#WCW: Actress, Singer, and Style Icon Jennifer Lopez

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She’s “still Jenny from the block”.

But even before that, Jennifer Lopez was part of the Fly Girls troupe on In Living Color and playing the iconic lead role in Selena, the film that earned her a Golden Globe nomination and paved the way for Latinas in Hollywood and beyond. In fact, the popstar has broken ground in more ways than one. To this day, she still holds the high honors of one truly singular success: she’s the only woman in the universe to have a number one movie and a number one album at the same time – The Wedding Planner starring opposite Matthew McConaughey and her second studio release J.Lo, respectively.

Since Lopez first appeared in the entertainment business in 1991, she has been an unstoppable force, retaining star power without ever seeing it wane. In fact, at the age of 49 (she just celebrated her birthday this week), she is more beautiful, more in shape, more popular, and more powerful than ever. There are very few celebrities that even approximate her caliber, and fewer still that have had the ability to retain it for so long. Lopez is rewriting the rulebook all by herself.

Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, Guadalupe Rodríguez and David López, she was the middle daughter out of three girls. Although her family was lower income when she was born, they eventually worked hard enough to save up for a two-story home, which was considered a step up from their original apartment in Castle Hill. By the age of five, Lopez was enrolled in singing and dancing lessons, and showed an aptitude for both at a young age.

By high school, she was also incorporating athletics into her extracurricular activities, including gymnastics, track, and softball. When Lopez learned of an open-casting opportunity in her final year of high school, she auditioned for the role and landed a part in the low-budget film, My Little Girl. This experience encouraged her to pursue a job in the entertainment industry, leading her to move into her own apartment in Manhattan soon after high school.

Eventually, Loepz landed a job as a backup dancer for New Kids on the Block in 1991, which opened the door to her becoming a Fly Girl on In Living Color the same year. Her first adult acting gig came two years later, when she starred in a direct-to-video movie called Lost in the Wild. Hungry for opportunities, she acted in multiple films before landing her big break as the star of the Selena biopic in 1997. Not only was she recognized by the Golden Globes for her stunning embodiment of one of Latin America’s most beloved figures, but she also became the first Latina in history to earn over $1 million for a role.

Jennifer Lopez as Selena
Jennifer Lopez as Selena | Photo: Courtesy of Warner Home Video

In 1999, Lopez launched her music career with the track “If You Had My Love”, becoming the first artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 with a debut single since Britney Spears. From then on, Lopez would alternate between recording, dropping albums and touring on the strength of her releases, and starring in big-budget films. She also launched her own clothing and accessories line called J.Lo by Jennifer Lopez in 2001, designed for curvy women who were often ignored by the fashion industry elite.

In the early 2000s, Lopez was famously attached to Ben Affleck, earning the first Hollywood couple nickname of “Bennifer”. The two starred in Gigli together, which tanked at the box office and threatened Lopez’s stellar career. Eventually, the two broke up, and Lopez ended up marrying Latin American singer Marc Anthony. In the late 2000s, she had success as a Spanish-singing crossover artist. However, in 2010, Lopez’s career took a sharp upward turn when she joined the judging panel of American Idol, replacing Ellen Degeneres.

Seen as a fair but compassionate judge, she quickly became a crowd favorite, and her star shone even brighter. By 2012, she was earning $12 million a season. She went on to embark on a lucrative Dance Against the World tour, earning $1 million per performance. Throughout all of this, she was also releasing albums, new clothing lines, and fragrances. In fact, her fragrance line was the world’s most successful celebrity fragrance line, with sales that exceeded $2 billion by 2012. Lopez has now left American Idol for a new show on NBC called World of Dance, and stars in the police drama Shades of Blue, which is currently in its third season.

And is if all that isn’t enough to keep her busy until eternity, Lopez also has a Las Vegas residency that has just surpassed its 100th show. Not only has she been heralded as the number one Latin popstar in the world, but she’s also one of the biggest stars in the world – period. Lopez is also held up as a longtime style icon, influencing everyone from Beyoncé to Kim Kardashian. While we stand in awe of her work ethic, her fortitude, her family loyalty, her amazing physique, and her astonishing career, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also revisit some of her best red-carpet looks of the past couple of years – looks that prove J.Lo has only gotten better looking with age.

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