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Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez in Her Own Words (and Everyone Else's)

She has been a dominant force in pop culture for 30 years. So how did Jennifer Lopez do it? Here, she, her friends, and her collaborators share the lowdown on J.Lo.
By InStyle Editors
Apr 05, 2021 @ 7:45 am

After three decades of nonstop performing, you would think that Jennifer Lopez might take a break. But…nope. "I'm in the best shape of my life," she says. And her friends and colleagues — Leah Remini, Ben Affleck, Michelle Obama, Marc Anthony, and many, many more — concur. Perhaps rapper Fat Joe puts it best. "She's Jenny the Icon. She's not just from the Bronx no more…"

In the beginning...

Abraham Quintanilla Jr. (father of the late Tejano star Selena, whom Lopez portrayed in Selena, 1997): When I met Jennifer, she had been mostly a dancer and at that time was focusing on acting. I recall that early in the Selena production, we filmed the Astrodome concert scene with 30,000 Selena fans as the audience. After it was finished, [my wife] Marcella and I were walking with Jennifer to the dressing rooms. Jennifer stopped and said, "Look at my arms. I have goosebumps." I asked her why, and she replied, "I've never been in front of 30,000 screaming fans." At that moment, you could see in her eyes that she had experienced the excitement of performing live in front of an audience and she wanted to be a part of that entertainment world, which is so different from the acting world. She had the vision.

Jennifer Lopez: Abraham is right. At that point in my career, I had never performed onstage in front of 30,000 people. I felt a huge responsibility to do everything right and to play Selena in the way that her fans and her family would love. I wanted to document her in history in the most beautiful way. I remember feeling comfortable up there and in my own skin and that performing came naturally to me.

Jennifer Lopez
Alaïa jumpsuit. B-Low the Belt belt. Omega watch. Caye Joaillier rings (right-hand ring finger). Tiffany & Co. rings.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Judy Greer (co-star in The Wedding Planner, 2001): Everyone on set was calling her Jen-Lo — there was no J.Lo yet. I'd like to think that it all started there, on a soundstage in Glendale, CA. (I am sure it didn't, but I can pretend I was there at the beginning.)

Lopez: The name J.Lo came from [the late rapper] Heavy D. He used to come by the studio for my first album [On the 6, 1999] and would call me Jenny-Lo, Jennifer-Lo, or J.Lo.When I was doing my second album, I decided to call it J.Lo [2001], and I believe that's when it really stuck!

Tyler Posey (co-star in Maid in Manhattan, 2002): I worked with Jennifer when I was 10 years old. She was always on time and always gave 1,000 percent when she was acting or talking to someone lower than her pay grade. Everyone was treated equally. About halfway through the shoot, she bought me an Xbox! I couldn't believe it.

Pamela Hanson/LGA Management
Jennifer Lopez in a Norma Kamali swimsuit, Caye Joaillier rings (right-hand ring finger), and Tiffany & Co. rings.
| Credit: Jennifer Lopez

On her incomparable work ethic:

Marc Anthony (singer and ex-husband): The thing about Jennifer is her ability to see and understand things before they happen. Before she even brings an idea up, she has visualized it a thousand times. And if anyone says it might not be the greatest idea, she'll say, "You just don't see it yet." Nine times out of 10, she'll nail it. She's the first one in the room and the last to leave. The hardest worker I've ever met. When we were together, it was quite the opposite for me. That has changed since. I learned so much from her. She's the original!

Michelle Obama: The world knows that Jennifer is blessed with many gifts — talent, beauty, and an unparalleled work ethic. But what impresses me the most about her is her unwavering commitment to leverage those gifts and use her platform to give voice to the voiceless. Whether it's working to improve health care for mothers and children, encouraging more people to vote, or singing her heart out at a presidential inauguration, Jennifer has always known that life is best when it's shared with others.

VIDEO: Behind the Scenes with Jennifer Lopez

Ben Affleck (ex-fiancé and co-star in Gigli, 2003): I thought I had a good work ethic, but I was completely humbled and blown away by what she was committed to doing day in and day out, the seriousness in which she took her work, the quiet and dedicated way she went about accomplishing her goals, and then how she would go back and redouble her efforts. She remains, to this day, the hardest-working person I've come across in this business. She has great talent, but she has also worked very hard for her success, and I'm so happy for her that she seems, at long last, to be getting the credit she deserves.

Jennifer Lopez
David Koma dress. Milamore necklace. Chanel watch. Cartier bracelet.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Charlize Theron (actor and friend): Jennifer is an absolute powerhouse. I can't begin to comprehend how she does all that she does, always giving 120 percent, and she has made it seem effortless for 30 years. To call her a triple threat doesn't come close to describing her—she's all of the threats!

Lopez: I love what I do. I'm passionate about it. Every day does not seem like a job to me. I can honestly say I'm living a dream, and I'm grateful every day that I wake up. I have tireless energy for what I do. I also have an amazing team who help me in every single way both personally and professionally. I really believe the most important thing is to have great people around you.

Matthew McConaughey (co-star in The Wedding Planner): Jennifer Lopez — what can she not do? Extremely deliberate, intentional, fully choreographed, and self-aware, she even knows how to make accidents look like accidents. When we acted in scenes together, she would turn in take after take as if timed on a meter, 1:01, 1:00, 1:02, 1:01…yet you couldn't tell that she was keeping a clock. Her success is not happenstance.

Jennifer Lopez
Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Leah Remini (close friend and co-star in Second Act, 2018): I had actually never worked with her before Second Act. I'm messing around with her before we're starting, and she's like, "Hey, dummy, you want to go over the lines for the scene we're about to do?" She would do things where she would talk about where our characters just came from, like in acting class. I was like, "Oh, good for you. You're an actor's actor." I was thinking more about what we were having for lunch.

Lorene Scafaria (writer and director of Hustlers, 2019): People ask what it was like to be behind the camera for [Lopez's character] Ramona's dance in Hustlers, which was, of course, electrifying, but I was just as gobsmacked watching Jennifer in the diner scene, convincing the audience that doing something illegal and objectively wrong was not only a good idea but justifiable. The dark turn that [initially] scared studio heads out of a green light was now an amen moment thanks to the power of Jennifer's sermon.

Lili Reinhart (co-star in Hustlers): Jennifer never flubbed a line when I worked with her. Even shooting late into the night, she was always in good spirits and had high energy. Can we please do a Hustlers reunion at a strip club when the pandemic ends?

Jennifer Lopez
Dolce & Gabbana shirt and jumpsuit. Roberto Coin rings (right hand) and bracelet. Chanel earring (left ear), ring, and loafers. Cartier earrings and watch. Beauty Beat: For a neutral tint that still draws attention, sweep Tom Ford Lip Color in Spanish Pink ($56) across your lips.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Lopez: I've had the same approach to acting and the same teacher, Aaron Speiser, since I first started in my 20s. We go through the script together, talk about who the character is, and consider the effects of what they experience. I've become confident in the process, and I trust myself more. When you start out, you are so afraid you'll forget something and that you won't be able to deliver in front of the camera. I don't have that [issue] now. I've always said that preparation and rehearsal make me very confident when it's time to perform, and with experience, it gets even better.

All about that J.Lo glow:

Fat Joe (friend and frequent collaborator): J.Lo is J.Lo, OK? So if J.Lo walks into the party, she will smell so good that when she walks to the other side of the room, you can still smell her.

Bozoma Saint John (CMO, Netflix): Her skin is literal perfection. That's it. LOL. There's nothing more to say because it's true.

Jennifer Lopez
Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Affleck: Where are you keeping the fountain of youth? Why do you look the same as you did in 2003 and it kind of looks like I'm in my 40s…at best?

Lopez: I don't have any [beauty] secrets except JLo Beauty — and I'm giving them all to everyone with every product. Ben is funny! He still looks pretty good too.

I also think I'm in the best shape of my life. In my 20s and 30s I used to work out but not like I do now. It's not that I work out more; I just work out harder and smarter. And it doesn't take me as long as it did in the past. I do it more for my health than I do for looks, which is funny. When you do things for the right reasons, you actually look better!

And her style:

Olivier Rousteing (creative director, Balmain): I worked with Jennifer for the Met Gala [in 2018]. We danced at the fitting when she was trying on her dresses — and laughed so much. But the best time of my life had to be the day after the red carpet, dancing with J.Lo at the Boom Boom Room [in New York]. Imagine how it feels when you're obsessed with her, you love her so much, and you dance with her, your favorite icon. That was one of the things I loved the most.

Jennifer Lopez
Etro jeans. Cartier earrings. Chanel watch. Sophie Buhai necklace as a bracelet (right hand). Roberto Coin bracelet. T-shirt, stylist’s own. Beauty Beat: A spritz of Color Wow Raise the Root ($24) adds instant lift to any look.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Donatella Versace (artistic director, Versace): On International Women's Day, I was scrolling down my Instagram feed, and I saw this image of Jen holding a card saying, "I'm limitless." That made me stop for a moment, and so many memories came to mind: from the first time we met in Paris, her incredible career, the moments in Versace that will remain forever ingrained in everyone's imagination, and so on… But then it hit me again. That word: "Limitless." It describes her perfectly. Her discipline, her courage, her resilience, her hard work, her intelligence… rarely have I met someone who had a dream and worked so hard to achieve it. When you are in the same room with Jennifer, you can almost feel her energy pulsating through her veins and filling the space around her. I love her with all my heart.

Tom Ford: It goes without saying that Jennifer is one of the most beautiful and talented women in the world. But the greatest thing about her is that she is a kind and empathetic person. She is spectacular in every way, and I have tremendous admiration for her.

On President Biden's inauguration:

Remini: Would you think that she was going to text you right back after watching her perform at the inauguration? No, but I knew that she would. I texted a whole paragraph, and then right away I saw the little dots [that she was typing back]. Like, "Baby, really? Was it good?"

Lopez: It was a huge honor to be asked to perform at an inauguration. When [then] President-Elect Biden's team called [my manager] Benny [Medina] and said that he'd asked specifically for me, I thought, "What am I going to sing?" I knew he wanted a touch of something in Spanish because that had not been done. I wanted to represent women, minorities, Latinos, and all Americans in the best way I could. The songs that I chose had huge significance to me, and the way that I chose them was very carefully crafted to be inclusive and unifying. I was very happy with the way it came out.

[As for the texting] we drove to the airport right after the performance, so I was on my phone and I got to answer a bunch of friends, my mom, and my family. It was at that time that I realized the impact that it had!

Jennifer Lopez
Lopez in a Brunello Cucinelli dress, Chanel watch, Cartier bracelets (right and left hands), Dior bracelet (right hand), Tiffany & Co. rings (right and left hands), and Roberto Coin ring (right hand).
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

Her lessons to live by...

Fat Joe: We were shooting this video in the Bronx called "Hold You Down" [2005], and it was freezing. I had on this huge, bubble goose-down coat, long johns, boots with three pairs of socks, and warmers in my boots and for my hands. And here's J.Lo in a tube top and a miniskirt shooting that scene with me. And I never told her, but in my mind I was just like, "Man, this woman got way more money than me and I'm freezing, but I better not complain because she hasn't complained once!" So I don't care if I'm in the desert in 100 degrees—I never make excuses. Whenever I talk to other artists or need to give myself a pep talk, I go right back to that moment.

Lopez: I definitely remember being on the video of "Hold You Down" and how cold it was. I had to sing to the song, but my lips were frozen, and I couldn't move them. It's funny that Joe remembers that. But overall, I'm not a complainer — especially when I'm working on set. I am there to do a job, and that's what I should do. Believe it or not, I don't want to burden anyone with my thirst, or if I'm cold or uncomfortable. That might be something that my mom and dad instilled in me. You just have to be grateful to be doing what you're doing. It's a very Latino thing. Be happy with what you have.

Jennifer Lopez
Norma Kamali swimsuit. Chanel watch.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

...including the healing power of cookies:

Remini: We often have sleepovers. But if I'm having a hard week, my friend will do things for me. She's a big bath person. So she'll fill a tub for me, put rose petals in, light candles. She makes the chicken cutlets and rice that I like — her Puerto Rican rice. She makes my coffee the way I like it. She'll bring it on a tray with some chocolate chip cookies.

Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (close friend and partner in Nuyorican Productions): To me, she's Jennifer — a girl who likes to cozy up on the sofa with her kids [twins Max and Emme] and her friends and watch old musicals, eat popcorn and maybe a cookie or seven. She's also a person who flew in for every chemo treatment I had 16 years ago, rubbed my bald head, and dreamed with me so I wouldn't forget that tomorrow was possible. And it was. She's an amazing mother, a beautiful dreamer, and the best friend I've ever had. Everyone needs a compass. Lucky for me, I found mine.

Ryan Seacrest (co-host of American Idol when Lopez was a judge from 2011 to 2016): Jennifer is obviously in great shape. She stays fit, she works out, but she eats what she wants, and I deprive myself. And she said, "Why are you depriving? Just have a bite of the cookie, Ryan. You don't have to have the whole cookie." And so I live my life now trying to think about having a bite of the cookie, not the whole cookie. It's not going so well.

Lopez: One day I'm going to let everyone in on my secret cookie recipe. It came from a secret couple, and these cookies are my favorite. Someday I'll give you the J-dough! And, actually, I think that's what I'll call it!

Jennifer Lopez: Mother, Icon

Kat Coiro (director of Marry Me, to be released February 2022): Jennifer was always FaceTiming her kids [on set], having them come visit, leaving a grueling week to go spend the weekend with them. As a working mom myself, it was nice to see someone who kicked butt at their job and gave themselves over fully to their craft but also spent every waking hour when she wasn't working being with her family!

Constance Wu (co-star in Hustlers): Her kids, sister, and mom would come to set a lot and are a big part of her life. They're all really kind and down-to-earth.

Lopez: It's hard for any working mom. You feel guilt anytime you have to work and cannot take care of your kids. It's a balance, and I do the best I can. It doesn't matter if I'm on location or if I'm in the house with them — we are communicating, we are laughing, and we are spending time together. And sometimes I'm even nagging at them to brush their teeth, get into bed to get up for school, all the things you have to do. I cannot begin to list the things that my kids have taught me about myself. I'd have to write a whole separate book on that.

Jennifer Lopez
Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello blouse, briefs, and belt. Cartier earrings. Milamore necklace (top). Pamela Love necklace. Omega watch.
| Credit: Pamela Hanson/LGA Management

DJ Khaled (collaborator on "Dinero," 2018): I've been blessed to work with J.Lo multiple times. She's so special and has a different kind of drive that very few people have — it's what makes everything she touches legendary. That's what makes her iconic.

Lopez: Honestly, I don't get caught up in those types of words [like "icon"]. I'd rather keep my nose down, keep working and doing what I do, like being creative and enjoying my life. When you start thinking too much about those things, you become egotistical. I'm interested in growing and evolving every day, being better as a person, better at what I do, and better at being a mom. I think what makes someone iconic is when they can create the different moments they can imprint on the world.

Lead Image: Re/Done bodysuit. Lee jeans. Omega watch. Roberto Coin bracelet.

Photography by Pamela Hanson. Styling by Julia von Boehm. Hair by Chris Appleton/The Wall Group. Makeup by David Velasquez. Manicure by Eri Ishizu/Opus Beauty. Production by Howard Goldmann/HG Producers.

For more stories like this, pick up the May 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Apr. 16th.