Laying it bare
In a recent rare and candid interview, Jennifer Aniston opened up about some emotional details from her upbringing, proving just how much she has had to overcome to get to where she is today.
With a father who left her at a young age and a mom who was constantly criticizing the way she looked, the former Friends star revealed that before becoming famous, people in her family were telling her that she would ‘never make a dime’ as an actress.
Getting left behind
On February 11, 1969, the future star was born in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles to two well-known parents in the entertainment industry. Her father, John Aniston, was a well-known soap actor at the time, known for his long-time role as Victor Kiriakis on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives.
Her mother, Nancy Dow, was a model and actress who appeared in The Beverly Hillbillies and The Wild Wild West. Sadly, her family was about to get ripped apart. Aniston was just nine years old when she came home one day to find out her dad had moved out, leaving Dow to be a single mom.
No TV allowed
As a child, Aniston and her mother relocated to New York City. Despite her parents’ careers in television, she was not permitted to watch TV at home, unless she was sick and stuck at home. However, she was able to go to the theater, which is what led her to her interest in acting.
By the time she was 11, she was attending the Waldorf School, followed by Manhattan’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she participated in the school’s drama club.
While Aniston discovered her passion for acting, her parents continued to discourage it, hoping that keeping her away from television would make her forget about her dreams and develop new interests.
In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actress revealed that her father was always very persistent in trying to persuade her to choose a different career. “My dad’s advice has always been: ‘Don’t do it. Become a doctor. Become a lawyer,'” she recalled. However, it only made her “go for it even harder.”
One of the reasons why Aniston loved theater so much was because she felt like she excelled on stage, unlike how she felt in the classroom. The actress struggled throughout her school years, often feeling as if she wasn’t smart enough, having trouble keeping up with the rest of the class.
It was only as an adult that she would be diagnosed with dyslexia, a learning disability that causes difficulty in reading. “I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained,” she later told the Independent.
Sadly, living with an undiagnosed learning disability wasn’t the only challenge Aniston was faced with growing up. After her father left, her mother had become severely critical, especially when it came to her goals and appearance.
“She was critical,” the actress revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “She was very critical of me. Because she was a model, she was gorgeous, stunning. I wasn’t. I never was. I honestly still don’t think of myself in that sort of light, which is fine.”
The Morning Show actress has also since revealed that her mother would often dismiss her feelings by not taking her seriously when she would stand up for herself against her harsh criticism.
“One time, I raised my voice to my mother, and I screamed at her, and she looked at me and burst out laughing. She was laughing at me for screaming back,” she recalled of the painful memory, “and it was like a punch in my stomach.”
Trying to make it
Focused on becoming an actress, a teenage Aniston first appeared in Off-Broadway shows such as Dancing on Checker’s Grave and For Dear Life.
She also had to work a variety of part-time jobs in order to support herself financially, including as a waitress, telemarketer, and bike messenger. The end of the ’80s brought a minor role in the sci-fi film Mac and Me followed by an appearance on The Howard Stern Show as a spokesperson for Nutrisystem.
In 1990, Aniston decided it was time to leave New York and head to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in television. Not long after her move, she was cast in a sitcom called Molloy, followed by Ferris Bueller, a TV adaptation of the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Unfortunately, both series were canceled after just one season. More roles came after, such as in the 1990 made-for-TV teen movie Cucumonga, 1993 horror film Leprechaun, and two more failed comedy series The Edge and Muddling Through.
After starring in four unsuccessful TV series, Aniston was beginning to feel discouraged, wondering if she would ever get the big break she was waiting for. Then, one day at an L.A. gas station she saw the head of NBC entertainment, Warren Littlefield.
She bravely approached him and asked if she should keep going or just give up. The executive encouraged her to continue acting, and a few months later even helped her get cast in an upcoming sitcom that would change her life, Friends.
Aniston actually turned down a role as a featured player on Saturday Night Live in order to star in Friends, while crossing her fingers that it wouldn’t fail like the last four series she starred in. As we know by now, she probably ended up making the right choice.
Aniston’s performance as Rachel Green ended up launching the actress into serious fame, with fans all over the world trying to mimic the star’s style and asking their hairdressers for the ‘Rachel cut.’ And in 2002, she took home an Emmy for her role, followed by a Golden Globe the year after that.
Despite all of the success that Aniston had, her mother still wasn’t happy, and continued to be critical toward her life and career. Eventually, the actress just couldn’t take the judgement any longer, which eventually led to a feud that would go on to last many years.
In 1999, Dow published a memoir about her and her daughter’s strained relationship, From Mother and Daughter to Friends, creating even a further rift between the two. And in 2000, when Aniston got married to Brad Pitt, she refused to invite her mom to the wedding.
‘Put your face on’
Of course, the bitterness between Aniston and her mother began way before she became famous. At a young age, after watching the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, her mother became emotionally-draining, especially when it came to her appearance.
Speaking to Elle, the Friends star recalled of her late mother, “She was from this world of, ‘Honey, take better care of yourself,’ or ‘Honey, put your face on,’ or all those odd sound bites that I can remember from my childhood.”
Breaking her confidence
Growing up, Dow would often obsess over how her daughter looked. Eventually, it affected her self-confidence and how she felt about herself. “I did not come out the model child she’d hoped for and it was something that really resonated with me,” she said.
“This little girl just wanting to be seen and wanting to be loved by a mom who was too occupied with things that didn’t quite matter.” Little did she know, she would eventually go on to use many of her mother’s traits for a role one day…
Using it for a role
Her unfortunate experience with her mother growing up is actually what attracted the actress to her highly-acclaimed role in the 2018 Netflix comedy-drama Dumplin’.
Aniston played the character Rosie, an unapologetic former beauty queen who has a strained relationship with her young daughter. Of the film, the actress revealed, “One of the reasons I really loved the mother-daughter aspect of it was because it was very similar in a way to what my mother, and our relationship, was.”
Friends becoming family
While Dumplin’ may have reflected Aniston’s complicated relationship with her mom, it also mirrored the loyal friendships that she has created to fill a void of where her parents should be. “We always joke that we raised each other,” she said during an interview.
To this day, Aniston has stayed close with the cast of Friends, who became more like family after bonding over 10 years together. In fact, as Dow continued to slight her daughter in interviews, Courtney Cox fought back by taking out a full-page ad to honor Aniston’s win as ShoWest Female of the Year in 2005.
Of course, the drama between her and her mother isn’t all she has had to deal with in her past. Many of us can recall the highly-publicized divorce between her and Brad Pitt in 2005.
Just five years after tying the knot in a lavish Malibu wedding, the couple called it quits following allegations of him cheating on her with his co-star (and future wife) Angelina Jolie. Aniston was left heartbroken, especially after Jolie spoke publicly about how she fell in love with Pitt on set, while they were still married.
Second try at love
Eventually, the media attention fizzled out and Aniston moved on, marrying actor Justin Theroux in 2015. Unfortunately, the marriage would only go on for two years until it would also come to an end. At the time, the couple stated that they separated on friendly terms.
Later on, the Friends star spoke more in depth about what happened, telling Elle that it was a choice she made after choosing “happiness.” She explained, “This is our one life and I would not stay in a situation out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being able to survive.”
Just a year after Aniston and Theroux had tied the knot her mother passed away at the age of 79 following a series of strokes. At the time, reports claimed that the two had reconciled shortly before her passing.
However, not long after Dow passed, it was revealed that the mother had dropped Aniston from her will. Despite the actress allegedly paying for many of her mother’s bills over the years, her mom reportedly left her condo and “more than a million dollars” to a family relative instead.
On good terms
While Aniston may not have had the greatest relationship with her mother, she seems to have made amends with her father, John Aniston.
In a recent and rare throwback on Instagram, the actress shared a couple holiday photos of her and her father, who is now 86 years old and still starring in Days of Our Lives. The Morning Show star captioned the photo, “Christmas with one of my creators. Love you, papa,” proving that her relationship with her dad is in a good place.
In more recent years, the actress has revealed that she has learned to be more forgiving when it comes to her mom, stating that she understands times were different back then.
“My mom said those things because she really loved me,” she stated. “It wasn’t her knowing she would be making some deep wounds that I would then spend a lot of money to undo. She did it because that was what she grew up with.”
In her shoes
Moreover, Aniston blames her mother’s judgmental ways on the challenges she had to deal with while raising her daughter. “I think she was just holding on and doing the best she could, struggling financially and dealing with a husband who was no longer there.”
She also stated the difficulties her mother faced by “being a single mom in the ’80s,” something that surely was not an easy feat for anyone to take on at the time.
Overcoming the criticism
More recently, Aniston has revealed that all of the criticism she received in her life has only made her into the strong woman she is today. According to her, there were people close to her who didn’t believe she would make it, which made her work even harder.
“If there were any naysayers in my family, ‘This will never…you’ll never make a dime,'” she said. “Just watch me. God knows now I’m going to make a couple of dimes.”
No need for kids
Besides her career, another thing Aniston has been criticized for in the past is her decision not to have kids. The Friends star admitted that she is totally okay with not becoming a mother or wife. “Some people are just built to be wives and have babies,” she said.
“I don’t know how naturally that comes to me.” In addition, Aniston states that she isn’t too concerned about having a “happy ending” saying she is sick of the message society pushes on women to get married and have children by a certain age.
Now, at 50 years old, Aniston is doing better than ever. Recently appearing in the record-breaking Netflix comedy ‘Murder Mystery’ with Adam Sandler and currently starring in Apple TV+’s critically-acclaimed drama The Morning Show, which just earned her a Golden Globe nomination, she is showing no signs of slowing down.
Portraying a morning news anchor caught up in her co-host’s misconduct scandal has especially earned the actress plenty of praise while allowing her to showcase her talent on a more serious note than fans are used to.
With another decade behind us, Aniston has left her complicated past behind her, and is insisting on looking forward in life. When asked by People magazine what the year 2019 taught her about herself, she explained that it was a year where she learned how determined she really is.
“How much I’m capable of,” she answered. “The words, ‘I dare you’ or ‘No’ always make me kind of go, ‘Oh, okay. Well, let’s just see.'”