Days of Our Lives's John Aniston (he plays villain Victor Kiriakis) and his wife Nancy enroll their 6-year-old daughter Jennifer in Manhattan's Rudolf Steiner School, which encourages students to refrain from watching TV and movies. When Aniston's half brother, John Melick, babysits, she sneaks in episodes of The Bionic Woman. "She'd make that ba-na-na-na-na sound effect around the house, running around directing herself in scenes from the show," Melick tells PEOPLE in 1997. "I guess she was destined for television."
After skipping college to wait tables and pursue acting in New York and Hollywood, Aniston appears in the horror flick Leprechaun. But there it's no pot of gold: The film pulls in just $8.5 million. However, her luck soon changes when she reads for a new sitcom called Friends. She lands the part of Rachel Green just three hours after her audition.
Aniston's layered haircut dubbed "The Rachel," after her Friends character, launches a national trend. "It's bizarre," 26-year-old Aniston tells PEOPLE in December. "I keep thinking, 'Wait – it's just me!' "
Aniston's mother, Nancy, gives an interview about her famous daughter, commenting on Friends and "The Rachel." Aniston later admits she and her mother haven't been close since Nancy granted that interview and penned a book about their relationship in 1999.
Aniston shares the screen with Edward Burns and Cameron Diaz in She's the One. It will be the first in a string of romantic comedies for the actress, including Picture Perfect and The Object of My Affection with Paul Rudd. But it isn't until 1999's cult classic Office Space that Aniston brings her real comedic chops.
In a top-secret Malibu ceremony, Aniston marries Brad Pitt. In front of their 200 guests, Aniston promises to make her husband's "favorite banana milkshake." The wedding costs an estimated $1 million which includes 50,000 flowers, four bands, Dom Perignon and fireworks. The newlyweds go on to purchase a $13.5 million five-bedroom Beverly Hills estate.
In its ninth season, Friends wins the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy and Aniston takes home the Best Lead Actress statuette for the first time. Aniston's long wait for an Emmy was prolonged by stammering presenter Bob Newhart. "It felt like a year," she tells PEOPLE. "I thought maybe it was going to be somebody else."
After ten years on one of America's most unforgettable sitcoms, Aniston and her costars tape the final episode of Friends. Major waterworks and as Aniston calls it, "inevitable pain" ensue.
After making multiple appearances in PEOPLE's Most Beautiful issue since 1998, Aniston appears on the cover. The stunning 35-year-old talks about life after Friends, her big plans for the future (including having a baby) and the rumors surrounding her husband and his Mr. and Mrs. Smith costar Angelina Jolie. "We try to laugh, of course," Aniston says. "You protect each other. But it's Hollywood, baby."
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