Jennifer Lopez Biography
So many film stars have attempted to launch a career in film; so many hit musicians have sought further success in the movies. Think Madonna, Bruce Willis, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Keanu Reeves, Mariah Carey, the list goes on and on. Yet none of them have ever matched the monumental parallel achievements of Jennifer Lopez. Three multi-million-selling albums, and counting: several major blockbusters: Hollywood pay packets breaking the $12 million mark, AND a Golden Globe nomination. Then there’s the clothing line, the cosmetics and fragrances. The woman is truly an all-singing, all-dancing phenomenon.
In 1999, Lopez released her debut studio album On the 6, which spawned number one hit single, “If You Had My Love”. Her second studio album, J.Lo (2001), was a commercial success, selling eight million copies worldwide. J to tha L-O!: The Remixes (2002), became her second consecutive album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200. Her third and fourth studio albums—This Is Me… Then (2002) and Rebirth (2005) peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. In 2007, Lopez released two albums, including her first full Spanish-language album, Como Ama una Mujer, and her fifth English studio album, Brave. She won the 2003 American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist and the 2007 American Music Award for Favorite Latin Artist. To date, Lopez has sold over 25 million albums worldwide.
She was born in the Castle Hill area of New York’s Bronx on the 24th of July, 1970, growing up on Blackrock Avenue. Her father, David, was a computer technician, eventually working for Guardian Insurance. Mother Guadalupe (nee Rodriguez) was a kindergarten teacher working up in Westchester County. The couple both hailed from Ponce (though David’s maternal great-parents were European), the second largest city in Puerto Rico, but had met in America, where they were both brought as children.
Jennifer and her two sisters, Leslie (now a housewife and opera singer) and Lynda (a DJ, VJ and entertainment reporter), grew up in a small apartment which was “cold in the winter, hot in the summer”. But “Hey”, Jennifer later recalled “there was always rice and beans”. And there was music. To keep the kids off the streets, Guadalupe would encourage them to put on little performances in the front room, singing and dancing.
Salsa and merengue were favourites, with West Side Story viewed on many occasions – being about their people in their kind of neighbourhood. Jennifer claims to have seen the movie over 100 times. As a kid, she always admired Rita Moreno for her feistiness, her hot dancing and her cool boyfriend, yet ambition told her she should want to be Natalie Wood’s Maria – the star.
This ambition was fed from an early age. Jennifer began singing and dancing lessons from the age of 5 (at 7 her school dance class would tour New York), continuing through 8 years at the Catholic Holy Family high school in the Bronx, and another 4 at the all-girl Preston High School. Here she also proved herself to be an excellent athlete, pursuing softball, tennis, gymnastics and track events. She wasn’t ever much of a student, though. When later asked what she got on her SATs, she joked “Nail polish”.
Something of a tomboy, she grooved to R&B and the new electro and hip-hop scenes and was reputedly not to be messed with. Physically a slow developer, she claims not to have felt like “a hot babe” till, at age 15, she started going out with David Cruz, “the best-looking guy in the neighbourhood”, a relationship that would continue for some 9 years.
Two years before the Cruz experience, at 13, she gained her famous profile when a truck carrying cylinders of compressed gas hit her mother’s car. One of the truck’s headlights came through the windscreen and crashed into the back of the car, where young Jennifer was sitting. Luckily, she was bent down, tying her shoelace and received only a broken nose, rather than a face fit only for a starring role in Mask.
At 16, Jennifer won her first film role, as Myra in Connie Kaiserman’s My Little Girl, where Mary Stuart Masterson played a rich woman who volunteers to help institutionalized orphans in Philadelphia and must overcome much opposition. But this didn’t kick-start Jennifer’s career, it simply gave her a tantalising taste.
After graduating from High School, she entered a period of frenetic activity. Enrolling at Baruch College in Manhattan, she also held down a job in a law office and, at night, continued with her dance classes. Unsurprisingly, her college career lasted just one semester. Guadalupe, keen on her daughter continuing her education and doubting her chances in showbiz, was incensed. So Jennifer moved out, for a while sleeping in the building where she’d won a scholarship to study dance.
For a while, Guadalupe was proved absolutely correct. Even while still in high school, Jennifer had performed in musicals and on chorus lines, but nothing big. She was in local productions of Oklahoma and Jesus Christ Superstar, there was a brief European tour with the Golden Musicals of Broadway revue, but after a year and a half of auditioning, there was no real hope of a breakthrough. When she failed an audition to dance in the Wayans brothers’ comedy show, In Living Color, she was on the verge of breakdown.
Fortunately, her luck changed rapidly. She won a place on a Japanese tour of choreographer Hinton Battle’s Synchronicity. On her return, she received a call from Hollywood, saying she’d now been accepted for In Living Color, and could join the Flygirls, the dance group whose routines opened and closed the show, choreographed by Rosie Perez. Off she went to the west coast, but hated it, only settling when Cruz moved out to join her. When their relationship ended, in 1994, he would move back to the Bronx, opening a dry-cleaning business.
In Living Color was, of course, a huge hit, launching the Wayans brothers, as well as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and Chris Rock. Working under Perez, Jennifer gained valuable experience, but was keen to proceed with an acting career. It was Keenan Ivory Wayans who persuaded her to stick with the show for two years, to gain both further knowledge and financial security.
Eventually, she did leave, continuing to dance in several music videos, most notably Janet Jackson’s That’s The Way Loves Goes. But, offered Jackson’s world tour, she turned it down, resolute in her thespian ambition and moving into more TV work. First came the movie The Crash Of Flight 7, starring Lindsay Wagner and Robert Loggia, where one of three planes on their way to a remote medical outpost crashes in the Mexican jungle. Immediately the search is on to locate and rescue any survivors, Jennifer playing heroic nurse Rosie Romero.
After this came three series in quick succession. First was Second Chances, created by husband and wife Lynn Marie Latham and Bernard Lechowick, part of the Knots Landing team. Here three women, each finding her life in turmoil, are drawn together as a “second chance” comes their way. Then came the infinitely more streetwise South Central, Jennifer having been recommended to the producer by his wife, one of her co-dancers in the Flygirls.
This concerned the Mosley family and in particular mother Joan, as she tried to keep her son Andre (Larenz Tate – Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) on the straight and narrow amidst the drugs, guns and bloody money of one of LA’s roughest districts. Jennifer would appear in a recurring role, as a cashier in a local business.
In terms of continuity, Second Chances had been a disaster. Not only were the sets destroyed in an earthquake, but two of the stars fell pregnant. The producers decided it wasn’t worth rebuilding, or writing in some weird Dallas-style plot about a plague of alien impregnations, so they moved on. However, they had been impressed by the public response to Jennifer and her screen father, and brought their characters back in their next project, Hotel Malibu (very rare, that).
Here Joanna Cassidy played a tough cookie who runs the family hotel after her husband pegs it, her sly son all the while trying to sell the business so he can pay off corrupt government officials. Jennifer returned as Melinda Lopez, now the new bar assistant in the hotel.
Now, at last, she was on the rise. In Gregory Nava’s My Family, she inhabited the 1930s as the director followed three generations of an immigrant Mexican family in Los Angeles, Jennifer winning an Independent Spirit nomination for her efforts. Then came the first blockbuster, when she came in between Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, just as her former dance-leader Rosie Perez had in White Men Can’t Jump. In Money Train, Harrelson and Snipes are transit cops who decide to rob the train carrying all the day’s taking on the New York subway system. Naturally, they fall out over new partner Grace Santiago (Jennifer), an all-action kinda gal who punches Wesley out in the ring.
Money Train wasn’t great, but it was high-profile, with a public uproar over several copycat arson assaults on the transit system. Senator Bob Dole even demanded a boycott of the film. Jennifer was now getting hot, managing to beat both Ashley Judd and Lauren Holly to the role of Miss Marquez in Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack. Here Robin Williams played a kid with an extreme ageing disorder that has him looking 40 at the age of 10. With a severe crush on teacher Jennifer, he woos her with Gummi Bears and invites her to the school dance, while she has to gently let him down.
Like Money Train, Jack was not a big success, but Jennifer was getting into the habit of surviving such situations unscathed. She moved on to Blood And Wine, where Jack Nicholson played a wine dealer in a failing marriage to Judy Davis. Looking for a big score, he steals a diamond necklace from some rich folks and begins an affair with their sultry Cuban nanny (Jennifer).
Meanwhile, life is further complicated by Jack’s step-son (Stephen Dorff) who hates Jack and wants everything he’s got, including his new mistress. Directed by Bob Rafaelson, the movie was intended to complete a trilogy including Five Easy Pieces and The King Of Marvin Gardens. As you’d expect, it was a critical hit, but no money-spinner.
Jennifer, meanwhile, had other matters on her mind. During the shoot, she’d met Ojani Noa, a Cuban immigrant and aspiring model, then waiting tables at Gloria Estefan’s Larios On The Beach restaurant in Miami. The pair would enter a whirlwind romance.
Now came Jennifer’s first starring role. Since My Family, Gregory Navas had been putting together a bio-pic of Selena Quintanilla, a Latina singer from Texas who’d become a crossover pop star. Topping the Spanish charts and winning a Grammy, she was about to begin a promotional tour for her first album in English when, in 1995 and at the age of 23, she was shot dead by the president of her own fan club.
Despite her performance in My Family, Jennifer still had to audition – her toughest test yet. Yet she won through and delivered a superb performance, glammed up in sequins and spandex and singing before stadium crowds of tens of thousands. She’d thoroughly deserve her Golden Globe nomination.
At the wrap-party for Selena, Ojani Noa would grab the microphone and, in the middle of the dancefloor, offer her a huge diamond ring and his hand in marriage. She accepted both. They’d marry in February, 1997. And there was something else Jennifer gained from the Selena experience. Performing those numbers, and strutting her stuff on those big stages, had taken her back to her time in musicals, and she was now very hungry for more.
She’d had mild interest from record companies before, but now her heightened profile caused a bidding war that ended in victory for the WORK Group label, part of Sony, run by Mr Mariah Carey, Tommy Mottola. Big plans would now be set in place.
On the movie front, it just kept getting better. In Anaconda, she was Terri Flores, director of a film crew travelling up the Amazon to make a documentary on a lost tribe, her cinematographer being played by Ice Cube, one of the few pop stars to enter the film business with any degree of decorum.
Unfortunately, the crew are taken hostage by Jon Voight, a nutty hunter who forces them to help him catch a massive, man-eating snake. Once found, the snake does not go hungry and Jennifer, soaked in river-water, sent male pulses racing worldwide. The movie would shoot to Number One, coincidentally replacing Liar Liar, the latest hit from Jennifer’s In Living Color buddy Jim Carrey.
On she went to Oliver Stone’s noir thriller U-Turn. Here drifter Sean Penn, on the run from bookies who’ve already taken two of his fingers, has his car break down in a small, weird town where he’s hired by grizzled Nick Nolte to off his wife. She turns out to be Jennifer, an irresistible femme fatale who also hires Penn to whack Nolte. And so the movie builds to a messy conclusion, with Jennifer engaging in such beastly business as shoving Penn off a cliff and smacking Nolte with a tomahawk – a great role played with much gusto.
She’d risen fast, and now came the real breakthrough. In Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight, based on an Elmore Leonard novel, she went noir once more. With the movie slipping back and forth through time, George Clooney played a robber who, while in jail, plans a serious diamond heist. Breaking out, he’s forced to kidnap US Marshal Jennifer. Once free, she should try to arrest him but, hey, he’s kinda cute and she begins to have second thoughts. Since he’s relentless in his pursuit of ill-gotten gains, and not the best of robbers to boot, complex problems arise.
The film was sharp, violent, funny and subtle and an unexpectedly big hit. Clooney and Lopez were suddenly taken seriously, both of them becoming sex symbols, too. Entertainment Weekly claimed that “watching her is like seeing molten rock churn under pressure”. Gossip about the dimensions of Jennifer’s posterior, which had begun due to the figure-hugging spandex of Selena, now filled tabloids and bar-rooms everywhere. To much male chagrin, the posterior would not be visible in her next venture, when she provided the voice of Azteca in the animated Antz. From Flygirl to ant – a bizarre progression.
Jennifer’s profile was now ludicrously high. Out Of Sight had made her cool, she made a big entrance at the Oscars ceremony, and she scored a modeling contract with L’Oreal. On the music front, too, Sony had begun the big push, Lopez appearing in Puff Daddy’s Been Around The World video, and duetting with Latin star Marc Anthony on his Te Conosco Bien.
Now she was ready, 1999 seeing the release of her debut album, On The 6, its title recalling the train she used to take to auditions and classes in Manhattan. All the stops were pulled out, all favours pulled in. Big time producers were employed – Puff Daddy, Emilio Estefan, Rodney Jerkins and Rick Wake – the mix intended to perfect her hybrid of hip-hop, Latin and pop. Marc Anthony made an appearance, duetting on No Me Ames, as did rappers Fat Joe and Big Punisher. The crossover was brilliantly executed. The first single, If You Had My Love, went to Number One. No Me Ames was a Latin chart-topper.
It was claimed that Jennifer merely formed part of a wider Latin craze, along with Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias, but this wasn’t really the case. Thanks to Puff Daddy and Jerkins, much of her music had a deliberate black edge while Wake, producer of Celine Dion, lent big ballad power.
Add to this Jennifer’s pneumatic video appearances, when she came on like a hi-octane Janet Jackson rather than some mambo queen. She was trying to appeal to a crossover audience, and multi-million sales showed she’d succeeded. More would come with 2001’s J.Lo album, and 2002’s This Is Me… Then.
In the meantime, she’d become a bone fide film star. With The Cell, she became the first Latina actress to headline a major Hollywood movie since Rita Hayworth (real name Margarita Carmen Cansino). In the movie, she played an experimental psychologist who’s discovered a way to literally enter the minds of her patients. So, when a serial killer is in a comatose state and the cops want to locate and save his final victim, Jen’s asked to pop into his evil head and discover what he knows. Of course, it’s horrid in there, a cornucopia of gothic beastliness, and FBI agent Benjamin Bratt has to go in to help.
The Cell featured some excellent VR effects, and was another big hit for Jennifer. Career-wise it was all going swimmingly, particularly after she appeared at the 2000 Grammies wearing what looked like a green Versace handkerchief. Unfortunately, by now her personal life had gone to hell. Having divorced Ojani Noa after just a year, she’d begun seeing Puff Daddy, rap star and head of the Bad Boy business empire.
It was a good match – he needed glamour to show he’d made it, she needed to show she hadn’t departed too far from the streets. But it quickly turned bad. At the end of 1999, during a brawl in a New York nightclub, shots were fired. Puffy and Jennifer fled but, pulled over by the police, were found to have a gun in the car. Both were taken down-town.
Jennifer would be released without charge, but Puffy’s case would go on for over a year. Rumours flew – Puffy’s driver claimed Puffy had tried to bribe him into taking responsibility for the gun. After the killing of Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG, it looked like the authorities would make an example of Puffy to stamp down on rap-related crime. Yet, though charged with bribery and gun possession, Puffy walked free. It was Shyne, one of his young proteges, who took the rap (ho ho), going down for ten years.
Throughout this fiasco, it was constantly being said that the ambitious Lopez, fearing that her reputation might be damaged, would leave Puffy in the lurch. She didn’t, but they did split soon after his acquittal, Jennifer rebounding into the arms of Cris Judd, a dancer she’d met while filming her Love Don’t Cost A Thing video. They married near-instantly, in September 2001, but, as is so often the case, separated just a few months later.
The pressure on her at the beginning of 2001 must have been unbelievable. As Puffy’s trial came to a head, she achieved an unheard-of level of success. In January, she topped the charts with her J. Lo album, and with her new movie The Wedding Planner, a feat unmatched by any other actress.
With her movie fees now up to $9 million per movie, she’d also launch Sweetface fashions, selling clothes for the fuller-figured woman (due to her success, butt-implants were now at an all-time high), as well as cosmetics lines and her Glow by J. Lo fragrance. Incredible stuff.
The Wedding Planner took her away from noir thrillers and into rom-com. Here Matthew McConaughey saves Jennifer from being run over by a truck and falls for her. As it turns out, she’s the one his fiancee, Bridgette Wilson (Mrs Pete Sampras) has hired to plan their wedding. Complications naturally ensue. This was followed by another romance, this time disguising itself as a supernatural thriller.
In Angel Eyes, Lopez played an aggressive cop, angry and self-doubting after an abusive childhood. Once again her life is saved, this time by Jim Caviezel, a guy who’s just lost his wife and child and now believes himself to be Jennifer’s guardian angel. You can guess the rest.
2002 brought yet more success. First came Michael Apted’s Enough where Jennifer, a waitress, falls for handsome Billy Campbell, gets married, buys a house, has a kid, and then runs when Campbell begins to beat her. But he keeps finding her, so she trains herself up to beat him back. After this came Maid In Manhattan where, as a hotel maid, she sneakily tries on some rich guest’s dress and is spotted by senatorial candidate Ralph Fiennes, who mistakes her for a stunning socialite and falls head over heels.
That year was a big one, too. She bought a $9 million property in Miami Beach, her neighbours being Robin and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. She opened Madre’s restaurant in Pasadena, to be run by her first husband, Ojani Noa. And she found love once more, getting engaged to actor Ben Affleck, receiving a $3.5 million ring into the bargain.
She’d met Affleck on the set of the movie, Gigli. Here he played a dopey thug sent to kidnap the DA’s retarded brother from an institution, so as to aid the cause of a mob boss currently on trial. Jennifer was Ricki, a hardcore assassin sent along to make sure he gets the job done right. Of course, he likes her, and it gets messy. The couple would appear together in their next project, too.
This was Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, a drama-comedy where Affleck takes up with Jennifer and her 6-year-old daughter, both of the ladies being smart, down-to-earth, big fans of the musical Sweeney Todd and experts in manipulation.
Beyond this, Jennifer had formed her own production company, Nuyorican, the name reflecting her upbringing – half New York, half Puerto Rico. A deal was struck with Sony, with various projects on the cards. A film version of Carmen, maybe, to be written by Craig “Moulin Rouge” Pearce. And perhaps a TV series based on Jennifer’s early life in the Bronx.
From those humble roots, Jennifer Lopez had become the biggest multi-media star in the world, and showed no sign of stopping. Having made such an auspicious start to the millennium, she stands every chance of being the biggest star of the 2000s.
From her 2007 pregnancy Lopez had been writing her then-confirmed seventh studio album, Love? due for release in Summer 2010. It features productions from Danja, Jim Jonsin, Darkchild, Chris n Teeb (from Dropzone), Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, D’Mile Mike Caren, Jean Baptiste and The Neptunes. A song titled “Fresh Out The Oven” featuring Miami rapper Pitbull surfaced online in October 2009 but her record label said that it was simply a buzz single.
It has since topped the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. The project’s official lead single, “Louboutins”, had its radio debut on November 23, 2009, following the song’s premiere and performance at the 2009 American Music Awards. The song only managed to enter the Hot Dance Club Play chart six weeks after release and reaching number 1, however, it failed to enter any other chart, including the Billboard Hot 100. In late February 2010, it was confirmed that Lopez and Epic Records have parted ways.
Lopez’s manager, Benny Medina confirmed the news saying “Jennifer had a wonderful relationship with the Sony Music Group, and they have shared many successes together, but the time was right to make a change that best serves the direction of her career as an actress and recording artist, she is grateful and appreciative to everyone at Sony for all that they accomplished together.”
Lopez later released a statement to the media where she said that she had already completed her contractual obligations with Sony Music Entertainment and Epic Records and decided it was for the best to end the partnership on amicable terms. She added that she found a new “home” record label for the album ‘Love?’ and it coming out Summer 2010.
Shortly after being spotted talking to Island Def Jam Music Group’s chairman and CEO L.A. Reid, it was confirmed on March 19, 2010 that Lopez signed with Def Jam Recordings, and is working on new material for Love? with RedZone Entertainment (Kuk Harrell, The-Dream and Tricky Stewart). Meanwhile Lopez is also said to be working on a number of other ventures alongside her upcoming album.Related Information: