Nothing reminds you of your own impermanence quite like watching Angelina Jolie’s children grow up. One moment it’s 2005, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are “Caught Together! On Vacation” (per Star magazine’s explosive cover line), with the actress cradling her infant son Maddox on a Kenyan beach.
Next thing you know, it’s 2021, and Maddox is a grown adult, attending college, studying biochemistry, and executive producing a film with his mom. They grow up so fast.
After a contentious divorce that has included domestic abuse allegations, Brangelina are no longer. Last month, a judge granted Pitt joint custody of their six children. (Jolie plans to fight the decision.) An obsession with the pair—one the media has always, undeniably amplified—endures.
The same goes for Jennifer Aniston, the so-called third wheel in the early-aughts most intense celebrity love triangle. Today, the actress and Smartwater enthusiast “is in a really peaceful place.” Truly! She just went on the cover of People to talk all about it.
And so, here we are again: Jen and Angelina, seemingly everywhere, and us seemingly still interested. It feels like a great celebrity/time boomerang.
Some Aniston highlights in case you missed them: at 52, she is back to eating carbohydrates, telling the magazine she’s “no longer afraid” of “the bread basket.” Sometimes she eats “pasta, a sandwich,” too—“as long as it’s done in moderation.”
What’s more, Aniston refers to her ex-husband Pitt as her “buddy.” They are still in touch and “there’s no oddness at all” about it, so there. Sometimes they even run into each other at award shows, like they did at the SAGs last year. Pitt was seen clutching Aniston’s hand backstage after they both won awards, and two months later we were all in lockdown. Have we considered a connection?
Aniston told People that she isn’t interested in getting married again, but she’s “open to falling in love.” But do not expect to see her on Raya anytime soon. She’s not one for online dating, according to the magazine. “I’m just going to stick to the normal ways of dating,” she said, which is kind of rude, but fine.
So Aniston is living her best life, watching sunsets, hanging out with her dogs, meditating, and slathering on Aveeno moisturizer. It’s a continuation of her longtime brand: unbothered and breezy. Jen, not Jennifer.
The People cover, filled with her typical celebrity healing soundbites (“I believe in humanity”), comes across as a victory lap of sorts. It is the ultimate rich person flex to be able to command attention with such little scoop; here, Aniston is allowed her woo-woo profile. She reveals nothing, but remains charming. The so-called girl next door on Friends has grown into the type of fun aunt who you always want to visit to share a bottle of Chianti and the best gossip.
Jolie is also busy again. She’s promoting her new film, Eternals, and deftly navigating the paparazzi attention that comes with it.
Page Six snapped her entering her ex-husband Jonny Lee Miller’s Brooklyn apartment, “carrying only her Louis Vuitton purse and a pricey bottle of Peter Michael wine.” If you’re wondering, “Jolie… arrived at Miller’s home totally alone without so much as a bodyguard to see her inside.”
Jolie also revealed to Time that Zahara, who is Black, experienced medical racism during a recent surgery. “I have children from different backgrounds, and I know when there was a rash that everybody got, it looked drastically different depending on their skin color,” Jolie said. “But whenever I looked at medical charts, the reference point was always white skin.”
Jolie added, “Recently my daughter, Zahara, whom I adopted from Ethiopia, had surgery, and afterward a nurse told me to call them if her skin ‘turned pink.’”
This week Jolie spent some time in midtown with her daughter Zahara, who is 16. They shopped at Gabriela Hearst’s boutique and left the store with an extra-large bag to tote all their purchases.
It’s somewhat jarring to look at photos of the both Jolie and Aniston from this week; they do not look much different than they did 20 years ago. Both women have rightfully complained about paparazzi attention, but their tabloid permanence is still impressive.
They continue to deliver the shots readers want to see: Jolie, willowy in a billowing dress, walking down a street with her piercing beauty and Aniston, with perfectly tousled hair and a megawatt smile, probably on a beach.
For inherently sexist reasons, the two women will always be connected by a man they both married. But the attention was never really about Brad Pitt. We followed the breakup and Brangelina years because Jolie and Aniston played their celebrity roles perfectly, and were expertly branded as recognizable, reliable types.
Putting them in boxes might have been the work of the media, and it might have been unfair. But they have played along, and both possess the same stamina for fame that an Olympic athlete has for their sport.
They’re still working, though they don’t have to: Aniston—an endorsement queen—has a new collagen brand she’s promoting and just filed the much-discussed Friends reunion. Jolie has two films and an excellent wardrobe she’s currently parading around New York. It has been nearly two decades after the breakup that rocked grocery store magazine aisles. By all accounts, both women appear to have moved on. Our continued love affair with them proves just how much we have not.