Why Angelina Jolie's Post-Divorce Life Looks Nothing Like Brad Pitt's

Heavily guarded Vanity Fair interview shows that the mother of six is pressing forward without concern for rallying the public to her side

By Natalie Finn Jul 26, 2017 8:15 PMTags

Angelina Jolie's first major post-split interview is here!

And yes, that was a slight thud you just heard.

While couched in prosaic detail and still a very good read, Vanity Fair's September 2017 cover story on Jolie is nothing like GQ Style's get of the year, its sprawling Q&A with Brad Pitt published in May that turned him into the poster boy for introspection and self-awareness as he riffed on his issues, the demise of his marriage and a dozen other existential topics.

But that's how Angelina Jolie wanted it to be, so that's how it is.

The main thing still uniting them as the exes navigate their new post-split world (the article mentions that the terms of their divorce are still being hashed out), other than 12 years of shared memories, is their offspring, the six children who make a cameo in the VF article to illustrate one of the few relatable aspects of Jolie's life—the joys and stresses of raising six kids between the ages of 9 and 15.

Pitt is a devoted father, one who like Jolie is also now getting used to the co-parenting routine after months spent repairing relationships and working out the details that needed to be worked out in the wake of Jolie's initial request for sole custody of Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh, Pax, Knox and Vivienne when she filed for divorce last September.

But Pitt's also managed to practically reinvent himself at the same time, turning back into the cool fellow who did fun stuff like guest-starring on Friends and robbing casinos with George Clooney (on film, that is) while constantly eating.


Pitt has mastered the art of the surprise appearance, starting with him turning up unannounced at the Golden Globes back in January and continuing with his amusing stint as the disgruntled Weatherman on, of all random places, The Jim Jeffries Show on Comedy Central, as well as his well-crafted cameo during Frank Ocean's set at FYF Fest last weekend.

He's also once again the subject of dating speculation (all said to be off the mark so far) and has otherwise eased right back into the spotlight with a wink and a smile. And the spotlight welcomed him with open arms.

Arms that are of course wide open for Jolie, too, but her return to her version of normality has been more about being seen as a present, unflappable mother than a cool, congenial movie star.

"I think it's very important to cry in the shower and not in front of the children. They need to know that everything's going to be all right even when you're not sure it is," she told Vanity Fair, which focused more on the Oscar winner's overall road to where she is now, including the sequence of events that first brought her to Cambodia 17 years ago and back again to adopt Maddox in 2002. (All in connection with Jolie's most recent directorial effort, First They Killed My Father, which she shot in Cambodia last summer as things with Brad got, as she summed it up, "difficult.")

But while an article can leisurely tell her story, Jolie didn't have the luxury of having time to unravel and then pausing her day-to-day to re-find herself again right now. She's discovered plenty about who she is over the past 11 months of this painful journey, to be sure, but as she admitted to VF, she has at all times been focused on the kids' well-being—and if that includes pushing her emotions under the rug until she has a rare moment alone, then so be it.

She even battled Bell's palsy last year, in addition to hypertension—and she plowed through that in silence, just as she's always chosen to tackle health issues in private and not inform the public until there's a definitive outcome to share.

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"Sometimes women in families put themselves last, until it manifests itself in their own health," Jolie said. As for experiencing drier skin and growing some extra gray hairs, she cracked, "I can't tell if it's menopause or if it's just been the year I've had."

But ultimately, "I actually feel more of a woman because I feel like I'm being smart about my choices, and I'm putting my family first, and I'm in charge of my life and my health. I think that's what makes a woman complete."

Aren't women just damned if they do and damned if they don't? As Jennifer Aniston noted in a scathing Huffington Post essay last year, she was sick of the implications that her life was somehow incomplete because she didn't have children and/or wasn't married (she tied the knot with Justin Theroux in 2015, 10 years after her divorce from Pitt). And here's Jolie, who has six children, still feeling the need to reassert her perspective because she'd rather not be viewed as being diminished as a person by her divorce.

AP Photo/Heng Sinith

In his interview, Pitt enumerated his shortcomings, talked about how he had been drinking too much before the split, revealed he had a newfound love for counseling and otherwise laid out how he contributed to the end of his marriage—and he was widely applauded for it. In fact, he charmed the socks off of his public with his deep dive into himself.

Jolie, barring some unfathomably unsympathetic revelation, would have probably achieved the same, should she have chosen to go into more detail about the immediate aftermath of the split (as Jennifer Garner did with Vanity Fair in March 2016 talking about her breakup with Ben Affleck for the first time) or what led to it, or how she made the decision after two years of marriage and 12 years of togetherness. The enigmatic star has certainly shared intimate information with the world before.

But in-depth essays about surgeries and women's health were about herself, and this situation isn't just about her, or even just about her and Pitt. It's about their family of eight.


It seems fairly obvious she's still not thrilled with her ex (or at least wasn't when she gave the interview), particularly when she remarked that the kids ("six very strong-minded, thoughtful, worldly individuals") had been "very brave. They were very brave." Asked when, she replied curtly, "In times they needed to be."

She added, "We're all just healing from the events that led to the filing...They're not healing from divorce. They're healing from some...from life, from things in life."

Overall, she still seems to be abiding by the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" adage. Her various pauses and other unspoken indicators of emotion were minutely chronicled, so there was apparently plenty between the lines to interpret in person. And nothing about that is strange, particularly since the split wasn't initially "amicable" or whatever other words celebrities often use to vaguely describe the breakdown of a relationship. The real miracle workers are the couples who immediately look like best friends post-split, no matter how much they're acting their butts off to appear so. 

"Angelina will always do what's in the best interest of taking care of her family," Jolie's manager told E! News after she filed for divorce on Sept. 19, 2016, Her lawyer said that she had taken action "for the health of her family."

Jolie reminded via her interview that divorce doesn't just happen to the couple when there are children involved, and though Pitt went the balls-to-the-wall route to clear the air, Jolie didn't think it appropriate for her to do so as well—a point she none-too-subtly made when she talked about being happy with her choices and putting family first—and when she offered that anecdote about crying in the shower, explaining, "I was very worried about my mother growing up—a lot. I do not want my children to be worried about me."

What she offered now, as far as where Pitt fits into the equation, is this: "We care for each other and care about our family, and we are both working towards the same goal."

It's just that the roads couldn't look more different.