Originally published in
Blues & Soul
,
February 2005
Beyond the block: an audience with J-Lo
Not many women weigh in as heavy on the diva scales as Jennifer Lopez. An all-round entertainer who lists fashion mogul, dancer, singer and movie actress on her CV, when you’re invited to go and meet the lady herself, only a fool would say no. In London just before Christmas to promote new single ‘Get Right’ and fourth album ‘Rebirth’, Blues & Soul arrive at her five-star suite to join the hive of press people all here mingling quietly and sipping sodas while listening to her new musical material. Long-time production partner Corey Rooney is in the hit-making seat once again alongside contributors Rich Harrison (the man behind Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy In Love’), Fabolous, Big Boi, Fat Joe, Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins and hubby number three Mark Anthony.
“I don’t miss being a fly girl dancer, but I do miss being anonymous

So far, so good - but our invitation’s not unconditional: no one-to-one interviews, one question each, no ‘personal’ questions. Which means no dirt on Bennifer. Or her brief marriage to Chris Judd. And woe betide a breath about her old gangster boyf’ Puffy. It’s testament to her unrivalled international success though that such demands can be made and the press still come a-flocking. Since her debut release ‘On The 6’ in 1999 she’s sold 25 million records worldwide, starred opposite leading men like George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Nicholson and Ralph Fiennes (two more movies ‘Unfinished Life’ and ‘Monster-In-Law’ are about to blow), fronts a multi-million dollar fashion house, has three perfumes named after her and opened her first J-Lo mega-store in Moscow last summer. Now that’s celebrity.

Guidelines issued, the first group of journalists are taken in. She’s smaller than you’d image for such a huge star yet somehow this Bronx babe oozes icon from head-to-toe as she glides into the room. “Hello everyone,” she smiles sweetly, and our 15 minutes with fame begin.

I hear you’re opening up your own dance school. Is that true?

“No!”

Oh dear, bad start. The journalist shifts uncomfortably on his heavily upholstered chair and tries again:

You started out as a dancer on the TV show ‘Living Colour’. Do you ever miss those days?

“I don’t miss being a fly girl dancer, but I do miss being anonymous. I adjusted to it many years ago but I remember that first shock of it was very scary. It’s part of the turf - you don’t get a choice when you get to a certain level.”

How do you keep reinventing yourself?

“I don’t think I do but it’s been a few years since I released my first album. Nobody wears the same things or acts the same now as they did five years ago. You grow and change. I don’t try to re-invent myself, I just try to be who I am at the moment and not create an image or anything. That’s not my style.”

If the fame ended tomorrow, how would you feel?

“I wouldn’t be mad. Fame is a whole other thing to being able to do what you do. I’ve always just wanted to make music, it’s a real passion so if I couldn’t work any more it would be a horrible thing. I’d hate it.”

You’ve got Fat Joe on your album, who in the past has used homophobic lyrics. Do you worry about alienating your gay fans by singing with him?

“I don’t think about that kind of stuff - it would be censorship and that’s not my place. I would hope my fans know that just because you duet with someone else, it doesn’t mean that you believe everything they believe. They’re smarter than that.”

Can I ask you about the new album track ‘Hold You Down’?

“There’s a cute story to this song. When Corey Rooney produced my first album he had a 12-year-old nephew Greg who was around all the time. So we were doing this album and Corey plays this track and says, ‘What do you think?’ I thought it was really hot and wanted to do it. Turns out it was Greg’s. I’m like, ‘This is crazy, how does this happen?’ He was afraid to bring it to me, so it was late in the process but he’s just this amazing little brainchild.”

How do you keep on top of your role as Creative Director of your fashion company, which is about to launch a footwear line and perfume Miami Glow?

“I’m involved in all things creative. Nothing gets by me without being approved. With sportswear they’ll ring me up and go, ‘What do think will be working Fall of next year? What are you feeling right now?’ Then I’ll look at sketches. With fragrance, I work with Lancaster and there’s a lady there who helps me develop ideas – do I want something fresh and clean or whatever.”

You are an artist who has shown commercially what crossover can mean in different markets. How conscious are your of staying real to fans outside of the mainstream?

“You know, it is very easy to get caught up in what’s real and what’s crossover. The only thing I can concentrate on is the work that I do. That’s all that matters. I don’t think about what’s going to hit today or be hot in three months. I leave the marketing to marketing people and the promotion to the promotions people. I do what I do, which is create things - I make music, I do my characters in movies, I do fashion. Whatever it is, I don’t think about how I can keep it real. I just try to be myself.”

Mark Anthony wrote the song ‘This Is Me’ on ‘Rebirth’. Was it dangerous ground making music with your husband?

“No. Why?”

Another awkward moment. The journalist reels a little before rephrasing.

I thought it might be hard to mix business with pleasure?

“Mark and I have worked together for years, he was on my first album. We’ve always had a great working relationship.”

“We’ll have to end now,” chips in the PR person, and our all-too-brief session is concluded. “That’s it!” Lopez gasps in mock horror, “Okay, thank you guys!” And with that we’re out of the door, Lopez’s saucy, street-smart ditty ‘Get Right’ still ringing in our ears. Taxi!

Journalism