Her goal, in those days, was to be a soap star. “‘General Hospital’ was my favorite,” she says, “because their makeup was always perfect, and the hair, and the clothes—I loved that.” Aniston takes a drag off her Merit cigarette. “Looking back, of course, I realize it wasn’t a good thing. I was always reading those beauty magazines and wanting to become this unattainable thing. Then one day, you’re in it—you’re the girl in the pictures, and suddenly you realize it’s all smoke and mirrors, airbrushing, lighting, stretching. No wonder people are killing themselves. Starving themselves. Popping pills. They’re all trying to achieve something impossible.”
That may seem easy for her to say—especially if you believe the press reports about how Aniston lost 30 pounds to become Rachel. “It was actually 10,” she says with a laugh. “I mean, I was huge, apparently.” She rolls her eyes. “The idea that I got ‘Friends’ because I got thin isn’t true at all.”
Almost as soon as the word “thin” comes out of her mouth, Aniston checks herself. “I got healthy,” she says. “I don’t think I got thin. I think I got healthy. I eat food now.” She pauses, and it’s clear that food has not always been a simple issue in her past. “Like a year before I met Brad, I started getting to a place where I was sick a lot, and my energy was low and I wasn’t happy,” she continues, “so then I started taking vitamins and exercising like a fiend, and maybe went too far on that, because you get in that Zone Diet thing and you get kind of addicted to that. But now I am kind of in a happy medium where I just do what I do. If I can work out, I do, but I don’t go crazy. I’m just healthy.” The past few years, she adds, have brought a sense of self-acceptance with regard to her body, which leaves room for indulgences like a “killer” homemade Thanksgiving sandwich with plenty of mayo and stuffing.
Aniston glances out toward the Pacific sunset and shakes her head. “But I mean, I just don’t get why anyone still cares about this stuff,” she says. “Who starts the intrigue, you know? Who starts the fascination? Let me tell you, it’s not the actors. Never is there an actor who says, ‘I want to be everywhere! I want to be so disgustingly everywhere that people are saying, Okay, that’s enough. We’ve seen enough of her.’”
In Aniston’s case, despite the fact that her life has been pondered and repondered from every conceivable angle, the public thirst for her remains unquenched. “It’ll be interesting to see if it dies down at all once ‘Friends’ is over,” says the actress, who was once approached in the sauna at L.A.’s Burke Williams Spa by fans requesting a group photo and who recently had to have a police escort shuttle her home after being swarmed by paparazzi while out shopping. “At the moment, there are those days when you drive out of your driveway and there’s a car parked at the bottom of the hill, just waiting for you, and you look at them and think, ‘This is what your life has come to? You’re going to follow someone to the market and to the doctor and to get their hair colored? This is how you’ve chosen to spend your day?’”