"It's taken me this long to know what I'm capable of. I didn't always know."

By Jennifer Aniston, as told to Laura Brown
Aug 06, 2019 @ 8:00 am
Jennifer Aniston in Givenchy jacket. Photo by Michael Thompson/Artists and Co

Looking back on all seven of my InStyle covers is almost like leafing through a yearbook. It’s surreal and cool to have these little memory markers of your career. I pretty much grew up in this business in front of everyone, and listen, puberty is awkward — just try and do it all publicly.

When Friends began [in 1994], we were all so wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. We couldn’t believe what was happening, and we had no idea what was coming. On Instagram, Courteney [Cox] recently posted an old photo of all of us on a jet together before the show had even aired. I just remember not understanding that this was my life. The level of gratitude, my god.

My first cover was in 1996. Being on the cover of a magazine was a big deal for me — it was all so new and exciting. I never dreamed it would actually happen. I remember my hair was short and styled to look wet that day. I’m proud of that hair legacy. I had goals, girl! [laughs] But it took me some time to get comfortable in front of the camera. That first shoot was at my house, so that helped. I remember posing and thinking, “God, I’ve got to learn how to do this.” It didn’t come naturally to me because it was so out of my norm. But, boy, was it cool to see the actual magazine and hold it in my hand.

When I think back on the ’90s, it makes me nostalgic — period. They were simpler times. This is going to sound odd, but there was a sense of safety in the world. We weren’t exposed to as much as we are now. And even if there was just as much shit going on, we didn’t necessarily have it in our faces 24/7. It was lighter. There was a lot more human connection.

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Back then, Fred Segal on Melrose was still alive and kicking, you know? I’m still very fond of those Maharishi pants from the ’90s. I had so many pairs, including the most beautiful orange ones with embroidery and a dragon going up the back. I’m mad because I only have one pair left now. [laughs]

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I started to find my confidence when I was on Friends, for sure. In a way, being on that show was the ultimate trust exercise. There was comfort in numbers there, so we all held each other up. I miss a lot about that time. Having a job that was absolute, pure joy. I miss getting to be with people I love massively and respect beyond words. So, yes, these days I’m super nostalgic. Anything can make me go, “Aww.” Even Fred Segal, I guess. I don’t know why that one got me. [laughs]

In 1999, oh, wow, I think I posed on the cover with just a sheet. It feels ironic to be anointed as “sexy.” I always thought Lauren Hutton was sexy. Bombshell wasn’t really my thing. I thought natural, cute, and funny was sexy, you know? At the time I think we were broadening our ideas of what sexy actually meant, so to be put in that category, I was like, “Oh, this is nice.” But, no, I didn’t have a “sexy” banner around my waist or start going to “sexy” school or anything like that. Some days you’re hot, and some days you’re not.

Looking back, I did have some really epic looks. That’s always fun to be reminded of. It’s a positive that comes from being documented your whole life. And you gotta take the good with the bad! Still, I think the best part of the red carpet is the end of it. The entrance is like, “Ugh.” And leaving it is like, “Ahh.”

It’s funny because when you’re in your 20s, you’re on the road to this unnamed destination that you think you’re going to, but I don’t know if you ever actually reach it. Time just continues on like a speeding bullet. When you get older, though, there’s a little bit more of enjoying the here and now. I’d like to slow everything down. Smelling the roses is an understatement— I want to watch them grow. And, yes, I actually have roses and went outside to smell them this morning.

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These days I’m most ambitious for peace. And I’m ambitious for creative fulfillment. I want to continue to create what I know I’m capable of creating. I’m so proud of my new project, The Morning Show, but it was probably the hardest job I’ve done thus far. It was like digging into wells that I don’t think I’ve ever explored. I had to unpack emotions in order to serve this incredible material. Sometimes you can lose sight of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, but this has been a really great reminder for me about why I do this.

I’m at a place now where I actually feel like I’ve grown up and entered into who I am creatively. It’s taken me this long to know what I’m capable of. I didn’t always know. I think I used to put a lot of that in the hands of other people. Now I’m taking ownership of it. And you know what? It feels really good.

How I’d describe myself in three words:
In 1996 — Sweet, Naïve, Young
Today — Strong, Knowing, Excited

Photographed by Michael Thompson on June 28 in Malibu. Styling: Karla Welch for The Wall Group. Hair: Chris McMillan for Solo Artists. Makeup: Gucci Westman for Home Agency. Manicure: Miwa Kobayashi. Production: Avenue B.

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