What I am is fed up. I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of “journalism”, the “First Amendment” and “celebrity news”.’ The piece went viral. Jen became the mouthpiece for women everywhere in a similar position – not necessarily celebrities, but women being made to feel that they had failed in some way by not becoming wives or mothers. Earlier this year, she revealed a little more about what made her write it. ‘I was in a really raw, vulnerable place,’ she said. “I had just lost my mom [Nancy Dow died in May 2016], and I did it for myself originally as a therapeutic way to deal with the bullshit. I’ve always been advised not to respond, not to speak up; it’ll go away. I was rolling into the 15th year of these preposterous rumours about my fertility status, marital status, singlehood status. I was tired of being shamed for whether I have this or that. I’m perfectly happy where I am, and that needs to be honoured and respected.’ ‘All of us need to take responsibility for what we ingest into our brains,’ Jennifer told Ellen when she was interviewed about the piece on The Ellen de Generes Show. ‘We as women do a lot of incredible things in this world other than just procreate.’
As she wrote in her article, ‘We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies… We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.’ And Jen is certainly doing that. Her acting career is strong as ever; she owns a production company, Echo Films; she is the longtime face of Aveeno; and she’s married to actor Justin Theroux. The couple married in August 2015 in a quiet ceremony at home. ‘Why is he the right person for me? All I know is that I feel completely seen, and adored, in no matter what state,’ she says. ‘There’s no part of me that I don’t feel comfortable showing, exposing. And it brings forth the best part of myself, because I care about him so much. And he’s such a good person.’ The pair enjoy exercising and cooking together … their favourite collaboration is a moreish pasta carbonara – one of Jen’s indulgences, along with chips and guacamole. For her, it’s all about balance, indulging every so often but also making sure she feels healthy and strong. ‘I feel really beautiful when I finish a workout,’ she says, ‘because I’ve taken care of my body, my blood is pumping, my endorphins are going. I’m taking care of the one body I have.’ Her fitness routine includes spin-yoga, which is 25 to 30 minutes of spinning and then 30 to 40 minutes of yoga, weight-training and cardio. ‘I usually do a trifecta: 15 minutes on the bike, 15 on the treadmill running, and then 15 on the elliptical. You have to shake it up – you know, muscle confusion.’ How does she define beauty? ‘Inner confidence. Peace. Kindness. Honesty. A life welllived,’ she said. ‘Taking on challenges and not feeling shame for things that haven’t gone the way you felt they should have. And not feeling like a failure or allowing people to critique your life and make you feel like you’ve failed at something. That’s just toxic noise.’