Jennifer Aniston, actress and producer, was among six celebrities – Awkwafina, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Brie Larson and Dana Walden – who were honored for their humanitarian efforts at the 11th edition of Variety Power of Women luncheon.
Held in Los Angeles, the Friends star was recognized for her work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She took the stage and shared that to her true power means using one’s voice to hold people up and bring them together.
In a heartfelt speech, the actress, who has been in the industry for the past 30 years, revealed that she has never considered herself powerful. “It’s funny, I’ve never actually thought of myself as ‘powerful.’ Strong, yes. But powerful, not [really],” Aniston said. “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.”
Jennifer Aniston also spoke about her own relationship with the word power. “I remember a parental figure saying to me around the critical age of about 11, after a dinner party, that I was excused from the table because I didn’t have anything interesting to add to the conversation,” she continued. “It stuck with me like painfully worded sentences can and if I’m being honest — and I’m being honest because I’m 50 and that comes with the territory — I carried that sentence with me into adulthood.”
According to The Morning Show actress, she always felt incredibly comfortable giving a voice to the words of others. “But put me in a table full of strangers and I’d go right back to being 11 years old,” she added.
During her speech, Aniston said that the last two years have made her think a lot about the messages we send to young kids, especially little girls. “How the things we say and do can either build them up – or tear them down. And make them feel like maybe their voices don’t matter.”
The 50-year-old actress said that it was because of her popular show Friends that she started seeing herself in a “different light.”
She furthered, “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.”
Besides, Aniston shared that her Friends mom Marlo Thomas introduced her to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric facility that provides free medical care to children with life-threatening diseases like cancer. “Right around this time every fall, we shoot the holiday PSA, and I get to spend the day with a family of St. Jude. I always say it’s the best day of the year and the hardest day of the year,” she said, recalling meeting a little girl at a taping a few years ago who asked her, “What is cancer?” Aniston said she was moved by the fact that the seven-year-old, Sawyer, was fighting a deadly disease, but didn’t know its name.
“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 added.
“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.”
– Courtesy: Variety