The Sunday Times
Jen’s hair apparent
JENNIFER ANISTON DRAWS ON HER UPBRINGING FOR INSPIRATION IN HER NEW ROLE.
SHE may have had a haircut that became a style phenomenon and a face that has marketed some of the biggest cosmetics brands in the world, but whatever you do, don’t call Jennifer Aniston a “beauty icon”.
“When you refer to me as a ‘beauty icon’, I chuckle inside because I’ve never thought of myself that way,” says Friends Aniston, who shot to fame as Rachel on almost 25 years go and went on to become the face of Aveeno and L’Oreal.
“I didn’t grow up being perceived that way, and I think beauty really has to do with how you feel about yourself and what that means,” she says. Dumplin’,
In her new film, which drops on Netflix on Friday, 49-year-old Aniston plays a former beauty queen whose plus-size daughter, nicknamed Dumplin’ (rising Australian star Danielle Macdonald), takes a stance against outdated beauty standards by following in her mother’s footsteps to compete in a beauty pageant. The film’s mother-daughter relationship is fraught with conflict, as Dumplin’ forever seeks affirmation from her parent.
Aniston herself endured a complicated relationship with her mother, Nancy Dow, who died two years ago. At the Friends height of the phenomenon, Dow gave interviews revealing personal information about her famous daughter, which caused a rift between them that lasted for years. Do elements of the on-screen mother-daughter relationship mirror her real one?
“Where do we start?” she groans. “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. She was a model and she was all about presentation and what she looked like and what I looked like.” She pauses.
“I did not come out the model child she’d hoped for and it was something that really resonated with me, this little girl just wanting to be seen and wanting to be loved by a mum who was too occupied with things that didn’t quite matter.”
Given her upbringing, it would come as no surprise if she was enlisted in beauty pageants as a child.
“Me?” she laughs. “I could barely walk a straight
line. I was a very klutzy, not-so-graceful kid.” Dumplin’ is based on Julie Murphy’s 2015 novel of the same name and is directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 28 Dresses).
Critical to the success of was casting the right “kid” for Aniston and, as a producer on the film, she was instrumental in choosing Sydney-born Macdonald. “I saw her in Patti Cakes, which she was fantastic in,” says Aniston.
“It was like she fell out of the clouds, this little perfect angel. She came in (to the audition) and blew us away.” Macdonald, who also stars in Sandra Bullock’s upcoming Bird Box, horror flick admits that “like everyone” she was a Friends massive fan.
“I was terrified to meet Jennifer, let alone the idea of playing her daughter,” Macdonald says. “It was really daunting. She invited me to her house. It was my birthday and I Friends remember flying to LA (where she lives), and I watched on the plane before I got to her house.
“But as soon as I met her, she enveloped me in a huge hug, and I was like, ‘Oh, okay’, and I calmed down. Then we watched dog videos and ate vegetables and hummus.”
If Macdonald was intimidated by Aniston, Aniston in turn was intimidated by another “star” of the film. Dumplin’ is obsessed with Dolly Parton, whose music can be heard throughout the movie. Parton even co-wrote and produced a new track for the Girl In the Movies. film,
“Dolly is bigger than life and the most wonderful human being,” Aniston raves of her childhood idol. “She just doesn’t stop and everything she says is like a bumper sticker.” But it’s the film’s body-positive message that Aniston remains most excited about. “This movie is so special because it is about stripping away those preconceived notions of beauty, trying to become individuals and not feeling that we have to live up to some unrealistic ideal that society is feeding up to us,” she says.
Aniston has experienced her own unrealistic and rather misogynistic narrative too, in the documenting of her personal life. She was married to Brad Pitt from 2000 to 2005, before he left her for Angelina Jolie. Aniston then married actor Justin Theroux in 2015 but the couple announced their separation in February of this year. In between, she was romantically linked to numerous eligible men.
The reality of her life is quite different. “There’s this (misconception) that there’s this level of unhappiness that I live in due to the fact that I don’t have a storybook moment at this stage of my life,” she says with a sigh. “And that’s just simply not true.”
Of course she hasn’t always had a healthy self-image either.
“My idea of beauty is: what makes you feel beautiful and what makes me feel beautiful is the people around me, the life that I have,” she says smiling.
“And maybe a good hair day.”