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There’s this thing called love — and it’s a common thread Jennifer Lopez says unifies everything she does, from her music and her family to her business endeavors.
“My heart is what guides my whole life, and attracts me to every project that I do,” said Lopez, speaking exclusively with WWD in a lush suite at Manhattan’s Lowell Hotel. Clad in a turquoise sleeveless dress and gold jewelry, both from her Kohl’s lines, Lopez illustrated her point by mentioning her upcoming album; her gig as a judge on “American Idol”; her decade-long fragrance brand with Coty, among the biggest celebrity labels in history; “¡Q’Viva!: The Chosen,” the new Univision reality TV show she’s producing with her former husband, Marc Anthony, and Simon Fuller; her apparel and accessories lines at Kohl’s Corp. — and the two most important loves of her life, twins Emme and Max, who will turn four on Feb. 22.
Mentioning “¡Q’Viva!: The Chosen,” which premiered Saturday, she explained that the reality series involves traveling to 21 countries, including the U.S., and countries in Latin America, looking for the best Latin entertainers. “‘¡Q’Viva!’ is something that is a passion project, the same way Glow [her first fragrance] and Glowing [her latest scent, due at the beginning of May] are passion projects,” she said.
The L word is also her chief inspiration for her upcoming album, her eighth. “It’s still about love,” said Lopez, deftly avoiding the subject of her reported new boyfriend, 24-year-old dancer Casper Smart. “Maybe I’ll call it Love, exclamation point, this time.”
Speaking (or not) of Smart, Lopez is quick to acknowledge that the media’s constant interruption of and speculation about her personal life can get exhausting. “It’s hard sometimes, I’m not going to lie,” she said, likening it to living in a fishbowl. “I try to stay away from the media as much as I can,” she said with a hearty laugh. When asked if she felt the media picks on her — as with the flack she got in the fall for her Fiat commercial, which was set in the Bronx but shot on a Los Angeles back lot — Lopez turned serious.
“Sometimes. I try not to take it too personally, because I don’t think they do it just to me. But as a human being it feels like that. You feel like you’re the only one being picked on. But the truth is, they pick on everybody. They really don’t discriminate. I try to concentrate on all the great things I have going on in my life.”
She does seem amused by the Fiat flack, depicting the Bronx neighborhood Castle Hill, where she grew up. “I hate to break it to you guys, but every movie that you see that’s shot in Europe? It’s not shot in Europe, it’s a back lot in Los Angeles. I’ve been to my neighborhood a lot. My grandmother only died two years ago, so I was there for holidays. My mom worked there until a year and a half ago. It’s ridiculous. People love to talk.”
Does she think the media should back off? “Yes, but I’m not going to change that,” she said, laughing. “I’d love to think I could change it, with all the love and goodness in my heart, and say, ‘Hey, when people are going through this [referring to her split with Anthony], back off.’ I think of myself as powerful, but not that powerful. But I’m blessed. That I know. It’s been a difficult moment as far as a transition out of a seven-year marriage into not having that anymore, and that’s not easy for me. I have my moments, I’m human. But I just get through it like any other person.”
What would she do if one of her kids wanted to go into the entertainment field? “Here’s what I know about doing what I do — and obviously their dad is the same way. If they’re going to do it, there’s nothing I can do to stop them — and I’ll support them. But just like my mom, I’m going to make them go to school” — Lopez graduated from Preston High School, an all-girls Catholic high school in the Bronx, in 1987, going on to briefly attend Baruch College — “and I’m going to let them make that decision when they’re old enough to make that decision. I don’t want them to be in the business at a young age. I just don’t think they need that burden, that pressure. They should have a normal life — go to school, play, grow up. They should have a family life, as solid a foundation as I can give them. If they want to go off and be artists or singers or dancers or pilots or architects or anything — then they have my full support. My mom couldn’t stop me from [getting into this industry], I won’t be able to stop them from doing it.”
Still, both kids are showing early creative talent. “They are both artistic children, but you never know what avenue that’s going to take,” said Lopez. “I can hear that Emme can sing. She loves to dance and will sit there for hours watching dance, but you never know what path that’s going to take. She could be a choreographer. And I can see that Max is very comfortable in front of a camera.”
Lopez has never been particularly afraid to kick open new doors, including the one that she definitively broke in 10 years ago: the celebrity fragrance genre, a category that had largely died in the late Eighties after entries from stars ranging from Cher to Joan Collins failed, leaving Elizabeth Taylor as the only star left standing. When Lopez decided she wanted to do a signature scent, the market was lukewarm on the idea of anyone — even someone with Lopez’s star power — doing a celebrity fragrance. Macy’s Inc. took the juice and put it on a modest display.
Quickly, the market learned it had a hot seller on its hands, one that rapidly expanded to 2,000 department and specialty stores and made the top five in nearly all of them. Glow racked up first-year retail sales of more than $100 million globally. These days, Lopez’s fragrance empire — of which Glowing is the 18th — is a nearly $2 billion retail beauty brand on a cumulative basis.