She's just been voted the most powerful celebrity in the world, yet lasting happiness has proved elusive for Jennifer Lopez. But in this exclusive interview she explains why she'll keep looking…
23:39 GMT, 19 October 2012
During nearly two decades in the spotlight, she has adopted many personas.
She was plain Jennifer Lopez for the film that put her on the Hollywood map, 1998’s Out Of Sight with George Clooney, before her foray into rap with 2002 song Jenny From The Block, which gave her her first nickname.
Then she morphed into J-Lo with the album of the same name, which was followed by ‘Bennifer’, the nickname given to her and actor Ben Affleck while they were a couple.
Jennifer Lopez is currently on the European leg of a gruelling 48-date world tour, which comes to London on Monday
Most recently, by virtue of her marriage to one of Latin music’s biggest stars, Marc Anthony, she’s been Jennifer Lopez Anthony, the first lady of modern Latin pop.
But now, at 43, there’s too much going on in Jennifer’s life to boil her down to a simple soubriquet: three-times-divorced actress, singer, dancer and doting mother of four-year-old twins, Emme and Max, she’s been named the world’s most powerful celebrity of 2012 by the influential Forbes magazine, trumping Oprah Winfrey and Lady Gaga.
She has a lucrative line of 18 fragrances, an endorsement deal with L’Oral, a clothing range, not to mention her 10 million followers on Twitter and 14 million Facebook fans.
She’s currently on the European leg of a gruelling 48-date world tour, which comes to London on Monday.
When we meet, before her opening show in Lisbon earlier this month, she tells me, ‘I might seem a lot of different things to different people, but the truth is I’ve never changed. When I first started out, people were very quick to dismiss me as just a singer or an actress – and then over time, as you keep working, little by little you gain respect. Of course, I live in a bigger house than the one I was brought up in [in New York’s tough Bronx district], but I still have the same values and traditions, and live pretty much the same as when I was growing up.’
She refuses to employ professional nannies, instead relying on mother Guadaloupe, cousin Tiana and her best friend from childhood, Arlene, to help with childcare.
Breaking up with Anthony was one of the most difficult things she says
‘My whole family’s still there with me. We go everywhere together.’ Yet she admits, because of her wealth, she has a trickier time than her own parents keeping her children grounded.
‘I have to show my kids even more through example that hard work and being loving and giving really matters in being a good human being.’
Guadaloupe was a kindergarten teacher and Jennifer’s father, David, a computer technician. She has an opera-singing elder sister, Leslie, and a younger sister, Lynda, who is a radio journalist, and credits her parents with instilling in her an irrepressible drive. ‘I was always ambitious. I wanted to accomplish things. My dad worked nights and my mum worked during the day. I just took this way of life on board.’
Of all Jennifer’s roles, it is clearly motherhood she takes the most seriously. ‘Being a mother does change you. For example, I wouldn’t do a crazy love scene in a movie now.’
Yet she hasn’t allowed her maternal instincts to cramp her style. Would she still wear that daring, slashed-to-the-navel Versace dress that caused a sensation at the Grammys in 2000 You bet! ‘I still dress the way I dressed before,’ she says defiantly. ‘I dress how I feel.’
Emme, she reveals, has inherited her love of clothes. ‘From the time she was little she was always in the wardrobe trying something on. So recently, when I was invited to the Chanel fashion show in Paris, I thought it would be nice to take her with me.’
But she concedes it was a mistake. Emme was decked out in 1,500 worth of Chanel jewellery, and the sight of a glammed-up Jennifer Lopez and bling-festooned daughter was enough to start a stampede.
‘I hadn’t been to a fashion show for ages and I forgot people could rush you. They were so close and I got so full of anxiety, thinking, “What am I doing here with my daughter” But she was fine. I was the one freaking out. I don’t think I’ll do that again.’
Jennifer poses with Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, and Steven Tyler on American Idol, she is now one of Forbes list's most powerful women
The last two years, she says, have been tough. It’s because of her resolve to end her seven-year marriage to five-time Grammy award-winning singer Marc Anthony last year – reportedly because of his infidelity, though she’s never publicly confirmed this – and the subsequent divorce.
‘It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made,’ she says, as her eyes fill with tears. ‘It’s been tough and my life has had to involve a lot of manoeuvring.’
It was her third marriage. Her first, pre-celebrity, to Cuban waiter Ojani Noa in 1997 lasted 11 months. This was followed by a tempestuous two-year liaison with rapper Sean ‘P-Diddy’ Combs. After that, she sought refuge in a ten-month marriage to backing dancer Cris Judd in 2001.
And then Bennifer – her two-year union with Affleck – took interest in her to new levels of hysteria, thus contributing to them calling off their engagement in 2004, leaving her devastated. This led to her surprise wedding just months later to Marc Anthony. Following their divorce, she has been with 25-year-old choreographer Casper Smart for the past 11 months.
'My whole family's still there with me. We go everywhere together'
Recently the pair denied rumours of an engagement when Jennifer was seen sporting a dazzling diamond ring. ‘We’re taking it day by day,’ she says. ‘You learn certain things through your experiences and you have to ask yourself, “Do I like this person Do I trust this person”’ She merely says her relationship with Casper is ‘nice’ and ‘works right now’ – a far cry from her protestations of passion for her previous beaux. She’s a woman who admits she’s ‘in love with love’.
She maintains the failure of her third marriage hasn’t made her cynical about relationships. ‘You can’t colour the whole world because of your bad experiences,’ she says.
‘I’m not going to brand every person as untrustworthy. You have to believe there’s somebody out there who is trustworthy, who’ll stick in there.’ Inevitably, she still feels raw from the trauma of the divorce from Anthony.
‘It’s difficult when a family breaks up,’ she sighs. ‘I’m still living through it, just trying to do my best with the kids and moving on.’ But, she adds, ‘I still believe in love. That would be my message: love is the most important thing.’
I sense it is her failed relationship with Affleck she’s referring to when I ask her about her biggest mistake. ‘I feel it was not giving certain things chances,’ she says. As in a certain relationship ’Maybe,’ she replies coyly, adding, ‘I’m not talking about what just happened [the divorce from Anthony], but something in the past.’
But brooding over what might have been is not in the Lopez DNA. Two years ago, after taking a short break to have the twins, she set out to revive her career. She recorded a hit comeback single, On The Floor, and signed up to a 7.5 million salary as a judge on American Idol.
She burst onto the scene as 'Jenny from the block' but has evolved into a style queen
However, after two triumphant series, Jennifer called a halt. ‘When I started on American Idol, I can’t tell you how many people told me not to do it, but in my gut I knew I should. In the end, though, I just thought to myself, do I really want this
'I wanted to get back to what I do, which is sing, act and dance.’ But when I ask her what she considers her greatest talent, she says, ‘I’m good at being a mum. Though I’m like most mums – we beat ourselves up, so we never feel like we’re perfect.’
At this point, Emme runs in and plants herself on her mother’s lap. Jennifer covers her with kisses. It’s clear she’s in a good place, and ready for more good things to happen. ‘When I finish the tour I want to come out better than when I started. That’s my goal for all experiences that are supposed to be hard. I’ll come through this better and not let it take a toll on me.’
Jennifer Lopez’s first ever UK arena show is at London’s O2 on Monday.