Jennifer Aniston smiling

The word "icon" is thrown around all too much, but there are certain people who fit the bill so well that no other word is appropriate. Jennifer Aniston is one of these people. Aniston’s girl-next-door charm made her America’s sweetheart, but her journey to capturing fans’ hearts was a long one. You see, Aniston wasn’t an instant star. It was only after years of studying acting and no-doubt grueling auditions that she finally got her big break. This has only added to her charm, and she’s remained grounded throughout the course of her prolific career.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Aniston’s career is how consistent its been. Since booking her breakout role on "Friends," the actress hasn’t slowed down in the least, taking on many different roles that came her way. After the success of her 2019 drama series "The Morning Show," it’s safe to say she isn’t slowing down. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the stunning transformation of Jennifer Aniston.

Jennifer Aniston was born into a showbiz family in Los Angeles

Jennifer Aniston as a kid

Jennifer Aniston was born to be a star; there’s no doubt about that. But it probably didn’t hurt that her father, John Aniston, was in the entertainment biz as well. As noted by The Sun, her pops is an Emmy award-nominated actor just like she is. John is best known for his role as Victor Kiriakis on the NBC soap "Days of Our Lives," and he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on the show in 2017.

However, Aniston, who moved from Los Angeles to New York City soon after she was born, has been open about the fact her family life was anything but picture-perfect. In February 2020, she told Interview that her childhood was a tumultuous one, and the kindness people now feel when they meet her was the result of a choice she made. After being told she "[pushes] joy and positivity" and has a "joyous" home, Aniston said, "It comes from growing up in a household that was destabilized and felt unsafe, watching adults being unkind to each other, and witnessing certain things about human behavior that made me think: ‘I don’t want to do that.’"

Jennifer Aniston went to a high school that focused on acting

Jennifer Aniston's yearbook photo

A college degree isn’t exactly required to become a Hollywood starlet, but Jennifer Aniston did receive plenty of schooling before hitting it big. The actress attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which also happened to be the inspiration for the school in the film "Fame," as Insider noted. As the school’s official website points out, they have a long list of notable alumni. Aniston is in good company with the likes of Ansel Elgort, Robert De Niro, Sarah Paulson, Adrien Grenier, and more.

In a 2011 interview with Allure, Aniston provided some insight into what her high school days were like. She told the outlet she was friendly with Cher and Sonny’s son Chaz Bono, and they would have get-togethers at his house. "Every day a group of us would go to Chaz’s house after school," Aniston recalled.

Her earliest jobs were less than glamorous

young Jennifer Aniston acting

Jennifer Aniston’s fame from "Friends" made her a household name, and she’s become the epitome of a Hollywood actress who has built a life of glamour and opulence ever since. But her life, of course, wasn’t always this way. Aniston had humble beginnings, and she took whatever odd jobs she could to make ends meet in the earliest stages of her career. According to The Mirror, her career was a slow burn. "I worked at an ice cream place. And then, I waitressed for about two and a half years. All the while, I was auditioning . . . I couldn’t even get a commercial," she recalled.

When appearing on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show in 2017, Aniston revealed she once worked as a receptionist at an advertising agency, but that gig didn’t last too long. Other short-lived gigs included being a bike messenger and working at a New York City salon.

Aniston also remarked that if she wasn’t an actress, she would have become a psychologist, but thankfully for her devoted fans, it doesn’t sound like she’ll be making a career change anytime soon.

After moving back to L.A., Jennifer Aniston needed some time to adjust

Jennifer Aniston acting

When she was 20 years old, Jennifer Aniston took off for the West Coast in search of bigger career opportunities. She soon found out the actors in L.A. were a different breed. As she told Interview magazine, she was taken aback by how these actors behaved. "I’d never had a circle of women who got together and talked forever. I was like, ‘God, these California people don’t shut up. They talk about their feelings and cry in front of each other,’" she recalled.

Aniston even went so far as to compare Los Angeles to another planet. "Here I am, a girl who grew up in New York City, and now I find myself in Laurel Canyon, wearing a flowery dress and someone put a crystal around my neck and is burning sage around my head. I have landed on Mars," she told fellow actress Sandra Bullock, who conducted the interview. While Aniston soon found support in her new environment, adjusting couldn’t have been easy, especially since she told James Corden on "The Late Late Show" that her first apartment in L.A. was haunted.

Her portrayal of Rachel on Friends became one of her most iconic roles to date

Jennifer Aniston acting

Jennifer Aniston struck gold in 1994 when she signed on for "Friends." The series premiered on September 22, 1994, and it would go on to air for a decade. The NBC sitcom was wildly successful and soon became Aniston’s most career-defining role. Fans fell in love with Aniston’s beloved character, Rachel Green, and the show even inspired a haircut craze. It seemed like women everywhere sprinted to their local salon to ask for "The Rachel."

The impact the show had on fans didn’t go over Aniston’s head. When many years later she took the stage at the 2019 People’s Choice Awards to accept the People’s Icon Award, she credited the long-running show for much of her success. "If I have any claim to this word ‘icon,’ it’s only because I was able to be on an iconic show with an iconic cast and an iconic haircut," she quipped. "’Friends was truly — it was the gift of a lifetime, and I would not be standing up here without that amazing show, without those amazing five other actors, and [without] an audience who stuck with us."

Jennifer Aniston married Brad Pitt in 2000

Jennifer Aniston with The Rachel

What do you get when Hollywood’s biggest actress falls in love with everyone’s favorite hunk? A media sensation. Jennifer Aniston’s marriage to fellow actor Brad Pitt became one of the biggest cultural moments of the early 2000s, and fans (as well as tabloids) couldn’t get enough of their relationship. As People reported, the pair officially tied the knot in a ceremony in Malibu, California on July 29, 2000.

Aniston and Pitt never had kids, but they did have a five-year marriage full of red carpet moments and sweet words about one another. But all good things must come to an end and. As People reported, Aniston filed for divorce in 2005, citing irreconcilable differences. As fans soon found out, there appeared to be larger factors at play. It wouldn’t be long before Pitt’s romance with Angelina Jolie, who had been his "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" co-star during the last year he was married to Aniston, went public (via Insider).

Jennifer Aniston won her first Emmy in 2002

Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer

Few TV accolades hold as much weight as an Emmy Award, and Jennifer Aniston has seven nominations and one win to date. The star received her first Emmy in 2002, for — you guessed it — her role in "Friends." Her portrayal of Rachel Green landed her the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series that year, and she couldn’t have been more grateful.

Aniston held back tears as she delivered a moving acceptance speech that night. "I just have to say thank you from the bottom of my heart," she began. "This has been the greatest nine years of my entire life. To work with this cast who make me better every day, who inspire me every day. Our writers, the most brilliant writers in television — I would not be here, any of us would not be here without you guys."

Aniston went on to receive many more awards throughout the course of her career, notably winning a Golden Globe in 2003.

Jennifer Aniston distanced herself from Friends with this role

Jennifer Aniston posing

As much as Jennifer Aniston was grateful for her role on "Friends," which changed her life, she also had fears of being overshadowed by it. That was until 2002’s "The Good Girl" came along. Aniston portrayed a woman named Justine in the feature film and finally put some distance between herself and Rachel Green.

Speaking during a roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter, Aniston revealed she was relieved to see people appreciated the movie. "I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me," she said. "I could not escape, and I was just Rachel from ‘Friends.’" Despite being typecast for years due to the sitcom, "The Good Girl" was a turning point. "Getting older, there is such a freedom in the work because you just stop giving a crap after a certain amount of time. I guess it was ‘The Good Girl’ that was the first time I got to just sort of really shed whatever this little Rachel character was," she revealed, adding that it was a "relief."

It may have taken some time, but Aniston proved she has much more to offer beyond her breakout role.

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012

Jennifer Aniston on set

In February 2012, Jennifer Aniston was bestowed with the ultimate Hollywood honor. The actress was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and all of her closest friends and family came out to celebrate. The Los Angeles Times covered the momentous occasion, and shared photos that revealed Adam Sandler was in attendance, as well as Aniston’s then boyfriend, Justin Theroux, and her father.

Sandler, who starred with Aniston in "Just Go With It," wrote a lengthy speech for the occasion, remarking that Aniston has found "a permanent place in America’s heart." He went on to say, "I love this girl, my wife loves this girl, the entire world loves this girl."

Aniston also took the podium to make a speech of her own. The "Friends" star was incredulous about the award. "I cannot explain to you how surreal this moment is. This is crazy," she began. She shared, "I was born in Sherman Oaks, California. I am a California girl through and through. This has always sort of been in the back of my mind."

Jennifer Aniston opened up about why she hasn’t had kids

Jennifer Aniston wearing a bucket hat

As with most big-name celebrities, Jennifer Aniston’s personal life is talked about almost as much as (if not more than) her acting roles. After a number of tabloids speculated about whether or not she was pregnant in 2016, Aniston hit back. The "Cake" actress made it clear she is a whole person whether she has kids or not, and she’s sick of people talking about her decision to hold off on starting a family.

"We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child," she said in a 2016 personal essay for HuffPost. "We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples." Aniston went on to say she hopes people can define their own version of "happily ever after."

Aniston added that kids aren’t entirely out of the question, but she’s certainly not going to have children to make herself feel more complete.

She took another stab at marriage with Justin Theroux in 2015

Jennifer Aniston acting

A decade after her marriage to Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston remarried. She tied the knot to fellow actor Justin Theroux in August 2015, in a secret ceremony with close family and friends, ET Canada reported. The ceremony took place after a three-year engagement, and they caught everyone off guard with their spur-of-the-moment nuptials.

As a source told People, "Guests were told it was a birthday party for Justin." The unsuspecting guests had no idea they were about to witness a celebrity wedding. "Jen and Justin wanted to surprise guests, and guests were certainly surprised," the insider added.

Unfortunately, Aniston’s marriage to Theroux would lead to her second divorce. The pair called it quits in 2018. "Jen and Justin have gone their separate ways and really closed that chapter of their lives," a source told Us Weekly the following year. "It was a clean break and they have both gone back to their pre-married lives."

Jennifer Aniston became one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood

Jennifer Aniston in glasses

Jennifer Aniston’s wildly successful career has resulted in her making big bucks. Yep, the actress is worth an estimated $300 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. How exactly did she wind up with such a massive net worth? Much of Aniston’s fortune was amassed while she was filming "Friends." The star was said to be making more than $1 million per episode by the sitcom’s final season.

Even after "Friends" ended, she made good money. Forbes claimed Aniston was the fifth-highest-paid actress in the globe in 2017. She’s also been part of a slew of box office mega-hits, making a pretty penny with her roles. For example, the 2009 ensemble rom-com "He’s Just Not That Into You" grossed $178 million, according to Insider, so she likely made a decent amount from that movie alone. Aniston may be known for her down-to-earth, girl-next-door vibes, but her net worth proves she’s a member of Hollywood’s elite.

She joined Instagram in 2019 and crashed the app

Jennifer Aniston at event

For years, Jennifer Aniston was notorious for keeping a low profile, particularly when it came to social media. Finally, in October 2019, the actress decided to start sharing more tidbits of her life online. She shared her first Instagram post on October 15, 2019, and she nearly broke the internet while doing so. There was so much excitement about her joining the app that, when her fans rushed to follow her, the app crashed. Thankfully, it was back up and running in no time. Notably, Aniston quickly broke Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s record for fastest IG account to hit 1 million, as Harper’s Bazaar reported.

So, what was her first post? A snapshot featuring the cast of "Friends." In the caption, she wrote, "And now we’re Instagram FRIENDS too. HI INSTAGRAM." She later apologized to her fellow Instagrammers for momentarily breaking the app. "I swear I didn’t mean to break it… Thank you guys for the kind, glitchy welcome," she wrote in another post.

Jennifer Aniston’s career came full circle with the 2021 Friends reunion

Jennifer Aniston posing

In 2020, "Friends" fans received the news they had been waiting years for: a reunion was in the works. Since the show went off air in 2004, fans of the sitcom have had their fingers crossed waiting to see Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, and Matt LeBlanc reunite on the show’s New York City apartment set. Then fans got a date: May 27, 2021.

As much as the "Friends" reunion special means to fans, it means just as much to the cast. As Aniston told People magazine in an interview, she could barely hold back tears while on set with her former co-stars. She recalled thinking, "Oh God, how are we going to get through this alive, without just crying our faces off?" Her co-stars agreed, with Kudrow saying that filming the reunion was "emotional."

And while a lot has changed in the years since the series ended, Aniston knows exactly what her character would be doing in 2021. "I would like to have maybe started a clothing line of my own, and it’s sort of a small franchise," she said. Sounds like something Rachel would do!