Jennifer Aniston is featured in the January 2019 issue of ELLE. The title of the profile: Jennifer Aniston doesn’t need a happy ending. And this has been Jen’s strategy since her split from Justin Theroux last February, a different tone than the one we saw when she split from Brad Pitt, even though she’s tweaking all of it overall now. As writer Carino Cochano notes in one of the opening paragraphs:

Aniston spent a decade on Friends and has starred in more than 30 movies, but the role that sticks to her most tenaciously is America’s Suffering Sweetheart. Cast as the eternal ingenue in the never-ending marriage plot, her joys, heartbreaks, and 57,000 fictional pregnancies have kept the lights on at several tabloids for a quarter of a century. 

Unmaking her image as “America’s Suffering Sweetheart” is the message that Jen’s been working on all year. And, as I’ve said, I like it. But is “America’s Suffering Sweetheart” a persona created by the media though? Only the media? Celebrities, as we have observed for a long, long time, are storytellers themselves. Wasn’t there was a version of the story that Jennifer Aniston was telling about herself that contributed to that narrative? We were encouraged to take sides in the Team Aniston vs Team Jolie throwdown and I don’t think it was just by the media. 

And still, it’s all inextricably linked. Because, as has been my catchphrase for the last decade, gossip tells us about who we are and where we’re at and much of that is communicated in what we project onto celebrities and what they project back to us. This may be where she’s underrated – in the timing of her game. The Jennifer Aniston that was presented to us then, post Brad Pitt, by the media and by herself, is how she knew she needed to be seen. And the Jennifer Aniston that’s being presented to us now is a reflection of where we are now in our conversations about women, what we’re entitled to, and what’s expected of us. As she tells ELLE:

“I don’t feel a void. I really don’t. My marriages, they’ve been very successful, in [my] personal opinion. And when they came to an end, it was a choice that was made because we chose to be happy, and sometimes happiness didn’t exist within that arrangement anymore. Sure, there were bumps, and not every moment felt fantastic, obviously, but at the end of it, 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. To stay in a marriage based on fear feels like you’re doing your one life a disservice. When the work has been put in and it doesn’t seem that there’s an option of it working, that’s okay. That’s not a failure. We have these clichés around all of this that need to be reworked and retooled, you know? Because it’s very narrow-minded thinking.” By endlessly focusing on her marital or family status, “you’re diminishing everything I have succeeded at, and that I have built and created,” she says. “It’s such a shallow lens that people look through. It’s the only place to point a finger at me as though it’s my damage—like it’s some sort of a scarlet letter on me that I haven’t yet procreated, or maybe won’t ever procreate.” Ultimately, she says, the idea of a happy ending is “a very romantic idea. It’s a very storybook idea. I understand it, and I think for some people it does work. And it’s powerful and it’s incredible and it’s admirable. Even enviable. But everybody’s path is different.”

Again, this is not totally new where Jen is concerned. Many of the words are the same. She has been voicing a version of this perspective for a long time. The reason it feels fresh, to me, is the delivery and the pivot to her achievements. Her work. There’s a subtext here in this profile that I hope eventually emerges into a louder declaration – if we’re talking about benchmarks of success, don’t forget that she’s made a lot of money in this business, that she’s using that financial power to get things made, that she’s been more involved behind the scenes and in production that she’s previously allowed us to see, and she’s flexing that sh-t now. Let this be the era of Jennifer Aniston showing her work. 

Click here to read the full article and see more photos. There is a gorgeous shot of her in a sequined sweater and embellished biker boots. Might be the best picture she’s taken in years.