Jennifer Aniston has opened up about her life and career in a new interview, speaking candidly about everything from the ‘hurtful’ pregnancy rumours to how she was ‘naive’ going into the ‘Friends’ reunion and why tabloid culture will never really die.
We fell for her as Rachel Greene on Friends and it’s been a steady Jennifer Aniston love affair ever since. One of those rare actresses that seems to be liked and adored by all, there are very few who have a bad word to say about her… and those who do, are probably lying anyway. The tabloids a prime example of this.
Regularly targeted by nonsensical headlines and cruel rumours, Jen has had more than her fair share of media coverage throughout her career. In fact, she’s had more than many people’s fair share of it. Often the butt of “single, childless and alone” jokes, she’s always handled the gossip with an air of grace that we could only aspire to – but that’s not to say that the constant berating didn’t get to her.
“People certainly project onto you,” she told The Hollywood Reporter recently. “I used to take it all very personally – the pregnancy rumours and the whole, ‘Oh, she chose career over kids’ assumption,” she continued. “It’s like, you have no clue what’s going on with me personally, medically, why I can’t… can I have kids? They [the tabloids] don’t know anything, and it was really hurtful and just nasty.” Cool, calm, and collected on the outside, the bruises definitely left their mark, and inside she was nursing injuries that most of us didn’t even know existed.
Many notable things happened in 2021, but it was a particularly poignant year for female celebrities. The media narratives of women such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Monica Lewinsky, Brooke Shields were revisited through a modern lens and the world was disgusted to see just how badly these pop-culture icons were treated back in the day. Does Jen think that her own story – namely “the endless tabloid coverage, the Team Aniston t-shirts” – would horrify people too? Yes and no.
Back in the day, it was just the tabloids who would target celebrities, but things are different nowadays. “I think people are still doing it today,” Aniston admitted. “What the tabloids and the media did to people’s personal lives back then, regular people are doing now. Although I haven’t seen a tabloid in so long. Am I still having twins? Am I going to be the miracle mother at 52?,” she laughed. “Now you’ve got social media. It’s almost like the media handed over the sword to any Joe Schmo sitting behind a computer screen to be a troll or whatever they call them and bully people in comment sections. So, it’s just sort of changed hands in a way. And I don’t know why there’s such a cruel streak in society. I often wonder what they get off on.”
People, Jen has learned, can be unquestionably cruel. The Friends reunion sparked many unkind conversations last year with viewers taking the opportunity to really go in on the cast. Comments about age, weight, appearance began circulating online and, as is usually the case, the women were pitted against each other with “Who looks better?” type pieces doing the rounds after the HBO special had its premiere. So grateful to have been able to reunite with her former castmates, the whole thing was quite overwhelming for The Morning Show star though. “Time travel is hard,” as she puts it.
“I think we were just so naive walking into it thinking, ‘How fun is this going to be? They’re putting the sets back together exactly as they were.’ Then you get there and it’s like, ‘Oh, right. I hadn’t thought about what was going on the last time I was actually here.’ And it just took me by surprise because it was like, ‘Hi, past, remember me? Remember how that sucked? You thought everything was in front of you and life was going to be just gorgeous and then you went through maybe the hardest time in your life?’ It was all very jarring and, of course, you’ve got cameras everywhere and I’m already a little emotionally accessible, I guess you could say, so I had to walk out at certain points. I don’t know how they cut around it.”
What we, as fans, probably didn’t realise is that revisiting the past was actually quite painful for the cast – most of whom left the set with the world at their feet. Jen had just won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, was married to Brad Pitt, and was well on the path to greatness. Both her personal and professional life were thriving and she had a clear vision of where she thought the next few years would take her. The feeling she had leaving that set was akin to the one you have when you finish secondary school or graduate from college; one of hope, untainted by bitterness or disappointment.
Aniston left Friends as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 35-year-old. Things were exciting and though she had no idea what was next, the forecast was promising. “The career was one thing,” she pointed out. “I didn’t know what was coming, and that’s been nothing but blessed. It’s a different calibre of work but I love it, no matter what, even if it’s a terribly reviewed, dumb comedy, it doesn’t matter if it brings me joy.” It was the other side of things that really hit her in the gut as she stepped back on set for the first time. “It was more personal stuff that I had expectations about that sort of shape-shifted, so to speak. That was what was jarring, that we all had an idea of what the future was going to be and we were going to go hunker down and focus on this or that, and then it all just changed overnight, and that was it.”
She’s not unthankful for any of it though. “Everything’s a blessing if you’re able to look at life’s ups and downs in that way. And if it all hadn’t happened, I would not be sitting here the woman that I am.”