The Morning Show star Jennifer Aniston just delivered a message on what having ‘power’ really means.
What would you tell your 11-year-old self? It’s a question many of us often ruminate, wondering how we could help better prepare ourselves for adulthood. Would you brace your younger self for the sexism they will face? Or give some advice on how to deal with heartbreak? Perhaps you’d give a lesson or two in being body positive, looking after mental health and dealing with bad haircuts?
One person who knows exactly what she’d say is Jennifer Aniston.
Speaking at the Beverly Wilshire on Friday (12 October), Aniston made a speech as one of Variety’s six Power of Women honourees. The Friends and The Morning show actor recalled a memory from when she was 11 years old, which stuck with her throughout adulthood.
She opened the speech, saying: “It’s not that often we’re surrounded by people who have found their voice and who are using it – and using it to hold people up and to bring people together. That, to me, is true power.
“It’s funny because I’ve never actually thought of myself as ‘powerful.’ Strong, yes. But powerful, not [really]. It’s a distinction I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately because that word —‘power’ and its counterpart, ‘abuse of power’ — keeps coming up in light of what is happening in our country and in our industry, a rebalancing of the scales, I guess you could say.”
Aniston then shared the important memory from her childhood.
“I’ve been thinking about my relationship with that word – power – which got me thinking about my earliest sense of power. Something that I believe comes with using our voice. And I remember a parental figure saying to me, at the rather critical age of around 11, that after the dinner party I was excused from the table because I didn’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation. Ouch. It stuck with me like painfully worded sentences can,” she said.
The actor then explained how important it was to make sure that everybody – including young people – should know that their voice matters.
“I always felt incredibly comfortable giving a voice to the words of others. But put me at a dinner party table with strangers or put me on a podium like this, and I go right back to being 11 years old,” she continued.
“The last two years have really made me think a lot about the messages we send young kids — little girls especially. How the things that we say and do can either build them up — or tear them down and make them feel like maybe their voices don’t matter.”
Reffering to the fan reaction to Friends when it was first aired, she shared: “I started meeting all of these people who expressed to me how much the show meant to them — how it lifted their spirits during a bad breakup or got them through an illness. I was just so incredibly moved by that. And I began to change the way I thought about my own voice, and what it meant to have a platform to use it.”
Aniston talked about her work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a paediatric facility that provides free medical care to children with life-threatening diseases like cancer. She recalled talking to a seven-year-old girl, Sawyer, who didn’t understand her own cancer diagnosis.
By this point in the speech, Aniston was evidently very emotional.
“That’s what’s unbelievable about these kids. Despite everything that they are up against — and as much pain as they’re often in — they are vibrant, they are joyful, they are fearless,” she said.
“And that is what every child deserves to know. That they are seen, that they are powerful and that they are loved. That they deserve a seat at the table. That anything they have to say — or any question they have to ask — is of value, even if we don’t have all the answers for it.
“Thank you very much for recognising the work of this incredible organisation and for celebrating the power in each and every one of us.”
And that right there is the message she would share: there is a power in each and every one of us, and we should always try to use our voice to hold others up.
Images: Getty, Apple