Jennifer Aniston appeared on the cover of Allure this week, baring a little piece of her heart: She’s wanted kids enough to do IVF and drink various special teas, she told the reporter who put together the cover profile. In the accompanying images, Aniston bared a lot of what women’s magazines would call her bod: boobs beneath a pair of round pastie-like coverings by Chanel, a backside in low-rise pants and a Gucci G-string, the side of her thigh in a dress that she pulled down with her thumbs.
The sad-but-hot Aniston news cycle is a very familiar one. In 2013, for example, she did press for Meet the Millers, a comedy in which she strips down to lace underwear, and got a lot of appreciative “can you believe how she looks at her age?” coverage, all while fending off pregnancy rumors. But the presentation here is particularly disturbing. In 2022, Aniston is 53 years old. And yet, she is presented in the pages of a beauty magazine as having the skin and shape of someone, say, 30 years younger.
Surely the images will be of benefit to horny people, Allure, and the beauty industrial complex/patriarchy in general. Celebrities, though superlatively beautiful and moneyed, set the pace for the rest of us. Not to be dramatic, but women in their 20s are turning to preventative Botox (in part) because of depictions like this, even if Instagram is a bigger driver of aging dysmorphia than print magazines. (The Aniston cover is, by my calculations, slated to grace the last print issue of Allure.) And in 2022, the “empowerment” rhetoric that Aniston and Allure use as a fig leaf for what’s really going on here has started to look extremely tired. How many times have we had this exact same discussion?
I want to point out an additional galling thing: Aniston has a gig that the smooth-skinned pictorial will specifically help support. She sells wellness shit. She gets less flak for it than Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps because her empire is more fractured and less stupid, but she is a celebrity health guru nonetheless. She’s a spokesperson for a prescription sleep aid called Quviviq, the chief creative officer for a supplement company called Vital Proteins, and the founder/face of LolaVie, a hair care line (which boasts natural ingredients, and has itself gotten plenty of coverage in Allure). She appears in ads for Aveeno, a rather practical lotion that is credited for her “glow.” Previously, she held a stake in the hair care brand Living Proof (which had research ties to MIT), and had a decade-plus reign as the face/body of Smartwater.
The advertisement of her fiftysomething beauty on a cover like Allure’s supports this line of work, even when she’s not directly hawking anything in the moment. This is always the problem with spokesmodels and beauty-cum-health products, right? The looks travel separately from the products themselves; both may or may not be in actuality tied to the well-being of one’s body. But Aniston, at an implausibly shiny and smooth 53, is part of a generation of aging actresses that is adding—or rather, resisting—a new wrinkle.
Her own narrative is that to look like she does at her age, she relies on a combination of healthy habits and cutting-edge products. As she told Glamour in September in response to a question about aging “the right way”:
Two things are inevitable. The first, aging. The second, there’s always going to be critics. For me, it’s more of the question of how do I take the best care of myself, physically and mentally? We can still thrive when we’re older, and that’s thanks to all the advancements in health, nutrition, technology, and science.
If you’d quibble that she’s not talking about beauty specifically here, but about “thriving,” whatever that is, allow LolaVie’s marketing copy to make the connection: “Don’t apologize for wanting to look as good as you feel and don’t feel like you have to pick between naturally-derived ingredients and high-performing product technology.” I think the second part of that sentence is relevant, too; it’s connected to the philosophy that Aniston lays out to Glamour. It’s not just that Aniston is beautiful, it’s that she is beautiful thanks to science and smart choices—ones that are, purportedly, accessible to anyone with three-ish figures to shell out on some sensible creams and powders.
Aniston is, of course, probably more of a cyborg than she lets on. The commenters on Allure’s Instagram are crying Photoshop; a colleague of mine remarked that the magazine photos look like deepfakes. She hasn’t spoken much publicly about plastic surgery—”I am not injecting shit into my face,” she said years ago—but whether it’s a knife or a needle or really just editing, it’s safe to assume whatever is happening to create the endpoint of the Allure spread is more weapons-grade, less direct-to-consumer.
Aniston is beautiful and very disciplined and she is also—sorry—getting old. It shouldn’t be a bad word, or a bad look. We all know it, but it bears repeating: You do not appear perpetually young just by drinking water and applying the correct products—you do so by really, really keeping up with the Joneses in your use of flesh-warping technology.
It’s an arms race that writer-director-producer Justine Bateman, who was once very, very famous and is now happily not, has loudly critiqued. “As we were busy leaping from information about one ‘breakthrough, face-altering procedure’ to another, the one discussion that never took place was why did we think that older women’s faces were something that need to be fixed at all, and what do we think fixing them will accomplish?” she asks in the foreword of her 2021 book Face: One Square Foot of Skin.
With just three years on Aniston, Bateman spots a (beautiful!) softly wrinkled mug in her author photo, and urges readers to consider that “there’s nothing wrong with your face,” a proposition that may improve lives, but will at best sell a few books. What Aniston, in contrast, accomplishes with the Allure spread is pretty simple, in my opinion. It is proving that she is fucking rich, not just from her craft, but from selling us stuff. Some of her wares are admittedly fine. In the era of the Goop vagina candle, it is hard to argue with slightly overpriced water. But her implicit promise of their overall effect is patently ridiculous.