Since bursting on to the scene first as a back-up dancer on the sketch comedy show In Living Color, Jennifer Lopez has expanded her career to include nearly all areas of entertainment from music to films, fashion, and beyond. A true trailblazer, she is the world’s biggest Latina artist.
Born in the Bronx borough of New York City, Jennifer Lynn Lopez was the middle daughter born to father David Lopez and mother Guadalupe Rodriguez, both of Puerto Rican heritage. Lopez grew up with older sister Leslie and younger sister Lynda in a small apartment with her father working as a computer technician and her mother as a homemaker. The family later moved into a modest two-story home and it was also around this time that a young Jennifer began her creative direction, taking singing and dancing lessons from the age of five. With both parents strict disciplinarians Jennifer learned very early on the importance of working hard and also speaking English. All three daughters were sent to arts groups to keep them off the streets and a young Jennifer went to Catholic schools, participating in a number of activities, including track at the national level, gymnastics, and softball. Right before her graduation at Preston High School, Jennifer discovered there were auditions for a film and she was eventually cast in the movie My Little Girl, in a small role that piqued her interest in pursuing a career in Hollywood. The idea to enter the entertainment industry didn’t sit well with her parents, however, and so, to appease their wishes, she attended Baruch College. Her time there only lasted one semester though, before she dropped out and set her sights for a career in entertainment against her parents’ wishes.
A determined Lopez moved out of the family home and got an apartment in Manhattan, where she began taking singing and acting lessons and auditioning throughout the city. During this time, she performed in several theatrical productions, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Oklahoma!. Next, she was cast as part of the chorus for Golden Musicals of Broadway, which toured in Europe for nearly half a year. After this show, she was cast in Synchronicity in Japan, featured as a singer, dancer, and choreographer.
After performing overseas, Jennifer Lopez returned to America and soon landed a role as a backup dancer in 1991 for New Kids on the Block, where she danced during their performance at the 18th Annual American Music Awards. It was soon thereafter that she landed her biggest high-profile gig up to that point as a Fly Girl for the television sketch comedy show In Living Color. From over 2,000 applicants, Lopez made it to the finals of the auditions and eventually received a spot on the show when the winner couldn’t accept the role. For two years, Lopez was a featured dancer on the show as she continued to pursue acting full-time. Before leaving the show, Lopez worked as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson, even touring with the star until the end of 1993, when she ultimately decided to spread her wings and make a name for herself as a solo artist.
As a professional actress, Jennifer Lopez got her first big break acting alongside Lindsay Wagner and Robert Loggia in the direct-to-video drama Lost in the Wild in 1993. Later that year, Lopez co-starred in the CBS production Second Chances. Her first major silver screen role was in 1995 for director Gregory Nava’s drama My Family. Her uncredited role in the movie as a young Maria gained Lopez an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress. In November of 1995, she starred opposite Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in Money Train, with the performance receiving excellent reviews and noting the chemistry she had with her co-stars.
The following year, Lopez appeared in the comedic film Jack, and then followed the role up alongside actors Jack Nicholson and Stephen Dorff in the noir film Blood and Wine. Her next film, Selena, involved a lengthy audition process before finally being cast in the film in the titular role about the Tejano pop star murdered during her rise to fame. Her rave reviews in the role catapulted her to stardom, and in an effort to capitalize on her newfound fame, Lopez recorded demos in Spanish and English in search of a record deal. Eventually, Tommy Mottola, the head of Sony Entertainment Work Group, signed the young artist to an English language record deal.
On the big screen, Lopez’s next role was alongside Oscar winner Jon Voight and rapper/actor Ice Cube in the horror movie Anaconda. Next, she appeared with Oscar winners Sean Penn and Billy Bob Thornton in the film U-Turn, which received rave reviews for the entire cast. Starring alongside George Clooney in a film directed by Steven Soderbergh, Out of Sight further established Lopez as a bankable Hollywood actress and she became the first Latina actress in history to command over $1 million for a role.
Hoping to expand upon her success in films, Jennifer Lopez next embarked on solidifying herself as a triple-threat with the release of her debut album On the 6. The debut single from the album If You Had My Love reached #1 on the Billboard charts and ignited her career as a pop singer. Since her first album, Lopez has released five more albums, all of which have achieved worldwide success and topped several Billboard charts, with her total sales over $60 million over the course of her career.
Lopez has not only grown her empire on stage, but also behind the scenes as well in several business ventures. In 2002, she debuted her first perfume, Glow by J.Lo, which became the best-selling fragrance in the United States upon its debut. Since then, she has released 15 new fragrances that are sold exclusively through HSN. After the success of her perfume line, Lopez debuted her clothing line, appropriately called JLO.
Jennifer Lopez has also leant her name and image to several products for endorsement, including L’Oreal, appearing as a judge on American Idol, and performing in Vegas in an ongoing residency that has netted her huge profits over the most recent years. Her work as a producer has led to the show Shades of Blue and the dance competition World of Dance.
Referred to affectionately as ‘Jenny from the Block’ or ‘J-Lo’ by her fans and the media, Jennifer Lopez has steadily built a career that weaves between all aspects of entertainment and is considered a true diva of her generation. Worldwide, she is viewed as a fashion icon, regularly featured in magazines globally as one of the world’s most beautiful women. The original Versace dress she wore at the 42nd Grammy Awards introduced her into the fashion world and her foray into merchandising has only increased her name recognition.
Also characterized as a serial monogamist, Lopez has dated many men in Hollywood, including three marriages and relationships with Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs, Ben Affleck (who she was engaged to), and Casper Smart, her backup dancer that is nearly twenty years her junior. While dating Combs, Lopez was arrested and later released when a nightclub outing turned disastrous. In 2006, Lopez filed an injunction against first husband Ojani Noa to block the release of a personal materials produced before she became a celebrity.
The JLO fashion line also received heavy press for featuring fur and was targeted by a smear campaign by PETA member (and former wife of Paul McCartney) Heather Mills.
Her acting skills have also been negatively reviewed by the press and she received a Razzie for Worst Actress for the film Gigli in 2003.
Jennifer Lopez has been married three times: she was briefly married to model and actor Ojani Noa. She dated hip hop mogul Sean Combs for two years before leaving him after a nightclub shooting. She soon began dating a backup dancer Cris Judd from her show, who first appeared with her in the hit single ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’. The pair married in September 2001, but by 2002, she had divorced Judd and was dating actor Ben Affleck. By November of 2002, the two were engaged and they became the biggest media sensation for years. By early 2004, Lopez and Affleck had called off the wedding and she soon began dating Latin singer Marc Anthony. In June 2004, Lopez and Anthony wed at a private Los Angeles mansion with only a few guests in attendance. The couple gave birth to twins, Max and Emme on February 22, 2008. By 2011, however, the couple announced divorce proceedings.
Most recently, she has been dating backup dancer Casper Smart, in an on-and-off relationship that the press closely follows. Nevertheless, she has also been linked with current hip hop sensation Drake.
- True Love by Jennifer Lopez
Written by: Triston Brewer