STILL FROM THE BLOCK
he year: 1998. The town: Hollywood. Jennifer Lopez, an ambitious newcomer, is strategising her way to the top of the heap, but she’s not there yet, not even close. Sure, she scored a Golden Globe nomination for her first leading role in Selena the year before and has just managed to steal the spotlight from George Clooney in Out Of Sight. But Lopez has bigger plans. She wants to change things, she tells anyone who will listen.
In the era of the waif, when super-slender English model Kate Moss is the epitome of beauty and Kim Kardashian’s rear end is still sitting behind a high-school desk, Lopez is unashamedly flaunting her curves. When Clooney is paid millions more than she is, she calls out the gender pay gap. At a time when most faces on television and in films are still overwhelmingly white, Lopez proudly celebrates her Hispanic roots and campaigns for roles beyond the standard maid or best friend. And this is all before Lopez debuts music that drives the Latin pop breakthrough in the Western world, shifts the celebrity fragrance industry into overdrive and inadvertently inspires the creation of Google Images when she wears that now-famous eye-popping green dress to the Grammys.
Two decades after that late-’90s foray into an industry she would indeed help to change, as the now-49 year old sits down with Stellar she reflects that the goal she set for herself way back at the beginning has been well and truly kicked. “I do feel like things have changed,” she says. “There are so many Latina actresses and actors from different backgrounds working now, and the bodies we see have changed dramatically from 20 years ago. I feel like I was at the forefront of that, not by trying to do that, but just by being myself and saying: ‘ This is how I grew up, and this is who I am.’ I identify with the women in my family, the girls I grew up with. It’s a different thing [to the mainstream]. I was made to feel good about that by my family, so I was able to go out into the world and be proud of that.”
Lopez may have been many things – dancer, actor, singer, producer, talent judge, entrepreneur, wife, mother – over the 20-something years she’s been in the spotlight, but the one thing she’s been throughout it all is, fiercely, herself. “People say, ‘Oh, one person can’t change things…’ but it’s not true. If I just concentrate on being my best self, and doing my best, somehow that impacts other people.”
With her goal of changing the face of popular culture now achieved, Lopez would be forgiven for wanting to have a little rest. But, on the cusp of 50, she insists she’s only hitting her stride, with projects aplenty in the pipeline, 10-year-old twins to raise, and a romance that is refreshingly short on drama.
T he world Lopez now inhabits is far removed from New York’s workingclass Bronx, where she was raised with two sisters by her Puerto Rican parents before catching her first break in 1991 as one of the Fly Girls who danced between segments on the US sketch comedy series In Living Color. (Her choreographer? Another Puerto RicanAmerican named Rosie Perez.) Yet all these years and millions of dollars later, Lopez is sticking to the credo that defines one of her most recognisable pop hits: we shouldn’t be fooled by the rocks that she’s got. She may no longer be working class, Lopez concedes, “But I am still working my arse off,” she insists. “Listen, I lived in the Bronx until I was 23 years old. It’s like when you’re from Italy. Just because you don’t live there anymore, you’re still very Italian. That’s who you are. It’s like it was yesterday that I was there. And even though I’ve travelled the world and been everywhere and I live now in Los Angeles, I’m still just a girl from the Bronx deep down. I love working the way I do, and luckily I have a good work ethic.”
And it has paid off. Lopez has earned $65 million this year – in part thanks to a record-breaking Las Vegas residency that wrapped just a few days before she joined Stellar on a sunny terrace at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.
She’s tired, she admits, but Lopez Inc. never takes a break: yesterday she was continuing to shoot the second season of TV competition World Of Dance, which she executive produces and judges. And then there is her new film Second Act, which marks another double whammy: she produced it and she’s also the star.
The fish-out-of-water tale follows Maya Vargas, a 40-year-old assistant manager at a supermarket whose street smarts aren’t giving her the opportunities she wants, and don’t often come the way of older Latina women without a higher education.
Lopez immediately related to the storyline, developed by her longtime producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-thomas. “If you don’t get those opportunities from your parents, [but] you’re talented, you’re smart, you’re ambitious… you have to find your own way in,” she says, before pausing and opening the discussion to include her boyfriend, former New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez. “It’s funny; Alex loved it the most because he got drafted when he was 18 and always hated that he didn’t go to college. He is in the private-equity world now. And everybody we meet, all the people that work for him and me, are all [educated at] Harvard. We found our way, you know, and that’s what Maya does.”
Since the start of her career, Lopez’s romantic life has been an endless source of fascination. She has been married three times: there was Ojani Noa, the Cuban waiter from the early
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