hen Jennifer Lopez performs at the Superbowl halftime show with Shakira on Sunday night in Miami, we’ll be sure to witness an epic performance. After all, when J-Lo performs — whether she’s on stage, on camera, or storming a runway — all heads turn.
In the last year, the 50-year-old star has proven time and again, why a woman’s beauty, vitality and career needn’t have a shelf life.
Let’s start with The Dress. It was the year 2000 at the Grammy Awards. This was back when Sean Combs was still Puffy, Beyoncé was a member of Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera had dramatically beat Britney to Best New Artist that night. But no star or news could outshine Lopez, who made an unforgettable entrance on the red carpet wearing a tropical-print Versace dress.
The gown was cut to the navel, and seemed to usher in the new millennium with absolutely fearless style. Held in place (just about) with double-sided tape, the dress was daringly revealing, with its midriff-and-cleavage exposing V. (Geri Halliwell, it should be noted, had worn the same dress a month prior without anywhere near as much commotion.)
Jennifer Lopez backstage at the 2000 Grammys. Credit: Scott Gries/ImageDirect
But the real coup was J-Lo’s figure in that dress; after decades of skinny white women held up as the paragon of beauty, her curves signaled the beginning of a new era when, assisted by the internet, women of all shapes, sizes and colors demanded to be seen in their diverse glory.
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The image provoked such a sensation it even changed the technology we use today: the star in verdant silk chiffon became the most popular search query Google had ever seen at the time, and Google Image Search was born to satiate it.
So a rapturous standing ovation was practically guaranteed when Donatella invited Lopez to close the Versace show last Autumn in Milan, wearing a reprise of that iconic look.
Jennifer Lopez walks the runway at the Versace show during the Milan Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2020. Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
This time around, however, the message was about age. While many women in the spotlight are encouraged (either tacitly or not) to think of aging as a defect, Lopez was reminding us, once again, that her beauty — and strength — are hers alone to define, and ours to appreciate.
The Bronx-born performer has said her parents — a dad who worked nights and a mother who sold Tupperware when Lopez was young — hoped she’d become a lawyer.
She opted for superstardom instead, working her way up from a “Fly Girl” and New Kids on the Block back-up dancer to multi-hyphenate diva with the strongest work ethic in the business.
With longevity has come vertiginous highs and a few notable lows — the excruciating dialogue in 2003’s box office debacle “Gigli” for one — but her 50th birthday marked a truly golden year, above all for her turn in director Lorene Scafaria’s “Hustlers.”
As an actress, Lopez’s charisma has all too often been harnessed like ballast to keep substandard rom-com fare afloat. But when she stepped into the nine-inch platform heels of Ramona, a tough veteran stripper navigating the piranha pool of post-crash Manhattan, she found a role worthy of her of grace and grit.
Jennifer Lopez performs in Las Vegas in 2019. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for ABA
Based on the true story of a crew of exotic dancers who began drugging wealthy Wall Street men to max out their credit cards, Lopez threw herself into a grueling six-week course in pole dancing. Training with a Cirque du Soleil acrobat, she picked up thigh bruises and muscles most of us don’t know exist to pull off some gravity-defying gymnastics. “I don’t care if I look like a bat hanging upside down,” she told director Scafaria. “Make sure you get me. I don’t want anybody thinking it’s a double.”
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J-Lo’s first few minutes of screen time — a neon-drenched strip tease that encapsulates everything about Ramona’s ability to wield power — are some of the most indelible of her career: “Doesn’t money make you horny?” she purrs as she stalks offstage inundated by dollar bills. The movie took $33.2 million on its opening weekend.
But “Hustlers” was just one success in a year that was high-achieving even by J-Lo’s standards: There was a hair-flipping Motown medley at the 2019 Grammys, where she duetted with Smokey Robinson. She slayed the Met Gala in a crystal-dripping Versace gown and headpiece — essentially dressed as a giant diamond to match the enormous rock on her finger that announced her engagement to Yankees baseball champ Alex Rodriguez. (A. Rod posted a pic of his proposal on a Bahamas beach captioned “locking it down.”)
Jennifer Lopez arrives at the 2019 Met Gala in New York. Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
She released a new single, “Medicine,” and sold out arenas on the “It’s My Party” tour that marked her 50th birthday. And she celebrated that milestone by taking a spin in her $140,000 lipstick-red Porsche (a birthday gift from her fiancé), before throwing a bombastic party at Gloria Estefan’s sprawling waterfront estate on Star Island in Miami. Lopez donned a custom-made metallic dress to slice a birthday cake that required four men to lug its 10 glittering tiers onto the dance floor.
She also picked up a CFDA Fashion Icon award, wearing a blood-orange Ralph Lauren ensemble embellished with over 43,000 crystals. (“Jennifer Lopez uses clothes as a way to express confidence and power,” said CFDA chair Diane Von Furstenberg in the understatement of the night.) And she became the newest face of Coach, in an exuberant, brightly hued campaign shot by Juergen Teller that mined the performer’s New York roots.
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The launch of “Promise,” a floral, woodsy scent marking J-Lo’s 25th perfume to date, was another boost to a fragrance empire already worth $2 billion. It was inspired by her meteoric year: “It’s been the most spectacular, crazy, amazing, overwhelming, scary, beautiful year of my life,” she told Jimmy Fallon recently.
But don’t call it a “comeback” — Lopez has been with us all along, shaping the perception of what a woman is and can do — from Rihanna to Lizzo and beyond. So while an Academy nomination for “Hustlers” would have been the cherry on top — and the snub has highlighted the staggering lack of representation by Latinx characters at the Oscars — J-Lo is undeterred. “The best is yet to come,” she promised when she hosted Saturday Night Live in December.
As she teases her upcoming Superbowl Half Time Show with pics of her custom, rhinestone-studded mic and matching “Bling Cup,” who would dare doubt it?
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