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Lunch With: 'J.Lo' -- Jennifer Lopez, Riding High
by Lydia Martin
January 24, 2001
You spend an hour waiting for Jennifer Lopez to descend from her suite at The Tides.
Girlfriend's such a big star these days, she travels with a posse. Half of them are upstairs right now, dealing with the phones, doing her hair and makeup, helping her pick out the outfit she will wear for about a half hour -- just long enough to chat with you and run back up for another costume change.
Downstairs, you've got your burly, black-suited bodyguards and your full complement of publicists and handlers. Lunch can't happen at the hotel's terrace restaurant, for fear that the crowds doing the Ocean Drive crawl will catch a glimpse and freak.
So you're waiting for her in a lobby conference room, where, by way of lunch, somebody has laid out a spread of muffins, croissants, juice, coffee -- as if Miss Thing is gonna go near all those carbs. The only thing she grabs from the table is a bottle of Vittel spring water.
She's in a sheer little pink dress, a slit cut all the way up one thigh. But it's no hoochie dress. It's more 1950s musical. Something Ginger Rogers may have taken a spin in, if Ginger had been cool with showing a little more skin.
``Versace. When I come to Miami I feel more flirty. I'm gonna wear a blue one when I do the Cristina show this afternoon, but I just threw this one on for now.''
She's in town doing publicity stops for her new movie, The Wedding Planner, hitting theaters Friday. (She's also got a new CD release this week.) She plays Mary, a slick, suited, workaholic of a wedding planner who spends all her time organizing the perfect weddings for her rich clients, but no time hooking herself up.
Then one day she meets Mr. Right, played with all the rugged Southern charm Matthew McConaughey could muster. Like Prince Charming, he saves her and her Gucci shoe when she and it get stuck in a manhole as a wayward dumpster barrels toward her. But then, as twists go in cute romantic comedies, it turns out he's the groom in one of her weddings.
The whole thing is very PG, very mainstream, very Julia Roberts.
``Yeah, I know what you mean. But I don't think my fans have any trouble separating me from a movie role that I may play. They'll see me in this, but two days later they'll see me on David Letterman in rock-and-roll gear. My music is more who I really am, the rest is acting. Though I love being glamorous as much as I love being in a pair of Adidas and hip-hop pants with a half top and a pony tail.''
For this role, Jennifer loses the street thing, and the Latina thing. Instead she plays a run-of-the-mill American girl whose family happens to be Italian. You've gotta wonder if it's the Jennifer Lopez machine trying to take her further into Middle America.
``I made a conscious decision from the beginning not to do things that were going to pigeonhole me. Then again, I love playing Latin characters because that's very close to my heart. I do whatever the best material is that comes to me. If it's a Latin character and it's great, I'm doing it, regardless. If it's not a Latin character, I won't let them change it to a Latin character just because I'm playing it. We can change my look, we can work on dialect or whatever.''
But does she have any issues with the fact that she's still Jennifer Lopez, Latin Pop Star, as opposed to Jennifer Lopez, Pop Star? Nobody calls Madonna an Italian-American pop star. Julia Roberts is a movie star, not a -- well, do we really ever hear what Julia Roberts is?
``No, we don't. I don't think I will ever totally break away from that, only because I'm so proud of it. I think I perpetuated that a lot in the beginning. Not that the media wouldn't have done it anyway, they always love to attach labels to people. But I think one of the reasons is that Latins are very strong with their culture. Spanish, besides English, is the language of the United States. Latins celebrate their culture, we put it in everybody's face.''
Jennifer had been itching to prove she could carry a romantic comedy, and whatever the critics might say about The Wedding Planner, there is no question she pulled off the role. She's as watchable as any A-list leading lady.
``It's my favorite kind of movie. But there is also a certain thing that goes along with being a leading lady in Hollywood who is able to be in a romantic comedy.''
But this romantic comedy is too cutesy. You would have preferred to see some of that Jennifer Lopez edge.
``Yeah, it's kind of a classic romantic comedy. The director wanted to do it in the style of the more innocent movies from the '40s and '50s. It appealed to me because deep down I am really a romantic -- and much more traditional than probably anybody would imagine. I believe in the whole fairy tale, and I'm not ashamed to say it.''
But what's up with all those movies where the guy runs to the chapel to save the girl from marrying the wrong man?
``It's every movie -- you're right. You just have to find your own twist on it. It's all about the rescue, the knight in shining armor taking you off into the sunset.''
So, like, has she been rescued that way?
MUM ON HER MAN
Jennifer appreciates your attempt to inch into Puff Daddy territory, but she's not going there. ``I don't like to talk about myself so much.'' Later you try to bring up her man again -- there's been a flimsy rumor that he may have popped the question, plus there's his gun-possession trial -- but Jennifer tells you flat out to drop it. ``I don't want to talk about it.''
So what's the deal with J.Lo, her new nickname, and the title of her second CD, just released Tuesday?
``It's something my music fans named me, I'd go to MTV or wherever and there would be kids carrying signs that said J.Lo. It's kind of like street terminology, and it kind of caught on.''
She nabbed a Grammy nomination for Let's Get Loud, a dance number on her last CD, but she's already announced she won't be attending the show this year. ``I'd love to be there, but I have to do publicity for the new CD. I'm going to Australia and Japan."
Or is it that she just doesn't think she can top last year's Versace dress, the scant jaw-dropping number cut down to her belly button?
``No, that's not it. But I don't know what I would wear. Every time I go out now, it takes me forever to get dressed.''
Jennifer, 30, has come a long way since her days as a Fly Girl on In Living Color. She's also far from her old 'hood in the Bronx. But she swears the Versace threads and the private jets haven't changed her in any essential ways.
``I have traveled. I do know things now, I've seen things, and it has changed me. But it's growth in a positive way. I do feel grateful when I wake up and I'm in these nice places and it's like, wow. I used to sleep with my two sisters in the same room, all three of us in one bed. When people get caught up in the hype of this lifestyle is where they go wrong.''
She's not afraid to admit she stayed in her hotel room last night, not a bit of South Beach partying.
``I don't even know where the stories come from. I'm not into going out. People want to believe that stuff because you lead this glamorous life. But right now, my life is really about work. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to balance that with a family and kids. That's the goal.''