I like Jennifer Aniston, I once appeared with her on Oprah and it turned out to be her birthday. So afterwards, I sent her a mortar and pestle as a gift to help prepare her favourite guacamole.
At an Oscars party a few weeks later, Jennifer came over to thank me. She was gracious, charming, warm and funny. In fact, an utter delight in every way and everything any Friends fan would hope Jennifer Aniston might be in real life.She’s also, of course, a talented actress and a beautiful woman;
Little wonder then that Ms Aniston gets more attention than almost any other female celebrity in Hollywood.
I’ve been in numerous Beverly Hills restaurants when she’s walked in, and watched as every table descended into an instant frenzy of elbow-nudging and staged whispers.
I suspect the same thing happens wherever she dines in the world.
We ALL have an opinion on Jennifer Aniston and these opinions have been fuelled by the fact she hates talking about her private life and rarely gives much away.
The less she reveals, the more we all love to guess:
Who’s she dating?
Where’s she living?
What’s she eating?
And more recently, that burning question which confronts any newly-married woman: ‘Is she pregnant?
‘I’m not pregnant!’ she raged. ‘What I am is FED UP.’
On that specific point, I have great sympathy with her.
There can be few things more distressing for a woman than for people to look at you and mistakenly query if you’re pregnant.
The unspoken implication is obvious: ‘You’re looking fatter than usual.’
I’ve fallen prey to dropping this clanger several times in my life and can still remember the jaw-dropping look of mortified horror on the faces of the women concerned.
I made them feel terrible and myself even worse.
(Now, I ask all woman I ever meet again if they’ve lost weight. It makes me hugely popular…)
So Jennifer had me at ‘FED UP’ because it must be exasperating to see your face blasted all over the tabloids under the headlines: ‘JEN’S HAVING A BABY!’ when you’re not.
Especially, as she notes, given the ‘perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful or unhappy if they’re not married with children.’
I also agree with her that her physical condition pales into a certain insignificance when measured against the current news cycle of ‘mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, (and) an upcoming election.’
I even have some sympathy for her complaint about the sheer volume of paparazzi attention she receives. I’ve witnessed the frenzy around her close up and it would be tough for anyone to deal with.
Now, at this point I will put on my tin helmet in anticipation of the furious vitriol that will inevitably pour down on my head from the world’s feminists.
BUT… that’s not going to stop pointing out some unpalatable truths to Ms Aniston.
Because she also says this in her blog: ‘The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty. Little girls everywhere are absorbing.. the message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine. This conditioning is something girls then carry into womanhood. We use celebrity ‘news’ to perpetuate this dehumanizing view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance, which tabloids turn into a sporting event of speculation.’
You may want to dismount from that high horse at this point, Jennifer.
There’s another reason why the media objectify and scrutinise famous women, and why little girls get confused about beauty and body image.
It’s this: female stars like Jennifer Aniston deliberately perpetuate the myth of ‘perfection’ by posing for endless magazine covers which have been airbrushed so much that in some cases the celebrity is virtually unrecognisable.
This morning, I Googled ‘Jennifer Aniston magazine covers’ and a veritable avalanche of results appeared….
There she was on the cover of Elle, GQ, Rolling Stone, InStyle, Grazia, Vogue, Red, Marie Claire, Allure, Harpers Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, Cosmopolitan, People and… well, I could go on and on but check it yourself and you’ll see what I found.
I don’t know the inner workings of each magazine or photo shoot, but I do know with my old newspaper editor hat on that almost all these cover shots had clearly been airbrushed to make Jennifer look even more perfect than she already is.
Cellulite’s been removed, crease-lines decreased, pimples expunged.
In many of them, this detailed work has continued to the rest of her semi-naked or even fully naked body; thighs trimmed, butts toned, the vaguest suggestion of bingo wings eliminated.
It’s the same type of forensic cover photo cover-up which goes on all day every day on magazine picture desks the world over.
The aim? To sell a false image of perfect beauty.
Why? To sell magazines and to sell the cover star’s personal brand.
These covers, and I estimate Jennifer Aniston has done over 100 in her career, have made both her and the magazines a ton of money.
I don’t blame them for the cover-up – who wants to see imperfection if you don’t have to?
Nor do I blame them for raking in cash on the back of such false imagery. If people want to buy it, so be it.
Nor, frankly, do I blame the paparazzi for wanting to get in on this scam themselves by taking and selling revealing photos of these cover-girl stars without all the airbrushing.
They are, after all, merely ‘setting the record straight’ in time-honoured journalistic fashion.
Once you put your body up for lucrative personal gain, I’m afraid you have to accept a level of scrutiny and debate that comes with it. Though intimidatory or overly-intrusive paparazzi behaviour is never acceptable.
BUT… I do think the least stars like Jennifer Aniston can do in return for the massive financial and career boost these fake covers bring them is to stop pretending it’s all everyone else’s fault that impressionable young girls struggle with their own beauty and body images as a result of seeing perfect photos of Jennifer Aniston.
Of course they do!
Not even Jennifer Aniston is that perfect!
The beauty industry is a deeply invidious business; one in which only stick insect models get the biggest covers and biggest deals, and one in which actresses who want a slice of the cover-girl action can only be risked as commercial weapons if some of their real life torso action is sliced off in the airbrushing department.
I commend Jennifer Aniston for finally going public with her concerns about all this stuff. She has a powerful voice and it will provoke important argument.
But if she really wants to make a difference to this ugly process, she can start by getting a tiny bit uglier herself and letting us see what she REALLY looks like on a magazine cover.
Then the little girls she’s so worried about can know exactly what they are aspiring to be.
Missed her article? Read here