Jen­nifer Lopez

WHY THIS WILL BE HER YEAR

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Words YAEL KO­HEN Pho­to­graphs JOE PUGLIESE

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’

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