Looking back over the course of her life, Garner herself doesn’t see many moments that she would go back and change. Nor should she. She attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio, where she considered majoring in chemistry but took up acting instead. Upon graduation, she toiled in New York, working as a hostess at Isabella’s restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side before landing an understudy gig with Broadway’s A Month in the Country. Soon after that, she made her way to Los Angeles, where she found limited success on the much-hyped but ultimately short-lived series Significant Others and Time of Your Life. It was a guest role on J.J. Abrams’s Felicity that became the game changer for her. In 2001, Abrams gave Garner the lead role on his then-new series, Alias. Viewers flipped for her “regular gal by day, hip spy chick by night” performance. Men wanted to date her; women wanted to be her. A star was born.
Yet while her professional life soared, her personal life plummeted. First, there was her very public divorce from then-husband Scott Foley, which was followed by a failed romance with Alias costar Michael Vartan. But keeping in line with her mother’s motto, Garner allowed herself another shot at happiness. She dusted herself off, seized the reins of her life, and grew from the experiences. She told InStyle magazine several years later, “Now I’m much more willing to see myself as human and flawed, and accept someone.”
Garner acknowledges that her successes (and shortcomings) have made her the person she is today. And while the life she’s living now -- replete with fame and the challenges that celebrity can bring -- may not be the one she had imagined for herself, she couldn’t be more grateful for the hand she’s been dealt. “I guess that I never anticipated living in California or doing what I do for a living on this scale,” she says. “Yeah, there are what-ifs, but the funny thing is that I don’t see my life being that different in any permutation. I still see myself as doing what I do and living the way that I live. I still, you know, do the dishes. It’s less glamorous than it seems.”