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Despite spending nearly half her life under the glare of cameras, Jennifer Aniston admits she's still not used to the baggage that comes with it, from paparazzi to the tabloid headlines.
"All that stuff, it's toxic," says the actress. "It never gets un-jarring, but you do have to not let it imprison you, which is possible, too."
To that end, she has her way of insulating herself - sticking tight to a close group of friends and not believing the hype that envelops her.
"There's times when you see people climbing and getting success and you start to see, oh, they're starting to really change. So I always just make the effort to be as humble and grateful as possible," she said.
She certainly seemed that way when she spoke to The Associated Press last week. Despite the swanky setting - a hotel presidential suite - the actress sat on the floor eating a celery stick dipped in ranch dressing as she talked about her latest project, an online digital short she narrated for Aveeno, the natural skin-care brand she represents.
Looking chic but laid-back in a ponytail, dark-rimmed glasses and a slim black blazer, Aniston chatted about challenging herself in her career, a possible sequel to last year's "We're the Millers," her fiance, Justin Theroux, and turning 45.
AP: You're a beauty pitchwoman. What's the weirdest beauty regimen you've tried?
Aniston: I don't go too crazy. You mean like did I ever put leeches on my face? ... The closest I'll ever go is a derma-roller. Google it - it's great. It's like a little wheel that has little pins, like acupuncture needles in a way, and you roll it and it stimulates your collagen and it also allows for your products to seep into your skin.
AP: You're doing a sequel to "Horrible Bosses." Any other characters from your past you'd like to revisit?
Aniston: I think Rose and the Millers would be fun, to kind of see where that's going to go, and I know we're probably going to do another one of those.
AP: You recently celebrated your 45th birthday. Do you pause to reflect on such milestones?
Aniston: I guess it is a milestone. I really try not to focus on it too much, to be honest. Society focuses on it way more than we need to. I think it's always important to reflect anyway, no matter what age you're approaching or what milestone is in front of you. Reflection should be almost a daily thing if possible. Because I was never a 'where do you see yourself in five years' person. I had no idea, and I didn't have a checklist, which really creates a lot less stress in your life.
AP: Though you may not have a checklist, are there other things you want to achieve in Hollywood?
Aniston: I just want to keep trying to surprise myself and I want to keep challenging myself and have the courage to really do that, in spite of possible failure.
AP: Is that harder or easier when you're in the spotlight?
Aniston: You just have to work really hard to tune out the noise and the static. Because it gets louder, and people really have an opinion, and you don't want to shy away from taking chances for fear of what people will say, or living in the wreckage of the future (of) what may be if I do this.
AP: You're producing and starring in the upcoming drama "Cake." How interested are you in more work behind the camera?
Aniston: It's almost more interesting. I think there's something so wonderful about being part of the process from the seed of the idea to seeing it come to life on a screen. And to have a hand in that creatively, not just showing up as an actor for hire.
AP: Will you write and direct?
Aniston: I can't write. I would love to. I don't really have an interest in it, to be honest. I'll leave that to my fiance.
AP: At this point, do you just laugh off all the speculation about your wedding and your future?
Aniston: It's on a level that I don't even understand. It's weird. I think because we are so normal. We're very non-fabulous in any way. They try to create all sorts of narratives to go with a very normal, wonderful life that's just two people loving each other and living life and working and doing the best they can.