Jennifer Lopez is 51 years old. This is important to note right away, because you are likely looking at the photographs that accompany this profile and thinking to yourself, Wait, how old is JLo again? Because it’s not that Lopez “looks good for her age,” it’s that she somehow looks even better than she did when she was in her twenties and thirties, when she originally hit the scene and became part of the first wave of pop music’s Latin explosion. She looks even better now than when she rocked that famous Versace jungle-print dress, which led to the invention of Google Images, for God’s sake—defying, in the process, all the rules of Hollywood, of celebrity, and possibly of the concept of time itself.
Now we are in the midst of another Latin explosion, and Lopez is still here, going head to head and toe to toe with the new wave of brilliant Latin performers like Bad Bunny and Maluma. “I was part of that [first wave], and that was Latin artists coming over and singing in English, but now this is such a different thing. This is Spanish music becoming American music, becoming global music,” Lopez tells me over Zoom. Wearing a neon-
pink crewneck sweater and thick gold hoops, with her hair pulled back in a high bun, she is sitting inside a conference room in a nondescript office in Los Angeles, the setting sun reflecting in the window behind her, at one point setting behind her right ear and giving her an otherworldly glow. Throughout our conversation, she takes sips of water from a pink bedazzled tumbler with a straw, a signature accessory that was once available for sale in a similar style at the official JLo store, and has since yielded copycat versions on Etsy. (Want a glamorous way to enjoy your drink like Jennifer Lopez?) Her face is, of course, flawless. Subtle browns and bronzes on her eyes and cheeks, a glossy pink lipstick. It’s the kind of face that brings to mind the word effortless.
Appearances aside, Lopez’s real life is anything but effortless. She has just released two songs with the 27-year-old Colombian singer Maluma, “Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely,” as an amuse-bouche to get fans excited for their major upcoming project: a romantic comedy called Marry Me, which she also coproduced and which is scheduled to be released in May. Lopez and Maluma star as Kat and Bastian, two larger-than-life pop stars who are about to get married during a world-televised joint concert, when Kat finds out Bastian is cheating on her, and decides to marry a random guy in the audience instead (Owen Wilson). It is wildly implausible, yes, but it’s also very funny and charming, and full of new songs from both Lopez and Maluma (expect an album, and if we are still in quarantine by the time it comes out, expect to deeply, deeply miss being at a club when you listen to it). The two have such incredible chemistry onscreen, it’s hard to believe that they weren’t already good friends before filming began.
“Jennifer just has this really beautiful energy, you know?” Maluma says via Zoom from deep in the Colombian mountains, where he is spending time with his family and his two dogs, Bonnie and Clyde. “And energy doesn’t lie.” The two artists seem to have a similar disciplined, all-or-nothing approach when it comes to their projects. The release of “Pa’ Ti” and “Lonely” offers proof of this: “She told me that it would be a good idea if we released a song together before the movie, and I told her, ‘No way! I was already thinking about that, and I have a song for you.’ ” He sent her “Lonely,” but she thought the song was too Maluma, so she sent him “Pa’ Ti,” which he thought was “too JLo.”
“I was like, ‘You record the one I sent you, and I’ll record the one that you sent me,’ and then we both loved the songs so much that we decided both songs should come out as one project,” he recalls.
If it seems like Lopez is always working, that’s because she is. In the past few years, she shot Hustlers, performed in a sold-out summer tour for her fiftieth birthday, filmed Marry Me, and sang and danced her heart out alongside Shakira at the 2020 Super Bowl. She’d always intended to take last year off. “I didn’t plan to be trapped at home,” she says, laughing. “But I had planned to be home, and it’s been good.” Still, just because she’s been at home doesn’t mean she hasn’t been working. The video for her single “In The Morning” will drop on her Triller channel on February 13th and hit YouTube on the 15th. And at the beginning of this year, she finally launched her long-awaited beauty line, aptly titled JLo Beauty, a tightly curated collection of eight products: a cleanser, a serum, a sheet mask, a night cream, an SPF moisturizer, an eye cream, a bronzer/complexion booster, and a dietary supplement.
“Wherever I go, the number one question people ask is, ‘What do you do for your skin?’ ” Lopez tells me. At the launch event for her line, Lopez reiterated this sentiment to a group of beauty editors. “Even my closest friends are like, ‘Come on, bitch, what are you doing with your skin?’ ”
Most people would just take the compliment and move on with their lives, but Lopez is not like most people. She says she’d been thinking about a beauty line for 20 years, and then finally, about four years ago, decided it was time to make it a reality. “I think I had to be ready,” she says. “[I had] to become more realized in myself as a woman—knowing what I needed, knowing my skin better, and getting to the point where I felt cool enough to share that with the world in a way.”
The products are all rooted in Lopez’s signature “five s’s,” or the five things she considers responsible for keeping her “youthful and timeless at every age”: sleep, sunscreen, serums, supplements, and vivir sano, which is Spanish for “living a healthy lifestyle.” Her approach to skin care is a holistic one, which explains the inclusion of the dietary supplement. The supplement features olive extract, which is also the core ingredient in several of the JLo Beauty products—the real beauty secret in her routine, the one she learned from her mother and her aunt when she was a little girl.
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“Some of us had drier hair than others, and they’d take out a bottle of olive oil and they’d put it in your hair,” she remembers, laughing. “Then it would drip down onto your face, and the next day, your complexion looked like you were 10 years old. Even when I was working in the business, and they would be gluing stuff to my head, and hitting me in the face with a fan at 100 miles per hour on movie sets, I’d come home and lather myself in it.” From the very first meetings with her team, she was adamant that the products have this natural ingredient as their anchor.
Her proprietary Olive Complex figures prominently in three of her products, but especially JLo Glow, aka her multitasking serum. Talking with Lopez about the creation of this serum feels a lot like talking to your best friend, exchanging tips and recommendations on your favorite beauty products. “I sent it back, like, 26 times over two years,” she tells me excitedly. “They were ready to strangle me, but I was like, ‘No, it has to have an instant effect, so that when you put it on, it tightens and you get a glow, and right away your skin feels better and looks more beautiful.’ You have this gorgeous glow, but then, over time, it also makes your skin healthier if you use it regularly.” I’m basically ready to give her my credit card number over the phone when she adds, “I use it every day, twice a day now.” I don’t need any more proof about this product’s possible holy grail status, but it’s there anyway, in the form of That Limitless Glow, a sheet mask soaked in one ounce of the JLo Glow serum.
“I’ve tried everything from the cheap products at the drugstore to the most expensive stuff—and some of these masks can run you $50 to $200, okay? They are expensive,” she says. “My kids are, like, trying to put it on, and I’m like, ‘Don’t touch that mask, that’s too expensive to play around with,’ ” she says in an extremely relatable way. But surprisingly, it’s not Max or Emme, her 12-year-old twins from her marriage to Marc Anthony, that she has to worry about stealing her beauty products. It’s her fiancé, Alex Rodriguez, whom she’s been dating since 2017. It turns out JLo Beauty is not just meant for women.
“[Alex] tries everything. We did the mask together on the first night, and I filmed myself and it was just life-changing. I was like, My God, I feel like I have a baby face!” she remembers, laughing. “He loves it, and now we’re always fighting for the mask since they’re not in full production. [These products] are for anybody who has skin, which is everyone.”
If you follow Lopez on social media, you are probably not surprised by this at all. Alex and JLo—or J-Rod, as they were once christened on the cover of a magazine—have the kind of relationship that makes people say things like “#goals.” There are pictures of the couple with all their children, Lopez’s twins plus Rodriguez’s daughters, Natasha and Ella, from his previous marriage; there are TikTok challenges and TikTok skits, all showing two people who genuinely love spending time with each other. You know, just normal people in love. The two were supposed to get married last year in Italy, plans that were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“We postponed the wedding twice. We had planned what we really, really wanted to do, [but] I don’t know if we’ll be able to re-create that. We canceled it, and since then we haven’t really talked about it. There’s no rush. We want to do it right when we can do it.”
She adds, “We just have to wait to see where the world lands.”
We first speak the week before the election, and “waiting to see where the world lands” is the name of the game in more ways than one. Lopez and Rodriguez have been campaigning for Biden on social media. She’s already voted. “I’ve told everybody who works around me, all my family, ‘Don’t even talk to me if you haven’t voted.’ ” Lopez gets more animated as she speaks. “The world right now is so confusing to me, because I feel like we all know that things need to change. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat, if you’re looking at the world right now, you know that we can do better—you know that. We can’t stay with this administration, we just can’t. It’s the definition of insanity.”
Four years ago, she was at Hillary Clinton’s election-night party. “I just remember thinking that [a Trump win] could never happen. So we can’t take anything for granted.”
This past summer also found Lopez and Rodriguez taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest. She worked with Emme and Max to make signs for the Los Angeles event they attended in early June, spurred in part by Max’s realization that his mother had a big social media following, “like some of [his] YouTuber gamers.
“He wanted me to make sure I realized that I had power and that I should use it, and I thought that was very insightful. It was one of those parenting moments when you’re like, Oh, maybe I’m raising a conscientious, kind, loving kid here,” she says. “I’m not used to being in big crowds like that, but it felt very empowering, and it was great to see so many young people out there, really young people. I don’t think it should ever be looked at as anything except trying to make things better, trying to make sure that people don’t get hurt, that people are treated fairly.”
This isn’t the first time Lopez has used her platform to raise awareness—and money—for a good cause. Back in 2017, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, where her parents are from, Lopez and Rodriguez helped raise over $30 million for the island’s relief efforts. Like pretty much all Puerto Ricans and Nuyoricans (Nuyorican Productions is also the name of the production company she cofounded with her longtime manager, Benny Medina), the Bronx-raised performer has always worn her Puerto Rican heritage with pride, and nowhere was this more evident than during her performance at the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show last February. “It was super important to me, knowing that I was going to have such a big stage, a big audience, to really say some things about what was going on in this country with Latinos: people in cages, and moms and daughters being ripped apart from one another,” she recalls. The crescendo of the performance came when she sang her 1999 song “Let’s Get Loud,” which featured an interlude of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” sung by her daughter Emme.
“The idea of using the song ‘Let’s Get Loud’ [was about] never staying quiet and always using your voice against any injustices in this world. I feel like sometimes people act like it’s not our country, too,” Lopez says. “It was very important to me to put in ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ and have my daughter sing it, because she was [born here] and I was, too. My mom came here. She was not born here; she was born in Puerto Rico, and [my parents] moved to New York. We are proud Puerto Ricans and Latinos, but we’re proud Americans, too. ” Although Puerto Rico is part of the United States and its citizens are American citizens, the island’s identity has always been something separate and distinct from a mainland American identity. As someone who is also proudly Puerto Rican, I understand exactly what she means: We are from the U.S., but not really from the U.S. We get mad when an online store doesn’t ship to Puerto Rico because they consider it to be “international shipping,” but nothing is more important to us than showing off our national flag whenever possible—on T-shirts and bandannas, hanging from the rearview mirror in our car, or even as a tattoo. So you can imagine the level of excitement when Lopez emerged onto the stage wearing a feathered cape adorned with the American flag, opening it to reveal a Puerto Rican flag underneath, as Emme sang “Born in the U.S.A.” It was a singular, unforgettable statement. Turns out the reveal was almost a complete surprise.
“I never showed some of the things that we were going to do until the last minute, because [I] didn’t want anybody to tell me that I couldn’t do it. Everybody in the show knew it, but when I opened it up, I was just literally opening it up to the world.” She adds, “I [told] Donatella Versace, ‘I want to be an American flag because I’m going to be singing “Born in the U.S.A.” with my daughter, but when I open it up, I want them to know that my heart and soul is Puerto Rican.’ ” ▪
Photographed by Micaiah Carter; styled by Alex White; hair by Chris Appleton for Color Wow, makeup by Scott Barnes at SixK.LA, and manicure by Tom Bachik for Dior Vernis; set design by Lizzie Lang at Walter Schupfer Management; produced by Meghan Gallagher at Connect The Dots Inc.
This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue.