How Jennifer Lopez conquered music, romantic comedies and love in the spotlight

IIn the early 2000s, you could barely get around to romcoms. Among the armies of hobbits, Jedis and boy wizards, Sandra Bullock dealt with the needy man-child Hugh Grant in Two weeks noticeReese Witherspoon came to terms with her past in Sweet Home Alabama and Fotoula “Toula” Portokalos was trying to find love under the watchful eye of his insistent family (My Fat Greek Wedding). At the top of this wave of the new millennium was Jennifer Lopez. She starred in box office hits including The wedding planner and Made in Manhattan, alongside his pop career. Compared to her American peers, she was redefining the genre in a way that had never been seen before. “When I started out, one of the things I wanted to do, because I was Puerto Rican, Latina, was I wanted to be in romantic comedies,” Lopez explained in 2019. “I felt like all the women in romantic comedies always looked the same, they always looked white.

Twenty years later, however, the cinematic landscape has changed dramatically. Disney churns out CGI-heavy remakes of childhood favorites, Marvel bombards us with spin-off after spin-off, or there’s Oscar fodder: “worthy” films that seem written with the season in mind. rewards. There was the odd romantic comedy hit – the 2018 adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel crazy rich asianits received two Golden Globe nominations and has been praised for its romcom tropes – but they tend to be anomalies. Other attempts have proven too self-deprecating to appeal to fans of the traditional format. For a moment, it seemed like the romantic comedy had had its day.

But the next week could prove to be the pivotal moment that will spark a true rom-com renaissance on the big screen. Marry me, starring Lopez opposite the perpetually bewildered Owen Wilson, is a rarity today: an all-frills romantic comedy with two Hollywood leads and a ridiculously wacky plot. She is Kat Valdez, a pop superstar who is preparing to marry her fiancé in front of her thousands of fans, until she finds out he is cheating on her. Rather than hide, she takes the stage in full wedding attire and spots Wilson’s character Charlie, the stranger she ends up marrying instead.

While that sounds ridiculous, it also sounds familiar if you’ve followed Lopez’s trajectory. She started working on the project years ago with her former producing partner turned agent, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who recently said it made perfect sense for Lopez to follow the 2019 raunchfest. Hustlers with something more in line with his own life. “She had the opportunity to pull back the curtain and make a movie about what it was like to live and love in a glass bowl, to have your mistakes amplified and crucified across all platforms, and ultimately to find your way despite it. said Goldsmith-Thomas the New York Times. “Add to that the ability to produce and perform a soundtrack for this trip, and we’d be fools not to.”

Lopez began to find his way in 1990, with In living color. All day, hundreds of dancers had been spinning and sweating in the New York audition room. But Keenen Ivory Wayans was still searching. “I had been there for hours and had seen all the dancers in New York,” the series creator recalled in a 2010 episode of the VH1 documentary series, behind the music. “And then this young girl walked up, and a spotlight landed on her and she captivated everyone in the room.”

She started dancing at an early age. Lopez was born in 1969, in New York, to parents who came to the United States from Puerto Rico as children. She took dance lessons and roles in school musicals from the age of five. When she was a teenager, however, her aspirations to become a professional dancer created tension with her strict Catholic parents; after falling out with her mother, Lopez moved to Manhattan and slept in her dance studio for several months.

Lopez credits her first gig in 1989, touring Europe with a musical revue show, for giving her the “tough skin” required for the entertainment business. Regional theater, music videos and dance backup for MC Hammer and New Kids on the Block followed, before she landed her role as Fly Girl on In living color, where she worked for two seasons. “I think I was pretty fearless. I think when you’re younger you’re…ignorance is bliss,” she said of that time. Even in the grainy archive footage death In living color episodes, Lopez’s precision and skill radiate from the screen. “I always consider myself a dancer first,” she said in 2017. “I became a singer and an actress after dancing.”

It wasn’t long before Lopez was hired by a casting director. After a small role in the short-lived TV show central southshe was cast in the CBS series second chances before receiving accolades for her first major film role, as a young Maria Sánchez in the 1995 drama My Family. In 1997, she gave one of her most critically acclaimed performances to date, in the musical biopic Selena. In a throwback to the fierce audition process of In living colorLopez won the role of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez against 20,000 other contestants, becoming the first Latino actor to earn $1 million for a movie. Selena helped Lopez reconnect with her Latin roots and reminded her of how much she missed performing on stage. After she finished filming, she cut a demo in Spanish, but was rebuffed by record companies who wanted English songs. Perhaps as a compromise, she decided that her debut album would be a blend of all her influences, inspired by Selena’s infusion of traditional Puerto Rican and Mexican sounds with soul, rhythm and American pop.


At the same time, Lopez was able to use music to show her fans her true self. “When you make a movie, you play different characters,” she once observed. “People don’t really know you. With music, you really get a sense of who people are. So now, when people see me play, it will be another thing. They will better understand who I am, who Jennifer is.

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Lopez’s debut single “If You Had My Love” was a perfect opening salvo. Its success – topping the US charts for five weeks – came as a shock to critics, who weren’t used to seeing movie stars launch into pop careers with such ease. Still, that shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given the pop masterminds working with Lopez on the track: LaShawn Daniels, Cory Rooney, Lopez, Fred Jerkins III and producer Rodney Jerkins (Darkchild). Using the box of tips they had amassed over years of collaborations with Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige and Mariah Carey, they helped Lopez create her distinctive blend of styles, with her vision at the helm. “I really like Latin music. I like R&B and hip-hop a lot, and I like pop music a lot,” she said. CNN the week the song reached number 1. “I just wanted to hear something that mixed all three.”

While “If You Had My Love” channeled the 30-something’s warmth, charisma and assertive nature, it also established her as a triple threat. Not everyone was convinced. One review hilariously claimed, “In 2020, this album will be part of someone’s doctoral thesis on the dangers of crossover.” Few statements have been so wrong. To date, Lopez has sold over 24 million albums and recorded several singles, including 2002’s “Jenny From the Block,” 2005’s “Get Right” and the club-filling “On the Floor” from her seventh album. To like?. All accompanied by a fruitful acting career.

Of course, not all of his films have been acclaimed. Who could forget Gigli — in which she appeared opposite her then (and still now) boyfriend, Ben Affleck — a box office bomb that’s widely regarded as one of the worst movies of all time. But Lopez recovered two years later with monster in law – Jane Fonda’s first film in 15 years – which grossed $154m (£114m) on a $43m (£32m) budget. Lopez, it seems, doesn’t let the weird raspberry get in the way of hard work. In a piece of 2021 for In the style Celebrating 30 years in the industry, Lopez’s former co-stars marveled at how she was always the first to arrive at work and the last to leave. “Jennifer is an absolute powerhouse,” her friend and fellow actress Charlize Theron told the publication. “I can’t begin to understand how she does everything she does, always giving 120%, and she’s made it seem effortless for 30 years. Calling her a triple threat doesn’t nearly describe her – she’s all threats!”

Matthew McConaughey, co-star of Lopez in the 2001s The wedding planner, agreed: “Extremely deliberate, intentional, completely choreographed and self-aware, she even knows how to make accidents feel like accidents,” he said. “When we were playing scenes together, she would go around take after take like she was timed to a meter, 1:01, 1:00, 1:02, 1:01…but you couldn’t tell she was keeping a clock .”

It was the movie of 2019 Hustlers in which Lopez re-established herself as a cultural force. She set the screen on fire in her career-best performance as exotic dancer-turned-con artist Ramona Vega, all cuddly mommy bear one moment, lean and snarling panther the next, with a hellish pole-dancing streak (something you can’t believe). she replicated months later when she headlined the Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira). You can’t help but wonder if scammerThe writers added her line of dialogue — in which she tells Constance Wu’s character, Destiny, that she’s a “triple threat” — as a conscious nod to her own career.

Lopez and Constance Wu in “Hustlers”

(A Cohen Rosa/Annapurna/STX/Kobal/Shutterstock)

With Marry me, Lopez has come full circle. Along with her genuine passion for romantic comedies, Lopez clearly has a deep understanding of the size of the market for movies like this. She also knows how to maximize their full potential. Not only did she produce and star in the film, but she performs its soundtrack, which is out next week on Friday, February 4. If the film and the album do well, Lopez could repeat his feat of two decades ago, when, with The wedding planner and his second album J Lo, she became the first woman to achieve a No. 1 album and movie in the same week. Thirty years in the game and Jenny from the block is still in control and loving it.

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