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Jennifer Aniston at 55: her rise to fame, two divorces, and IVF journey

The Friends and The Morning Show favorite has lived an amazing life

Actress Jennifer Aniston in a plunging dress with her hair in waves
Bryony Gooch
Bryony GoochUS Writer
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Jennifer Aniston is 55! The comic actress has achieved so much in her lifetime, from her immense success on the set of Friends to critical acclaim for her roles in the likes of The Morning Show and Cake

As she celebrates this milestone age, we're looking back on her amazing achievements and at how she's not only come so far professionally, but also personally.

Here's Jennifer Aniston at 55…

Raised by actors

American actress Jennifer Aniston with her mother, American actress Nancy Dow and father, Greek-born American actor John Aniston, sitting on a sofa at the family home in the Sherman Oaks neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California, circa 1977. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)© Michael Ochs Archives
A young Jennifer with her mom and dad

A little known fact about the Rachel Green actress is that she was born to be an actress. Jennifer is the daughter of actor John Aniston, best known for his role on Days Of Our Lives, and Nancy Dow, who appeared in sixties sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.

When the two divorced when Jennifer was young, she explained that it felt "destabilized" and "unsafe". Yet she learned from their divorce to cope when things don't go to plan, saying: "You've got lemons? Let's make lemonade'".

Rise to fame through Friends

While Jennifer had managed a couple of small roles before Friends, it was her role as Rachel Green in the hit sitcom that rocketed her to fame. 

FRIENDS -- "The One with Chandler in a Box" Episode 8 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green© Getty Images
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green

Ironically, Jennifer was considering quitting acting right before she got the starring role, after four unsuccessful TV shows. But Warren Littlefield, NBC's Head of Entertainment, encouraged her to continue acting and then helped cast her in the sitcom. She was even offered a spot as a featured player on Saturday Night Live, which she turned down to do Friends.

Little did Jennifer know that in taking on the role of Rachel Green, she'd be a part of one of the most successful television shows in history, beloved internationally. She played Rachel from 1994 to 2004, inspiring a whole generation to get the Rachel haircut and dress like her.

FRIENDS -- Pictured: Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green© Getty Images
The Rachel haircut became a phenomenon

Reflecting on the character in 2023, Jennifer said: "I always love Rachel and go back to Rachel, I can't escape her, actually."

But would she ever return to the role which made her famous?  "I feel like I have done them all; wrap them up and put them in a neat pile and put them away," the actor stated.

Marrying Brad Pitt

In the same year Friends came out, Jennifer would meet her future husband, Brad Pitt. At this time, Brad wasn't quite the A-List star that he's now known as - but he was certainly getting to work on creating an impressive filmography, starring across Tom Cruise in Interview With The Vampire, and Legends of the Fall.

The duo were introduced by their managers, and at this point he was, according to Jennifer, "just this sweet guy from Missouri, you know?" She described him to Rolling Stone as "a normal guy".

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt red carpet 2004
Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt

The couple started dating in 1998, four years after their initial introduction, and they married in 2000. The two stars, at this point, were on top of the world - Jennifer was the star of a hit sitcom and Brad had starred in cult classic Fight Club, and was about to do Ocean's Eleven alongside George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon.

The couple tied the knot in a lavish ceremony, with 50,000 flowers, four bands, a 13-minute fireworks display and more. Event planners estimated the wedding day may have cost $1 million. Jennifer reportedly wore a silk-and-satin beaded gown by Lawrence Steele for the special day. 

Brad would even make a cameo appearance in Friends, as a friend of Ross's with a long-time bitter grudge against Rachel. As fans at the time knew in real life Brad was madly in love with the Rachel Green star, his cameo would go down as one of the best in the series.

The couple get divorced

The year after Friends finished, Brad and Jennifer separated and divorced in a move that shook fans across the world. Many speculated that their divorce might have had something to do with Brad's co-star Angelina Jolie, with whom he shared utterly palpable chemistry in Mr & Mrs Smith.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt during ShoWest 2005 - 20th Century Fox Luncheon at Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)© Jon Kopaloff
Brad and Angelina, 2005

As the couple began their divorce proceedings, Brad and Angelina - whose names would soon be portmanteau'd as Brangelina - stated that they had fallen in love on-set but firmly insisted there had been no infidelity.

Jennifer has rarely commented on Brangelina's relationship but at the time she said of her divorce: "There are many stages of grief, it's sad, something coming to an end. It cracks you open, in a way — cracks you open to feeling."

Jennifer Aniston during "Rumor Has It" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)© Jon Kopaloff
Jennifer, 2005

"When you try to avoid the pain, it creates greater pain," she added. "I'm a human being, having a human experience in front of the world. I wish it weren't in front of the world. I try really hard to rise above it."

When showed photos of her ex-husband on vacation in Kenya with Angelina, she kept her response curt: "I can't say it was one of the highlights of my year."

She continued: "I would much rather everyone move on. I am not defined by this relationship. I am not defined by the part [the media is] making me play in the triangle. It's maddening to me."

Queen of Comedy

After the end of Friends, Jennifer's career didn't stop propelling forward - and she went from success to success. At first, in romcoms like Along Came Polly and The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn, who she'd briefly date. She even featured in tearjerker Marley & Me with Owen Wilson.

LONDON - MARCH 2:  Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson (left) arrive at the UK premiere of 'Marley And Me' at the Vue Leicester Square on March 2, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)© Samir Hussein
Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson starred in Marley And Me

Any film Jennifer would do, it was widely recognized that it was bound to be a hit. But more importantly, having already proven her comedy chops as Rachel Green, it was clear that Jennifer was really funny.

She could go toe-to-toe with Adam Sandler in Just Go with It, or play a comically evil boss in Horrible Bosses. Jennifer approaches comedy with a lightness and effortlessness that is incredibly hard to pull off. It's no wonder, then, that she is one of the highest paid actresses in the world.

Second marriage to Justin Theroux

After the devastatingly public nature of her divorce with Brad Pitt, things seemed to look up for Jennifer when she began a relationship with actor Justin Theroux in May 2011. By January 2012, the couple were living together in a beautiful Bel Air mansion, becoming engaged in August 2012.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JULY 26: Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux attend the ceremony honoring Jason Bateman with Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on July 25, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)© JB Lacroix
Jennifer and Justin

The couple were married in August 2015 in their backyard for an intimate ceremony with 74 guests - arguably a far more understated affair than her wedding to the Fight Club star.

Sadly, the couple split in 2018, but have remained friends. They released a statement announcing their split: "We have decided to announce our separation. This decision was mutual and lovingly made at the end of last year. We are two best friends who have decided to part ways as a couple, but look forward to continuing our cherished friendship."

A move into more dramatic roles

It's no secret that Jennifer is one of the most beloved comedians on the screen. But in 2014 she wowed critics by showing off her dramatic acting in the film Cake. While the film itself was a commercial flop, earning $2.9 million, Jennifer's role as the survivor of a car crash that killed her son garnered critical acclaim.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 08:  Actress Jennifer Aniston attends the premiere of "Cake" at The Elgin at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2014 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)© J. Countess
Jennifer at the premiere for Cake

The more gritty role even earned her some Oscar buzz, as she picked up Golden Globe and SAG nominations.

She would later say to The Hollywood Reporter: "Once you play comedy, they don’t think you can do the drama; and if you’re only seen as a dramatic actor, they don’t think you can do comedy.

"They forget that we’re actors and we actually have it all in there. It’s just about finding it and accessing it and getting the material."

The Morning Show

After years of TV cameos and a particular emphasis on film, Jennifer made a return to television as she played Alex Levy in The Morning Show, opposite Reese Witherspoon.

Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy folds arm in still from season two of The Morning Show
Jennifer Aniston as Alex Levy in Apple TV+'s The Morning Show

As Alex Levy, Jennifer plays the co-anchor of The Morning Show, one of the most popular morning news program broadcasts in America, as it goes through a number of huge changes.

She's received critical acclaim for the role, being called a "revelation" in the role.

IVF Journey

For years the public has speculated about whether Jennifer would ever have any children, something she has naturally kept private amid the public nature of her relationships. It was in 2022 that she finally made it known that she had gone through rounds of IVF and not had any success. 

jennifer aniston in silver dress at murder mystery 2 premiere © Getty
Jennifer Aniston, 2023

Jennifer explained in an interview with Allure that she had undergone IVF multiple times throughout her thirties and forties, but had not gotten pregnant. She said: "All the years and years and years of speculation... It was really hard. I was going through IVF, drinking Chinese teas, you name it. I was throwing everything at it."

The death of Matthew Perry

When Matthew Perry died in 2023, the world was shocked by the sudden and unexpected loss of the Friends actor. 

Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston© Ron Davis
Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston

Fans speculated that the cast of the beloved sitcom would feel particularly affected by his loss, especially Jennifer as it appeared the two had remained close over the years. Matthew even wrote in his memoir about his fondness for Jennifer.

Not long after he passed away, Jennifer took to Instagram to share her sorrow with the world: "Oh boy this one has cut deep... Having to say goodbye to our Matty has been an insane wave of emotions that I’ve never experienced before."

"We all experience loss at some point in our lives", she said, having already lost her father in 2022 and her mother in 2016. "Loss of life or loss of love. Being able to really SIT in this grief allows you to feel the moments of joy and gratitude for having loved someone that deep. And we loved him deeply."

View post on Instagram
 

She continued: "He was such a part of our DNA. We were always the 6 of us. This was a chosen family that forever changed the course of who we were and what our path was going to be. For Matty, he KNEW he loved to make people laugh. As he said himself, if he didn't hear the ‘laugh’ he thought he was going to die. 

"His life literally depended on it. And boy did he succeed in doing just that. He made all of us laugh. And laugh hard. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been poring over our texts to one another. Laughing and crying then laughing again." 

"I’ll keep them forever and ever. I found one text that he sent me out of nowhere one day. It says it all. (See the second slide…)"

She finished up the emotional post: "Matty, I love you so much and I know you are now completely at peace and out of any pain. I talk to you every day… sometimes I can almost hear you saying 'could you BE any crazier?'"

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