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Hispanic Heritage

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez

Birth: July 24, 1970 in Bronx, New York
Occupation: Actor, singer, dancer

Jennifer Lopez is what is known in the entertainment business as a "triple threat"--she can dance, sing, and act. She was a dancing Fly Girl on the 1990s television show In Living Color, and got her break in the lead role as Selena, the 1997 film about the murdered Tejano pop star. She became the first Latina actress to have a lead role in a major Hollywood film since Rita Hayworth, and the highest-paid Latina actress ever. Her early films include Anaconda, U Turn, Jack, and Out of Sight.

While some actors endure embarrassing results when they try to make the leap from acting to singing, Lopez proved in 1999 that she was not one of them. Her debut album, On the 6, produced the hit "If You Had My Love" and sold over eight million copies. Lopez's name has become inescapable in the media. In 2001 Lopez became the first actress to have a film, the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner, and music album, her sophomore release, J.Lo, hit number one in the same week. Later that year, the success of the psychological thriller The Cell proved that Lopez's box-office power was worth her paycheck, which in 2002 was valued at over two million dollars per film but by the end of 2004 had jumped to $12 million, making her the tenth-highest-paid actress in Hollywood. Not one to rest on her laurels, Lopez is constantly making progress toward her next goal. "I want everything. I want family. I want to do good work. I want love. I want to be comfortable," she said in a 1998 interview with Entertainment Weekly. "I think of people like Cher and Bette Midler and Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand. That's always been the kind of career I'd hoped to have. I want it all."

Lopez was born July 24, 1970 in the Bronx neighborhood of Castle Hill. She is the second of three daughters of David, a computer technician, and Guadalupe Lopez, a kindergarten teacher. Though Lopez's parents were born in the same Puerto Rican town, David and Guadalupe Lopez did not meet until they lived in Castle Hill. They were strict with their girls and instilled a strong work ethic in them--no one in the family was allowed to miss a day of school, work, or church. "Our parents had a strong work ethic--there wasn't really any other way," Lynda Lopez told Rolling Stone. Lopez's parents also stressed assimilation--the need to speak English, to fit into the mainstream, to succeed. "Spanish was not something we spoke a lot of in the house," David Lopez told Rolling Stone. "They got that from their grandmothers." Though he worked nights throughout her childhood, Lopez idolized her father for working hard to provide for his family. "I'm a daddy's girl; he's the love of my life," she said in a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone's Anthony Bozza. In 1998, after their kids were grown and gone, the Lopezes divorced.

Grew Up In Musical Household

There was always some kind of music on in the Lopez household. Guadalupe Lopez was a fan of many genres, including the girl groups from her own childhood--the Supremes, the Shirelles, and the Ronettes. She spent Sundays while her daughters were growing up listening to disc jockey Casey Kasem's Top Forty countdown. She often would gather her daughters to watch Barbra Streisand musicals and sing or act out songs from West Side Story in their living room. David Lopez was a fan of doo-wop music, but salsa, meringue, and rock were also heard in the house. Lopez's sisters are also musical--Lynda, her younger sister, is a radio disc jockey, VH1 VJ, and entertainment reporter on a New York morning television show, while her older sister Leslie sings opera. Because her parents were strict, Lopez spent much of what she called "the boyfriend years" in Rolling Stone sneaking around to meet up with first-love David Cruz, whom she remained with from the time she was 16 until she was 25. "I was always climbing out windows, jumping off roofs, and he was sneaking up," she said. "It was crazy."

Though father David Lopez sees talent in all of his girls, he acknowledged in Rolling Stone that "Jennifer is the one with the drive to put it all together. She was always very competitive. She's had that drive since she was a baby." Dance and singing lessons began for her at age five. She spent her entire academic career in Catholic school, and admits she still prays regularly. She was a driven student and natural athlete in gymnastics, softball, and tennis. She went out for the track team, though she had no experience. Her father feared that, new to the sport, she would be outclassed, but Lopez rose to the challenge and ended up competing nationally. "Basically, anything she wants to do, she'll be as successful as you can at it," sister Lynda Lopez told Rolling Stone. "That's the kind of person she is."

After she graduated high school, Lopez pursued her talent for dance. She split her time between her job at a law office, taking dance classes, and dancing in Manhattan clubs at night. Though she did not--and still does not--drink alcohol, her parents disapproved of her working nights so far from home and feared she was associating with a potentially dangerous crowd. She moved out of the house and was able to pay her rent with occasional work as a dancer.

Landed Fly-Girl Gig

The aspiring dancer's first steady paycheck came when she landed a spot as a "Fly Girl" dancer on the Wayans brothers' sketch-comedy show In Living Color on the Fox television network. On the show, she and the other Fly Girls danced between comedy skits and when musical guests were featured. In Living Color was filmed in Los Angeles, so Lopez was uprooted from her New York home and forced to move to the West Coast, where she was "miserable," she told Rolling Stone. David Cruz moved there to be with her, and stayed for four years. With his support, Lopez was happy and better able to work, she told Rolling Stone. Lopez's stability during that time parlayed into the earliest successes of her career. She got television acting parts in the made-for-TV movie Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7 and on the series Second Chances and Hotel Malibu, but both were flops. She danced for Janet Jackson on tour and in Jackson's video for the popular song "That's the Way Loves Goes" in 1995.

Lopez broke onto the big screen in 1995, in the drama My Family/Mi Familia and opposite Wesley Snipes in the action film Money Train. She appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's 1996 comedy Jack, and the 1997 thriller Blood and Wine. However, the actress's first big break came when she secured the lead role in Selena, based on the true story of the slain Tejano pop singer's life. Lopez accepted the public marriage proposal of then-boyfriend Ojani Noa, a model-turned-restaurateur, at the wrap party for Selena in 1996 in San Antonio, Texas. The two were married in 1997, but divorced after just a year, unable to endure the pressures of Lopez's rapid rise to stardom. In two years, wrote Degen Pener in Entertainment Weekly, Lopez "rocketed from up-and-coming actress to Hollywood's super-diva of 1998."

After Selena, Lopez had a steady stream of work. She played a documentary film director in the horror film Anaconda, about the world's largest and deadliest snake. She took a steamy role in Oliver Stone's 1997 film noir, U Turn, as a young woman who seduces and hires a drifter, played by Sean Penn, to murder her husband, played by Nick Nolte. Lopez's two-million dollar paycheck for role opposite George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight made Lopez the highest-paid Latina actress in Hollywood history. Lopez played Karen Sisco, a U.S. Marshal assigned to capture two escaped convicts, played by Clooney and Ving Rhames. She is first kidnapped by the duo, then is charged with tracking them to Detroit, where they are planning their next big heist. Her romantic notions ultimately interfere with her job as she becomes attracted to Clooney's character. Lopez's turn in the psychological drama The Cell, opposite Vince Vaughn, proved she could "open" a movie after the film became a box-office blockbuster.

Known for Curvaceous Physique

The word "callipygian" came into common usage as journalists struggled to describe Lopez's curvaceous backside--the word is used to describe one as having shapely buttocks. Though she laughs at rumors that she has her body insured for one billion dollars, Lopez is as heralded for her physical beauty as she is for her talents as singer, dancer, or actor. Once called "La Guitarra," for her guitar-shaped body, Lopez is the only woman in the world to have twice been voted number one in FHM magazine's "100 Sexiest Women" list. She is a regular on People magazine's annual "50 Most Beautiful People In The World" list, and was voted to have the best female body in the British Celebrity Bodies magazine. At the 2000 Grammy Awards, jaws dropped when she showed up wearing a risqué, barely-there dress that "showed as much as a dress could possibly show without actually showing anything," according to Vanity Fair. Fans missed out on seeing Lopez's heavenly body in Antz, the 1998 animated film that featured only the actress's voice.

Once she had conquered Hollywood, Lopez--known as "J.Lo" and "La Lopez"--made moves to fulfill her lifelong dream of singing. Many an actor has suffered the indignity of trying to rebuild a film career after a failed turn in the music industry. Such was not the case with Lopez. She spent a full year in the studio, working diligently on her debut album, On the 6, named for the train she used to take from her Bronx home to Manhattan. Built on Latin soul, pop, R&B and dance influences, the album sold over eight million copies and launched the popular single "If You Had My Love."

At the start of her career, Lopez had a rocky relationship with the media. She was reputed to be a difficult interview. One Hollywood public-relations firm declined to represent her, so bad was her reputation. She often was irritated or angry in interviews, and used them as an opportunity to lambaste everyone from actress Gwyneth Paltrow to former costar Wesley Snipes. Over time, she softened that image, and learned to discuss only what she felt comfortable talking about--which did not include her love life, the subject of much tabloid and media attention. "In this business," she told Anthony Bozza in Rolling Stone, "Your soul is so public and open and out there for everybody. There is no privacy. At the end of the day, you really have to fight to keep certain things sacred so that they survive."

Tangled With Law, Walked Down Aisle Twice

Though she maintained for some time that she and hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs were "just friends," she told Entertainment Weekly in 1998, the two went public with their romance in 1999. Her hard-earned good-girl image took some hits in December of 1999, when she was arrested with Combs after a shooting at a New York City nightclub. She was released after 14 hours, but Combs ultimately was tried for possession of a stolen gun

Lopez and Combs announced their breakup in 2001. Around the same time, Lopez's album J.Lo was released. The album was "far superior" to On the 6, according to Anthony Bozza in Rolling Stone, and its multi-platinum sales status was fueled by such singles as "Love Don't Cost a Thing," and "I'm Real." Her third album, J to tha L-O!: The Remixes, released in 2002, also reached platinum.

Lopez played a wedding planner in 2001 the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner opposite actor Matthew McConaughey. At the same time Lopez was planning her own wedding--she and dancer Cris Judd tied the knot in a small ceremony in September of that year. The two separated only eight months later, and Lopez was quickly off into another whirlwind romance, this time with actor Ben Affleck, whom she met when the two co-starred in the film Gigli. The two announced their engagement even before Lopez's divorce from Judd was final. However, this romance too was short-lived. The couple was placed under tremendous pressure from the tabloid press, who dubbed them "Bennifer" and covered them extremely heavily, even for a relationship involving two of Hollywood's most successful stars. The media firestorm only grew when Gigli was released in the summer of 2003 and bombed. The film became the first ever to sweep the top Razzie Awards (satiric awards given annually for Hollywood dis-honors), "winning" the awards for worst film, worst actor (Affleck), worst actress (Lopez), worst screen couple, worst screenplay, and worst director. Affleck and Lopez called off their September 2003 wedding only four days before the event, and ended the relationship for good a few months later.

"It might look to the outside world that I've made mistakes, but I don't regret anything," Lopez said about her love life to a Harper's Bazaar interviewer in 2002. "I've always followed my heart and it's never steered me wrong." She has certainly not given up on love: in June 2004 Lopez married singer Marc Anthony.


February 11, 2005: Lopez launched her new high-end clothing line, called Sweetface, at Fashion Week in New York City. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, February 13, 2005.

September 2005: Lopez launched the perfume Live Jennifer Lopez. Source:People, September 26, 2005, p. 69.


Born Jennifer Lopez on July 24, 1970, in Bronx, NY; daughter of David (a computer technician) and Guadalupe Lopez (a teacher); married Ojani Noa, 1997 (divorced 1998); married Cris Judd (a dancer), 2001 (divorced 2003); married Marc Anthony (a singer and actor), 2004. Addresses: Agent--International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.


Actress, dancer, singer. Film appearances include My Family/Mi Familia, 1995; Money Train, 1995; Jack, 1996; Blood and Wine, 1997; Selena, 1997; Anaconda, 1997; U Turn, 1997; Out of Sight, 1998; Antz, 1998; The Cell, 2000; The Wedding Planner, 2001; Angel Eyes, 2001Enough, 2002; Maid in Manhattan, 2002; Gigli, 2003; Jersey Girl, 2004; Shall We Dance, 2004; An Unfinished Life, 2005; Monster-in-Law, 2005. Television appearances include "El Show de Cristina," 1989; "In Living Color," 1990; Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7, 1993; "Second Chances," 1993; "Hotel Malibu," 1994; "South Central," 1994; Janet Jackson: Design of a Decade 1986-1996, 1996; "TFI Friday," 1999; VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, 2000; MTV Video Music Awards 2000, 2000; "Parkinson," 2001; "Rove Live," 2001; MTV Video Music Awards 2001, 2001; Jennifer Lopez in Concert, 2001; Royal Variety Performance 2001, 2001; MTV Icon: Janet Jackson, 2001; 73rd Annual Academy Awards, 2001; USO Special for the Troops, 2002; Hello, He Lied & Other Truths From the Hollywood Trenches, 2002; 74th Annual Academy Awards, 2002; American Bandstand's 50th Anniversary Celebration, 2002; MTV Video Music Awards, 2002; Boogie: Jennifer Lopez, 2002; Intimate Portrait: Jennifer Lopez, 2002; Nobel Peace Prize Concert, 2002; 50 Sexiest Video Moments, 2003; 75th Annual Academy Award, 2003; Ben Affleck & Matt Damon: The E! True Hollywood Story, 2003; 2003 Radio Music Awards, 2003; Jingle Ball, 2003; Fromage 2003, 2003; Michael Jackson: Number Ones, 2004; 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, 2004; Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, 2004; Maxim Hot 100, 2004; MTV Video Music Awards 2004, 2004; En Nochebuena con los Lunnis y sui amigos, 2004. Sound recordings include On the 6, and the single "If You Had My Love," 1999; the singles " Feelin' So Good" and "Let's Get Loud," 2000; J.Lo, and the singles "I'm Real" and "Love Don't Cost a Thing," 2001; This is Me ... Then, and J to tha L-O! The Remixes, 2002; The Reel Me, and the single "All I Have 2," 2003; Rebirth, 2005.


Selected filmography

  • My Family/Mi Familia, 1995.
  • Money Train, 1995.
  • Jack, 1996.
  • Blood and Wine, 1997.
  • Selena, 1997.
  • Anaconda, 1997.
  • U Turn, 1997.
  • Out of Sight, 1998.
  • Antz, 1998.
  • The Cell, 2000.
  • The Wedding Planner, 2001.
  • Angel Eyes, 2001.
  • Enough, 2002.
  • Maid in Manhattan, 2002.
  • Gigli, 2003.
  • Jersey Girl, 2004.
  • Shall We Dance, 2004.
  • An Unfinished Life, 2005.
  • Monster-in-Law, 2005.

Selected discography

  • On the 6, Work/Sony, 1999.
  • J.Lo, Sony, 2001.
  • J to tha L-O!: The Remixes , Sony, 2002.
  • The Reel Me, Sony, 2003.
  • Rebirth, Sony, 2005.



  • Cosmopolitan, March 1999, p. 202.
  • Entertainment Weekly, October 9, 1998, p. 28; January 7, 2000, p. 8.
  • Harper's Bazaar, December, 2002, p. 190.
  • Hollywood Reporter, December, 2004, p. 64.
  • In Style, June 1, 1999, p. 276.
  • Newsweek, December 20, 1999, p. 84; January 10, 2000, p. 58; January 29, 2001, p. 63.
  • People, May 10, 1999, p. 187; September 13, 1999, p. 71; March 13, 2000, p. 146; May 14, 2001, p. 88; July 26, 2004.
  • Redbook, January 2002, p. 58.
  • Rolling Stone, February 15, 2001, p. 44.
  • Time, February 5, 2001, p. 87.
  • Vanity Fair, June 2001, p. 166.


  • All Music Guide, www.amg.com.
  • E! Online, www.eonline.com.
  • Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com.
  • Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, www.razzies.com.
  • Rolling Stone, www.rollingstone.com.



Contemporary Hispanic Biography. Vol. 1. Gale, 2002.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale. 2007.

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