WHY THIS WILL BE HER YEAR
It’s the end of a long day, the sun is setting and Jennifer Lopez is coming down the hall of her giant Manhattan apartment in grey sweats and a white T-shirt. She is also barefoot. The image is a little arring at rst ecause I’d expected – at the very least – heels (Louboutins, naturally), and also her laid-back casualness contrasts so sharply with her superstar image and the haute design of her cavernous living room. The room itself is the combination of Zen and ash I’d always associated with her. Until I met this pyjama-clad version, anyway. At rst I think maybe she’s trying to pro ect the image that she’s just like the rest of us (you know, ‘Jenny From the Block’). But as we settle in on her balcony, surrounded by luscious greenery, I get the sense that Jennifer really does just want to curl up in front of the T , nish bingewatching House of Cards, then fall asleep.
‘This is probably the busiest year of my life, ever,’ she says, and I believe her. Today, for instance, she’s just come off a nine-hour shoot for her new US TV series, Shades of Blue, which she is also executive producing. That’s on top of her other duties, which include overseeing a £160 million (about R3.5 billion) clothing and perfume empire, spokesmodelling for cosmetics giant L’Oréal, gearing up to judge the nal season of American Idol (for which she travels on weekends) and working on her music – tinkering mainly, but she says she might have a new release soon. Oh, and let’s not forget her kids, seven-year-old twins Max and Emme. But the main project taking over her headspace these days is a new show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, which premieres on 20 January and will run for 40 shows a year for the next two years. ‘I’ve been preparing my whole life for this moment,’ she says. ‘I’ve done a lot of awards shows and performances and private shows but I have never been able to create the de ning show for myself and for my music. So I’m super excited about it.’
It all sounds like a lot of multitasking, yet Jennifer seems to be in control. She is 46 (although she looks at least a decade younger) and age, it turns out, has its bene ts, even in the notoriously ageist industry of show business. ‘I learned a lot from that time in my life when I did overstretch myself,’ she says, referring to the early 2000s when she reportedly had a breakdown. ‘I can handle it better because I go, “No, I’m not going to work on that day”, or “No, I am going to take those three days off”. And you realise the sky is not going to fall, even though everybody makes you feel like it’s going to. I am able to put up healthy boundaries and still schedule the things I need to. Did I maybe take on too much this year and I won’t do it next year? Yes.’
While Jennifer might have better learned to use the word no, frankly, it’s hard to imagine she has any plans to slow down. Born and raised in the Bronx, Jennifer has a history of keeping one foot simultaneously in multiple projects, always, it seems, with an eye on the next thing. It’s probably the key to her success. By now it’s practically lore: how a Bronxbred Latina of Puerto Rican descent ascended from background dancer to megastar. First there were the acting roles – a star turn in Selena (1997) that led to a Golden Globe nomination, rave reviews for Out of Sight (1998), eventual rom-com princess in The Wedding Planner (2001) and Maid In Manhattan (2002). Then, there was the way she sidestepped that acting career to make a very risky play for a pop music one. In 1999, her debut single, ‘If You Had My Love’, peaked at number one on the charts and was a dance club insta-classic, and she followed that up with more hits.
Then, suddenly, she became a fashion icon, walking the red carpet in a certain green Versace gown. The images of Jennifer in that dress were such a popular internet search term that it inspired Google to create Google Image Search (the dress even has its own Wikipedia page). Over the past decade, there also emerged Jennifer Lopez, shrewd businesswoman and brand with her own production company (she is currently working on an ‘edgy’ cable comedy about moms, and a miniseries that covers the history of Latinos in California). Then there’s her more than 30 million followers on Instagram, which she updates regularly, often showing off the sense of humour that’s hard to capture right now, one-on-one with a stranger.
This ascent wasn’t as smooth as it seems. There were the rumours of diva behaviour, the tumultuous love life that made her a xture in the tabloids, and the string of movie box-of ce ops – most infamously 2003’s Gigli (rumoured to have ended her relationship with then ancé Ben Affleck). Even last year, the low-budget The Boy Next Door may have been very profitable, but it wasn’t critically acclaimed. And while she can still pull off a buzzy single (see 2014’s ‘Booty’ with Iggy Azalea), her overall album sales have been on the wane. It doesn’t really matter, though, because Jennifer is an icon who more than anyone else brought Latino culture into the mainstream. She is savvy and sharp, and she knows that if she wants to stay relevant, she needs to be the driver of her own work. ‘If you let them, they’ll make you only have a season. And it’s like, “No, I’m here and I still have a lot more to say and a lot more to do.” It doesn’t matter what race I am, how old I am, what gender I am. I have something to say and I have something left to do,’ she says.
Even though Jennifer has been through some big, messy public breakups, including her failed engagement to Ben Affleck, and most recently a divorce (her third) from Marc Anthony, Latin superstar and father of her two children, she has said she still believes in the fairy tale, even if she says she’s going to be smarter about it. And although she’s had an on-again-offagain relationship with 28-year-old actor Casper Smart, she seems to speak of her girlfriends (among them two sisters, her mother, and talk-show host Leah Remini) as her truer loves. ‘I think I realised they were as important – if not more important – when I divorced Marc. I just realised that I had been through that a couple of times and there they still were,’ she says. ‘Like they say, men come and go, but my girlfriends are always there for me.’ Eventually, it’s time for me to go and, as Lopez walks back through her giant apartment, I get a glimpse of her tush, which is looking, well, ‘normal’. Whether the shapeless silhouette of the pants is deceiving me doesn’t matter. Because I get it. Sometimes even J.Lo needs to turn it off.
‘It doesn’t matter what race I am, how old I am, what gender I am. I have something to say and something left to do. I feel like I won’t ever stop’