With her beauty and quick sense of humor, Jennifer Aniston has been one of America's favorite actresses for decades. But her celebrity life hasn't always been easy. Dogged by the press at every turn, Aniston's heartbreak has been the gossip mill's favorite topic. Even now, secrets from her scandalous past keep surfacing—and fans can't seem to get enough of it.
Born on February 11, 1969, Jennifer Aniston's childhood was anything but stable. Her parents, actors John Aniston and Nancy Dow, failed to provide a loving atmosphere, and as the years passed, young Aniston witnessed their marriage unravel. In fact, her home life was so unhappy—it provided her with a depressing example of everything she didn't aspire to.
But sadly, dysfunctionality wasn't the only thorn in Aniston's side.
Although she hailed from a family of actors, Aniston's parents never encouraged her to seek out acting herself.
In fact, they didn't even want her watching television. For a curious child, this was surely a tall order. But the strict rules didn't end there. To make matters worse, her school also prohibited the addictive pastime. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, she could only watch TV if she stayed home on a sick day.
For Aniston, her youth seemed fraught with contradictions—and it was only going to get worse.
Considering that Aniston is considered one of the most beautiful actresses, it might come as a shock that her mother made her feel like an ugly duckling. Down the line, she heartbreakingly confessed how her mother shaped her self-esteem:
"She was critical. She was gorgeous, stunning. I wasn’t. I honestly still don’t think of myself in that sort of light, which is fine”.
Poor Aniston grew up feeling inadequate in the eyes of her mother, but she had the rest of her life to prove her so, so wrong.
When she was nine years old, Aniston's life came apart at the seams. After years of unhappiness, her parents finally got the divorce they truly needed.
But despite her broken family, there was one thing that set her on the right path—acting. Sheltered from its shadowy world, Aniston still managed to weasel her way around her parents' warnings.
Two years later, she proudly enrolled in a high school dedicated to the arts.
Her love of acting frightened her parents, causing her father to give her a shocking piece of advice.
No stranger to the dangers of Hollywood, Jennifer Aniston's father practically begged her not to become an actor. According to her, he pleaded, "I do not want your heart broken. The rejection is brutal.
Please, please, please don't do that. Become a lawyer". Well, more than anything, this declaration only spurred Aniston on, and she became determined to rise above his negative expectations.
But while nepotism often works in favor of Hollywood hopefuls, Aniston's road to stardom wasn't easy.
Although Aniston is the picture of glamor today, her younger years were spent hustling for her art.
While starring in some off-Broadway shows, she had to find part-time work to help pay the bills. Aniston worked as a waitress, a telemarketer, and even a bike messenger just so she could pursue her dream. But as the years passed, the disappointments kept on coming.
Whenever Aniston landed a role in a television series, it always ended in disaster: The shows always ended up canceled.
It was discouraging, to say the least. And then, in 1993, she landed a role in a horror film she'd never live down.
Leprechaun will always be remembered as Jennifer Aniston's worst role, and it's not hard to see why. The premise? A vindictive leprechaun stalks a family who he thinks has stolen his gold.
As a film debut for Aniston, things were not looking good. The reviews were brutal, with one critic claiming "[the film] has brought new meaning to the term 'bad'."
Yup, it was an undeniable flop, and to this day, Aniston is still embarrassed by it. By now, Aniston's career looked bleak—but little did she know, her life was about to change forever.
For Aniston, success seemed painfully out of reach, and she began to feel a little lost.
At a Los Angeles gas station, she ran into television executive Warren Littlefield who told her not to give up—and for good reason. You see, Littlefield had a hand in the casting process for Friends, an upcoming sitcom on NBC. As we all know, this was Aniston's ultimate destiny—but surprisingly, she almost missed out on the part of Rachel Green.
You see, the producer of Friends wanted Aniston for the role of Monica Geller, while Courtney Cox was called in to audition for the role of Rachel Green. They'd gotten it backward, but luckily, Cox quickly realized that she wanted to play Monica instead.
After a much-needed game of switcheroo, Aniston was offered the part of Rachel.
The long casting process of Friends was finally over—but as it turned out, choosing Jennifer Aniston was a massive risk.
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At the time, Aniston faced a very real work conflict with her other show, Muddling Through. But after starting work on Friends, Aniston knew that this was the show she most wanted to star in. She'd really bonded with her lovable cast members.
Thankfully, choosing Aniston was a successful gamble. Muddling Through got canceled, and the producers of Friends could rest easy knowing they wouldn't have to reshoot any episodes with a brand new actress.
Aniston was delighted with the prospect of playing Rachel—but she had no clue just how life-changing the role would be.
Right from the get-go, the chemistry Aniston shared with her Friends' costars was unbeatable, and when the show aired, audiences couldn't get enough of it. In fact, the show's popularity exploded, and before she knew it, Aniston found herself on countless magazine covers—her name splashed everywhere. And that wasn't all.
Although she'd struggled with her self-image, it became terribly clear that Aniston's looks were becoming the talk of the town.
Aniston's character Rachel was a fantasy for many of her viewers, both men and women alike. Although she despised her haircut during her first couple of years on Friends, audiences were obsessed. Her haircut even earned itself a special moniker—"The Rachel," and women all over the globe began requesting the look from their own hairdressers.
But while her character's love life consumed the minds of avid fans, Aniston also faced a heartbreaking breakup in her private life.
In 1990, about four years before her career catapulted sky-high, Aniston met the dashing Daniel McDonald—a talented Broadway star. But sadly, their careers took them on separate paths. McDonald belonged on the New York stage, while Aniston belonged in Los Angeles. They were star-crossed lovers, and although they broke it off, Aniston never truly stopped loving him.
However, as sad as their story was, it would only get sadder with the passing of time.
Something about Daniel McDonald must have stuck because, down the road, Aniston confessed to The New York Times that he "would have been The One". She even went so far as to call her past self "stupid" for letting him slip through her fingers. But, oh man, this sad story has legs—and it ends in the most heartbreaking way imaginable.
In 2007, Aniston's lost love, McDonald, passed from brain cancer.
The actress was devastated to hear of this loss considering the happy history she shared with him, and the gossip mill was quick to rope Aniston into its headlines. This, however, enraged one person in particular. McDonald's grieving widow, Mujah Maraini-Melehi, had something to say about all the media attention surrounding her late husband and his very famous ex-girlfriend.
McDonald's widow did not hold back and served up an even bigger piece of gossip. She called Aniston out directly, telling Inside Edition, "I am sorry that Jennifer did not realize the treasure that was Daniel when she had the chance...It pains me to read the headlines that allude to her losing him tragically when in fact she was not present during his long and difficult illness". Oof.
Of course, by this time, Aniston was no stranger to having her love life criticized by the public. In the intervening years, she'd faced her fair share of scandal and heartache.
While filming Friends, Aniston embarked on her next romance with actor Tate Donovan—but it was destined to end on a horribly awkward note. In 1998, Donovan became a featured character on Friends for six episodes, and quite fittingly, his character played one of Aniston's love interests. Sounds perfect.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Aniston and Donovan broke up just as he landed a role as her co-star. It was a total struggle for both of them to act like a loving and happy couple while, behind the scenes, their relationship imploded. Aniston worked her way through this sticky situation, but this was by no means the end of her romantic dramas.
Despite having a rocky love life, Aniston's career reaped her fame and fortune. For her role as Rachel Green, she garnered multiple nominations, winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe while acting in Friends. And then there was the money. By the time Aniston filmed the show's final season, she was raking in a jaw-dropping income.
Jennifer Aniston broke records with the money she made on Friends: By the final season, she was bringing home $1 million per episode. After spending her youth grappling with doubt and thoughts of inadequacy, she'd risen to unprecedented heights. In fact, she was the highest-paid television actress of all time. And the notoriety didn't end there.
In 1998, she became involved with one of Hollywood's hottest stars—and it pretty much cemented her place in the media spotlight.
Jennifer Aniston's most explosive romance was with none other than Brad Pitt. However, their love story began on a very quiet and secretive note. After their agents set them up on their first date, the couple tried to keep their relationship as discrete as possible. Of course, being two of the hottest celebrities made this next to impossible, and by 1999, the gig was up.
Aniston and Pitt's romance started off as a whisper—but once they stepped out together at the 1999 Emmy awards, they quickly became one of Hollywood's most beloved couples. After that, it was a train that couldn't be stopped. Only months after they went public, there was a fat ring on Aniston's finger.
Even more sensational? The couple decided to announce their engagement in an outrageous way...
Aniston and Pitt were living large, shamelessly flaunting their love for the world to see. To announce their engagement, they decided to crash Sting's concert in New York City. The blushing bride-to-be waved her ring around as the audience roared their approval.
But, believe it or not, this celebrity hoo-ha was still in its infancy. With money to burn, it was about to get a lot more extravagant.
In 2000, Aniston and Pitt flew to Malibu for their over-the-top nuptials. There were big white tents and fireworks and lots of paparazzi. Considering the scandalous route their marriage would take, it's heartbreaking to read Aniston's optimistic comments about her relationship:
"You know if there's ever an argument, it's not like you can go, 'Screw you, I'm outta here'! You're there for the long haul".
Sadly, there would be no "long haul" for Aniston and Pitt. They were in the midst of their golden years, but it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down.
On the surface, Jennifer Aniston's marriage seemed a sure thing, and everybody in Hollywood felt sure that they would be the rare couple to make it. Aniston herself was very open in her hopes for starting a family and settling down. But there was something she never saw coming:
Aniston's husband had his head turned right around by his alluring co-star, Angelina Jolie. Although Pitt and Jolie claimed that they never got involved during filming, they still made quite the impression on one another.
The longing looks. The mounting tension on set. It was recipe for disaster. And at the end of the day, it was Aniston's poor heart on the line.
In 2005, Aniston and Pitt released a joint statement about their amicable split. But how amicable was it really? The timing certainly seemed suspicious, and the media certainly had a field day with the scandalous rumors that abounded.
Whispers about an affair between Pitt and Jolie were everywhere. And before long, not even Aniston could deny the painful truth.
The breakup devastated Aniston, but nothing could have prepared her for the betrayal to come. You see, only months after announcing their separation, Pitt stepped out with Jolie.
This time, however, they weren't just coworkers—they were lovers. Oh, but the hits just kept coming. Pitt and Jolie were shameless about their romance, and soon, they were everywhere.
The scandalous intertwining of Aniston, Pitt, and Jolie turned into a tabloid frenzy, with fans quickly picking sides.
In fact, people went so far as to wear shirts that proclaimed which actress they supported: "Team Aniston" or "Team Jolie". Aniston suffered in silence, but later, she confessed how she really felt about this wild turn of events.
In 2008, Aniston had the strength to look back at this sad chapter and admit that, yes, the whole love triangle was a bit of a mess.
In an interview with Vogue, she said, "There was stuff printed there that was definitely from a time when I was unaware that it was happening...That stuff about how she couldn't wait to get to work every day? That was really uncool".
To this day, Hollywood and the rest of the world have not let Pitt and Aniston's drama die.
Some are still hoping for the two of them to reunite—but considering some of Pitt's jaw-dropping comments, it doesn't seem likely...
In 2011, Pitt decided to talk about Aniston with the press, and what he had to say only twisted the knife in deeper. Basically, he said that during his time with Aniston, he felt bored: "...I wasn’t living an interesting life myself. I think that my marriage had something to do with it.
Trying to pretend the marriage was something that it wasn’t".
But as nightmarish as Aniston's drama with Pitt was, the actress managed to find a silver lining amid all the mess.
Before her divorce, Aniston hadn't spoken to her mother in almost a decade. But this emotional chapter of her life sparked a much-needed reconciliation.
Despite her toxic childhood, Aniston overcame past resentments, determined to break the cycle of generational trauma. She started to understand her mother better, cautiously welcoming her back into her life.
For the next few years, Aniston laid pretty low on the dating circuit, focusing on other aspects of her personal life—but by 2008, she was ready to give love another shot.
At the 2008 Oscars party, Jennifer Aniston ran into 32-year-old musician John Mayer. They had instant chemistry, and after they started dating, the press had a brand new celebrity couple to stalk.
However, the tabloids didn't have to wait long for their juicy breakup headlines. Later the same year, the couple split—and just like Aniston's previous relationship, the fallout was sensational.
Although the romance was brief and the breakup amicable, John Mayer's habit of running his mouth has since revealed quite a lot about his time with Aniston.
In his Playboy interview, Mayer gushed about his ex-girlfriend, and his comments seemed tinged with regret: "...if it had worked out, I would have reaped the benefits. I would be sitting here saying, 'What I have when I go home is the thing I've always wanted'."
So, why did they break up? Well, in the very same interview, Mayer dropped one extremely telling hint.
The eight-year age gap that divided Aniston and Mayer may have been the final nail in the coffin.
Mayer stated, "I'll always be sorry that it didn't last. In some ways I wish I could be with her. But I can't change the fact that I need to be 32". Clearly, the breakup seemed more one-sided, with Mayer expressing his heartbreak more openly than Aniston.
Since then, however, these two have managed to stay friends.
There's no bad blood between them, with Aniston still commenting interacting with the musician on social media in a friendly, playful way.
There's no denying that the world has been invested in Jennifer Aniston's relationships since the 90s. But after her horrible breakup with Pitt and her well-publicized moment with Mayer, the actress decided to keep her next love affair as quiet as possible.
In 2011, Aniston met Justin Theroux while filming Wanderlust—and this is what we know.
Aniston and Theroux might have had one of the healthiest relationships in Hollywood. After getting engaged in 2012, the pair waited until 2015 to tie the knot. But this wasn't a big spectacle. Unlike her extremely lavish wedding with Pitt, Aniston and Theroux celebrated their union with a very understated backyard wedding.
And then, to everyone's surprise, just three years later, it was over.
In 2018, Aniston announced that, once again, "happily ever after" wasn't meant to be. This, of course, wasn't Aniston's first time at the rodeo and she knew exactly how to dodge the media's ruthlessness. There was no drama here.
In fact, Aniston and Theroux are still incredibly close and remain in each other's lives as devoted friends.
On Theroux's 50th birthday, Aniston even posted a loving story to her Instagram, writing, "Truly one of a kind. LOVE YOU"! If these two are open about anything, it's about how much love they'll always have for one another.
Despite having a successful career as one of America's sweethearts, Aniston still had moments of struggle. During the filming of 2014's Cake she had to face one of her biggest fears: submerging herself in water. You see, as a child, Aniston had a very traumatizing experience: She'd ridden her tricycle straight into a pool and almost drowned.
Since then, she'd struggled with the phobia of water—and it was about to come around to haunt her.
In her film Cake, Aniston had to do a scene where her character has water therapy. Basically, her worst nightmare. The scene was incredibly stressful for the terrified actress, and it took 30 takes for her to get it right.
For a long time, Aniston stayed well away from social media, but in the fall of 2019, she did something that excited fans everywhere: She joined Instagram. This momentous occasion literally broke the app. For hours, the "follow" button wouldn't work because of all the people rushing to follow her. And that wasn't all.
Aniston's first post made people go wild, especially fans of Friends: It was a picture of a cast reunion. Anticipation for some kind of reboot or special began to swirl, and in 2021, audiences finally got what they'd been waiting for. Friends: The Reunion promised tears, feels, and—most importantly—scandalous confessions.
Watching Friends: The Reunion is somewhat of a bittersweet experience, and there's no shortage of cringey—even awkward—moments. However, it does offer up a tantalizing piece of gossip. Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer's onscreen chemistry wasn't just acting.
In fact, during the first few seasons of Friends, the two of them had kept a heartwrenching secret.
During filming, both Aniston and Schwimmer had intense crushes on one another—but there was one problem always standing in their way. As Schwimmer shared, "...it was like two ships passing because one of us was always in a relationship, and we never crossed that boundary”. The two of them thought that they did a good job of hiding their affection for one another, but as it turns out, everybody knew.
On set, Aniston and Schwimmer were incredibly close and their castmates knew it.
The tension that mounted between their characters mirrored their real-life longing for one another, and their first kiss was actually Ross and Rachel's first kiss on the show. During the reunion, Aniston admitted, "The beauty of that was that whatever feelings we had we just literally channeled everything into Ross and Rachel. And I think that’s maybe why it resonated the way it did".
But while fans celebrated this trip down memory lane, Aniston herself had a trying experience with the reunion.
Rehashing old memories, and being on the reconstructed set of Friends, was really hard for Aniston—an emotional rollercoaster that her weeping throughout the program. As nostalgic and lighthearted as the reunion was supposed to be, melancholy seemed to bubble right below the surface: "It turns out… it’s kind of hard to time travel".
Of course, this wasn't the only reunion in Aniston's life that made her go viral.
Aniston's fraught history with ex-husband Brad Pitt hasn't stopped her voracious fans from rooting for their reconciliation. In 2020, the two were spotted crossing paths at the SAG Awards where they shared an intimate embrace. The press couldn't get enough. That night, both actors won big—but it was Pitt's reaction to Aniston's acceptance speech that had everyone reeling.
Backstage, Pitt stopped to watch Aniston accept her award with a glowing smile on his face.
But when reporters tried to dig for more information, both Pitt and Aniston explained that they were just good friends. Oh, but the rumors didn't stop there. During 2020, the two of them reunited again for a dramatic reading of Fast Times at Ridgemont High over Zoom, and let's just say, things got spicy.
Yup, Aniston and Pitt read one of the hottest scenes from the movie together, and it had Pitt blushing up a storm and grinning from ear to ear.
The rest of the cast, including heavy-hitters like Julia Roberts and Matthew McConaughey, got a good laugh over these two exes and their fitting dialogue. However, despite any lingering chemistry, all rumors have been unfounded.
For now, Aniston is happily single and thriving in her career. Most recently, her very successful series, The Morning Show has been renewed for a third season. And when it comes to her past, the actress seems to have come to terms with some of her most difficult chapters, especially her childhood.
In fact, for many years, Aniston kept one truth very close to her heart, and it was only in 2015 that she shared it with the world.
For years, Aniston kept a very personal secret. In her twenties, she'd been diagnosed with dyslexia—a discovery that completely shifted her outlook on life. Before that, her struggles with learning deeply affected her education and self-worth.
She even confessed, "I thought I wasn't smart. I just couldn't retain anything. Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained".
Filming Friends wasn't always a walk in the park for Aniston. One of the hardest scenes to film in the entire show was also one of the simplest.
In the episode where Rachel hears Ben’s first words, the show-runners told the young actor playing Ross’s son to remain silent throughout the scene. Unfortunately, the kid kept actually saying “dada” anyway. But this wasn't Aniston's only struggle on set.
Turns out, Aniston had a very serious tardiness problem—to the point where the cast eventually had an intervention to confront her about it, led by none other than David Schwimmer himself.
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