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Who was Nancy Dow? Jennifer Aniston had fraught relationship with mom unlike bond with ‘sweet papa’ John

'She was also very unforgiving. She would hold grudges that I just found so petty,' stated the 'Friends' actress about her mother
UPDATED NOV 15, 2022
Jennifer Aniston's mother Nancy Dow (L) and father John Aniston (R) (Brut America/ YouTube screenshot, Jennifer Aniston/Instagram)
Jennifer Aniston's mother Nancy Dow (L) and father John Aniston (R) (Brut America/ YouTube screenshot, Jennifer Aniston/Instagram)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: 'Friend' actress Jennifer Aniston and her family is still mourning over the death of her father, John Aniston. On Friday, November 11, she noted on her Instagram, a touching tribute to her dear father. Though the 53-year-old had a great relationship with her father, she did not have an affectionate bond with her mother, Nancy Dow. 

Dow was a famous model. She also acted in 'The Beverly Hillbillies' and married John Aniston in 1965. Four years later, the duo welcomed their only child. However, when she was 9 years old, her parents got divorced, which intensified the issues between the mother-daughter duo. Jennifer has spoken out about her hardships with her mother in many interviews, reported New York Post. 


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Who was Nancy Dow?

Dow was a Connecticut-born woman. Her parents, Louise and Gordon McLean Dow, had six daughters. She was a model and an actress who acted in 'The Beverly Hillbillies', 'The Wild Wild West', 'The Ice House', and 'Pure'. Before marrying John, she married Jack Melick from 1956 to 1961. The former couple also had a son John T Melick III, in 1959. In 1999, Dow wrote a memoir, 'From Mother and Daughter to Friends,' where she detailed her strained relationship with her daughter, Jennifer, reported People.  

Nancy Dow ( Brut America screenshot/ YouTube)
Nancy Dow ( Brut America screenshot/ YouTube)

The strained relationship between the mother and daughter 

In an interview with Sandra Bullock, Aniston revealed the insecurities of being in a unstable family. "I think that it comes from growing up in a household that was destabilized and felt unsafe, watching adults being unkind to each other, and witnessing certain things about human behavior that made me think: “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to experience this feeling I’m having in my body right now. I don’t want anyone else that I ever come in contact with ever to feel that.” So I guess I have my parents to thank. You can either be angry or be a martyr, or you can say, “You’ve got lemons? Let’s make lemonade," she said, reported Interview Magazine. 

Actress Jennifer Aniston attends smartwater sparkling celebrates Jennifer Aniston and St Jude's Children's Hospital at W Hollywood on February 23, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
 Jennifer Aniston has been vocal about her constant issues with her mother (Mike Windle/Getty Images for smartwater)

Meanwhile, in her 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she made some shocking claims against her mother. “She was critical. She was very critical of me. Because she was a model, she was gorgeous, and stunning. I wasn’t. I never was. I honestly still don’t think of myself in that sort of light, which is fine. She was also very unforgiving. She would hold grudges that I just found so petty.” However, the actress added, “We’re all fine,” but there were years when they didn’t speak. “She had a temper. I can’t tolerate that. If I get upset, I will discuss [things]. I will never scream and get hysterical like that. [But] I was never taught that I could scream. One time, I raised my voice to my mother, and I screamed at her, and she looked at me and burst out laughing. She was laughing at me [for] screaming back. And it was like a punch in my stomach.”.

Though Jennifer had a great relationship with her father, John Aniston, she didn't have a great bond with mother ( Jennifer Aniston/ Instagram)
Though Jennifer had a great relationship with her father, John Aniston, she didn't have a great bond with her mother (Jennifer Aniston/ Instagram)

In Dow's interaction with National Post, she stated, "This has been extremely painful for me," says Dow. "Indeed, I can see her struggle against an urge to weep, visible even behind a rather generous application of makeup. "You spend all this time raising a child, with a lot of good intentions, and you feel you have failed. It makes you feel very ashamed."

There was a time when Jennifer's relationship with her mother was getting better. In an interaction with Vanity Fair in 2005, the actress said, “We’ve exchanged messages. Our doors are open. We’re taking baby steps. It’s a good thing.” She added, “I feel pretty good about the choices I’ve made. The choice of not speaking to Mom for a while—that’s ours. Nobody else has to understand it. The same thing with Brad and myself. I wouldn’t change my childhood, I wouldn’t change my heartaches, I wouldn’t change my successes. I wouldn’t change any of it, because I really love who I am, and am continuing to become."

Actress Jennifer Aniston arrives at the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Wanderlust' held at Mann Village Theatre on February 16, 2012 in Westwood, California.
Actress Jennifer Aniston stated that she has forgiven her family (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

However, Dow died in 2016 after multiple strokes and illness. Jennifer then released a statement saying, "It is with great sadness that my brother John and I announce the passing of our mother, Nancy Dow. She was 79 years old and passed peacefully surrounded by family and friends after enduring a long illness." The statement continued, "We ask that our family's privacy be respected as we grieve our loss," reported Entertainment News. 

The memoir of Nancy Aniston (
The memoir of Nancy Aniston (

She also spoke about her relationship with Dow even in recent interviews. In an interaction with Elle, she said, “She was from this world of, ‘Honey, take better care of yourself,’ or ‘Honey, put your face on,’ or all of those odd sound bites that I can remember from my childhood.” Jennifer also claimed,  “My mom said those things because she really loved me. It wasn’t her trying to be a bitch or knowing she would be making some deep wounds that I would then spend a lot of money to undo. She did it because that was what she grew up with. ‘You want to be happy. It’s hard for big girls.’ She was missing what was [actually] important. I think she was just holding on and doing the best she could, struggling financially and dealing with a husband who was no longer there. Being a single mom in the ’80s I’m sure was pretty crappy.”

She stated in an interview with Allure, Jennifer said, “I think my mom’s divorce really screwed her up, back in that generation it wasn’t like, ‘Go to therapy, talk to somebody. Why don’t you start microdosing?’ You’re going through life and picking up your child with tears on your face and you don’t have any help.” The 53-year-old also claimed, “I forgave my mom, getting back to her human family, I forgave my father, I’ve forgiven my family.” She continued, "Who among us hasn’t tried — successfully or not — to forgive our family? You in the back, put your hand down. You’re lying to yourself. Families are things to be forgiven." “It’s important,” she says. “It’s toxic to have that resentment, that anger. I learned that by watching my mom never let go of it. I remember saying, ‘Thank you for showing me what never to be.’ So that’s what I mean about taking the darker things that happen in our lives, the not-so-happy moments, and trying to find places to honor them because of what they have given to us.”


Further, as her father died on Friday, November 11, she wrote on Instagram, "Sweet papa…⁣ John Anthony Aniston . You were one of the most beautiful humans I ever knew. I am so grateful that you went soaring into the heavens in peace - and without pain. And on 11/11 no less! You always had perfect timing. That number will forever hold an even greater meaning for me now 🕊️I’ll love you till the end of time💔⁣ Don’t forget to visit 💫🤗❤️