Fashionably late and impeccably dressed, Jennifer Lopez darts into the room in The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills brimming with youthful energy and glowing with a jovial smile. Evidently there is not a trace of the tragic breakup of her 7-year marriage with Marc Anthony in 2011, albeit she admits that it was “Awful!”
“I felt like my whole life had fallen apart,” she reflects. But thanks to her love for her 4-year-old twin children, whom she had with her former husband, she was able to put her life together. “You can’t completely fall apart, because you are with them all day and then once they fall asleep you can kind of have a little bit of a pity party for yourself, and when they’re up at 6 in the morning, it’s back to being everything is fine and normal,” she beams.
She also engrossed herself in her work, soaking up praise and reaping $30 million for her judging duties on American Idol, reigniting her music career with a hit dance single On The Floor, touring the world with Dance Again, lending her voice to the animated Ice Age: Continental Drift and starring in two movies: What To Expect When Expecting and Parker.
“I just am one of those people that doesn’t give up,” she enthuses. “That’s very much my philosophy in life and that’s why I wanted to put that message out there as an artist that you will live and you will love and you will dance again. You have to hold on. It’s going to be OK. Things are hard and I feel like we grow and we learn the most in those moments we do and trust me I had to remind myself of this all the time.”
So when director Taylor Hackford asked her to star in his film Parker alongside Jason Statham and play a bankrupt 40-year-old divorcee who refuses to succumb to the pressures of life and presses ahead, Lopez, who had been recuperating from her own emotional turmoil, agreed unhesitatingly because she felt a strong connection with the character.
“It was perfect timing and a beautiful gift to be able to do that at that time, to use all those feelings and all that depression and sadness to something like this, which I feel turned out to be a very nice film,” she says.
Although the gloom in her life was conducive to inhabiting her character, it made it hard for her to get up in the morning to do her job. “Very hard,” she muses, shaking her head. “I hadn’t been on that schedule for a long time because I had been doing American Idol for 2 years, which was a later schedule, so to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning for 630 make-up call was like ‘oh, boy’ and when being a little bit depressed and sad all the time makes it very difficult.”
Yet, inspite of her gloomy state of mind, the 43-year-old retained her stunning beauty on the screen. Stripping to her underwear in one scene, she looks as trim and firm as she has always been. One of the most beautiful women on the planet, Lopez attributes her perfect figure to healthy diet and regular exercise. “ Maybe 3, 4 times a week, sometimes more than others, depending on a scene like that coming up,” she giggles.
Then she reveals that right after shooting that scene, she rewarded herself with a McDonalds burger. “I love McDonalds,” she exclaims. “Once a year,” she quips, raising her index finger.
The superstar also feels as young as she looks. In fact, she is currently dating a 25-year-old dancer, Casper Smart, who sits quietly in the back of room, listening to our chat. “I don’t think of myself as getting older,” she stresses. “I just think of how I feel and I feel very healthy and agile. I’ve just toured the world and was dancing and singing in a very energetic show every single night, so I didn’t feel like I was less 28 than I was when I did it when I was that age. I felt probably better at it now,” she laughs, nodding her head.
Amazingly, in spite of having been performing for so many years on stage, the pop star still endures the same sense of danger and pressure that she felt when she began performing in her teens. “It’s like jumping off a cliff every time,” she smiles. “The adrenalin that you get performing every night for 10 to 20 thousand people a night is pretty thrill seeking and dangerous too in the wierdest way even though you’re confident, I know what I am doing, I know what I am going to say, I know what I’m going to sing, I know what I’m going to dance and I know it’s going to be great.”
Born in the Bronx, NY, and raised in a strict Catholic house by her computer specialist father and music teacher mother, Lopez set her sight on being a singer and dancer at the age of four. In 1986, right after her graduation from Preston High School, where she trained in stage dancing, she dipped her toe into acting in a minor role in her film debut My Little Girl.
Lopez continued to dance professionally for a few years, before she shifted her focus to acting in 1993. Following several flops, Lopez was recognized with A Golden Globe nomination in 1997 for her portrayal of the eponymous Selena, which she followed by starring alongside George Clooney in the box office hit Out Of Sight, which catapulted her to Hollywood stardom.
After enduring several box office failures, in 2001, Lopez launched a second career as a top recording artist and reimaged herself as J.Lo, becoming of the most successful pop musicians in the world, selling over 70 million records worldwide.
Over the years, Lopez developed a sex symbol image, which has been manifested in her erotic music videos and provocative fashion, yet ironically she continued to be cast in girl-next-door roles. “I never get cast as the sexy girl,” she bangs the table with a frustrated laughter. “It’s funny in a weird way. I’d love to have all the amazing clothes and be able to dress and look beautiful and be shot beautifully, but for some reason I don’t get that. I feel they see me for something inside as opposed to my pop star image. They go a little deeper, which is nice I guess. I get to show a different side of myself,” she reflects.
Indeed, notwithstanding her glamorous looks, immense wealth and worldwide fame, Lopez exudes humility, affability
and a down-to-earth demeanour. She surrounds herself with her family members, including her parents, sisters, a cousin and children, whom she takes with her everywhere she goes, even to her world tours, and when she is not working, she spends her time at home with her kids. Her favourite dish still is the rice and beans that her mum used to feed her when her parents couldn’t afford anything else.As we wrap our conversation, she walks towards her shy young lover, who also springs out of his seat in anticipation. With loving eyes, she tenderly kisses him on the lips as she softly says “Hey honey. Let’s go.”