Born Jennifer Aniston (original family name was
Anastassakis), on February 11, 1969, in Sherman Oaks, California.
Daughter to actors Nancy and John Aniston, and the goddaughter of
Telly Savalas, Jennifer was exposed to acting at an early age. Of
Greek descent, she spent a year of her childhood living in Greece.
Her family eventually returned to the U.S., settling in New York
when her father landed the role of the villainous Victor Kiriakis
on the NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives.
After her parents divorced in 1980, Aniston lived
primarily with her mother. Two years later, she enrolled at the
Rudolf Steiner School, where she was a member of the drama club.
She went on to attend New York City’s renowned High School of Performing
Arts, where she was educated in theater and fine arts. Although
she was an artist of considerable talent (one of her paintings was
chosen to be exhibited at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art),
Aniston opted for a professional acting career.
After her graduation in 1987, Aniston appeared
in a number of TV commercials and off-Broadway productions, including
For Dear Life at New York’s Public Theater, and Dancing
on Checker’s Grave. During this time, the struggling actress
often supplemented her income by waitressing. In an attempt to find
more lucrative work, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was featured
in her first television role on the short-lived sitcom Molloy
(1990). During the early 1990s, Aniston landed a succession of supporting
roles in failed television sitcoms, including Ferris Bueller
(1990), Herman’s Head (1991), The Edge (1992), and
Muddling Through (1994). She also managed to make her feature
acting debut in the poorly received horror film Leprechaun
Still determined, the actress auditioned for yet
another TV pilot called Friends (1994), which focused on
a group of 20-something New Yorkers. Impressed with her delivery,
the producers cast Aniston in the role of suburban princess turned
waitress Rachel Green. The series met with both critical and commercial
acclaim when it premiered, making household names of Aniston and
her costars — Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, Courteney Cox Arquette,
David Schwimmer, and Lisa Kudrow.
The success of the show was followed by a wealth
of media attention. Aniston’s popularity was confirmed when she
was listed among People magazine’s “Most Intriguing People”
of 1995 and 1996. Furthermore, the layered hairstyle that she adopted
in the early years of the show became such an overwhelming trend
with American women that Rolling Stone named her “America's
Aniston has since translated her TV stardom
into success on the big screen. She has appeared in several lighthearted
films, including the well-received romantic comedy She’s the
One (1996) with Edward Burns and Cameron Diaz, and Picture
Perfect (1997) which brought Aniston her first leading role
as well as a $2 million paycheck. In 1998’s screen adaptation of
Stephen McCauley's novel The Object of My Affection, she
delivered a commendable performance as a pregnant social worker
who falls for her gay friend.
Aniston provided the voice of Annie
Hughes in the animated fantasy feature The Iron Giant (1999).
She joined a stellar cast, including Susan Sarandon, Sally
Field and Angelica Huston, in 2000’s Time of Our Lives. She
also starred as a rock groupie opposite Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star (2001).
Friends was one of the most popular sitcoms on television. In 2000,
after a widely publicized battle with NBC, Aniston and her fellow
cast members negotiated a salary of $750,000 per episode. In addition
to her professional strides, she has remained in the headlines for
her high-profile personal relationships. In 1995, she dated Counting
Crows band member Adam Duritz, before starting a three-year relationship
with actor Tate Donovan, which ended in 1998. Later that year, she
began a serious romance with actor Brad Pitt. Aniston and Pitt were
married July 29, 2000, in Malibu, California, and divorced in 2005.