Dancer, singer, actor, producer and soon-to-be director? Here she opens up about her constant quest for reinvention
“People try to put women to sleep at a certain age. Second Act is a story that empowers every woman to do more, to be more and not limit their dreams,” Jennifer Lopez told Variety, the American entertainment industry’s bible, in June 2017.
The singer, actress and producer was talking about her next film, a romantic comedy, but she might as well have been commenting on her own life and career. At 48, she shows no sign of slowing down in a business that privileges youth. She’s preparing to shoot Second Act, which she will executive produce and star in as, in Variety’s words, “a big box store (think Costco) employee who reinvents her life and her lifestyle, which gets her the chance to prove to Madison Avenue that street smarts are as valuable as a college degree.”
This should be fairly easy for the queen of reinvention herself. Starting as a dancer on TV’s In Living Color, Jennifer broke into acting and became the highest paid Latin actress in Hollywood. She made chart-topping records as a singer, and in 2011 made waves — and a whole new generation of fans — as arguably the most stylish American Idol judge ever.
These days, she’s back on TV via the series Shades of Blue, of which she’s the producer and lead star, and as executive producer and judge on World of Dance, a new dance competition show. In May 2018, J.Lo plays Rose Alvarez in a live TV production of the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie. She drops in for a quick chat.
Is there anything else you’d like to do?
I would love to learn how to play instruments. Guitar mostly, or piano, because I hate not knowing something when I’m around musicians. I’ve learned a lot from being in the music business and recording and such. But not as much as I’d like to know.
Can you play instruments by ear?
I can hum, and then find the notes and play, because I can sing. But it takes forever. It’s not fun. I would love to be able to just be like, la da da [sings, pretends to play a guitar and laughs] but I can’t.
It’s still a struggle for many women to be given key positions, especially in Hollywood. And for some women who do succeed, they sometimes encounter resistance. How do you navigate that as an executive producer of Shades of Blue?
I think it comes naturally. When you’re experienced at what you do, you don’t have to assert power. People respect what you have to say. That’s how it’s been with this project. When I say something, the directors, producers and actors respect it because they know that I’m in it with them. I’m not going to lead them astray; I want this show to be the best that it can be. They can tell by my work ethic, how I show up and how I’m willing to deliver. That gains everybody’s respect and then I can move on from there.
You juggle many responsibilities — being a mother, being on stage and more. Where do you get the energy and focus?
Being a dancer and an athlete — I started running when I was very young, like at nine or 10 years old — all of that made me very focused and disciplined to work hard. I’ve carried that throughout my life. And I have a tremendous drive to grow, be better and to do more things. I have a passion for what I do. Passion is what carries you through when you get tired.
What about time for yourself?
Time for myself is about having time at home with the kids, and having time to sit with myself, with nothing to do. I’m always juggling things and the kids. So Jennifer time is about sitting and being in my own body, being calm, thinking and clearing my thoughts, or taking a bath or staring out into the sky and enjoying the fresh air.
You’re energetic and a multi-tasker. Do you already see that in your children?
Even though they’re twins, my children are different from each other. They’re loving, bright and joyful, but they have different personalities. My daughter is quiet, artistic and introverted. My son is boisterous, energetic and brilliant. They’re very yin-yang.
What advice would you give to the youth?
The biggest message that I could ever put out there is to love oneself. When we love ourselves, we make good choices. When we don’t and we aren’t focused on that, we make bad choices. Everybody should be about making the best choices for themselves, about making good choices in personal partnerships, and about making good choices in their work lives. When we don’t truly and genuinely care about ourselves, and we don’t think we have worth or value — which is something many people struggle with — we wind up making bad decisions. We’re taught to love and take care of others, but not of ourselves, but that’s where everything begins. Caring for the self is where all good things emanate — it comes from within each one of us.
Photo by Kathy Hutchins / shutterstock.com
This story first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Smile magazine.