It’s a good time to be Jennifer Lopez.
The Bronx native and Shakira join the long list of famous performers to grace the Pepsi stage, including Maroon 5, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake.
The announcement comes on the heels of another success for the esteemed icon: the release of box office hit film “Hustlers.” Directed by Lorene Scafaria, “Hustlers” follows the story of Lopez’s character Ramona, a savvy, top-earning stripper who leads a cohort of fellow strippers in a scheme to swindle money from their wealthy Wall Street clients in the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis.
The heist drama has received critical acclaim, even propelling Lopez into early awards consideration. Her onscreen portrayal of real-life stripper Samantha Barbash is larger-than-life, and highlights everything we know and love about the beloved star: a ferocious yet maternal demeanor, natural talent, and a genuine love of performance.
As one of the first Latinas in the media spotlight during the 1990s and early 2000s, Lopez paved the way for many Latinx performers to follow suit. Latina author and journalist Isabel González Whitaker, who interviewed Lopez for a 2018 Harper’s Bazaar article, wrote: “She’s a change agent, having given visibility to our culture and people through the massive empire she’s created.”
Lopez began her career in the 90s, dancing as a fly girl on the television comedy “In Living Color,” until she landed the lead role of late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez in Gregory Nava’s 1997 biographical drama “Selena.” The film earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress and secured her position as the first Latina actress to earn $1 million in a movie role.
While a great box office success, “Selena” held a much deeper meaning for Lopez, who felt the film created more exposure for Latina actresses to find success on the silver screen. “It was a Latin movie, starring a Latin girl, playing a Latin artist with a Latin director. It was a statement to the world,” Lopez said in a 2019 interview with Variety.
Indeed, Lopez’s influence on the Latinx performer community has been felt worldwide. Following her success in the film world, she released several hit studio albums, solidifying her status as a triple-threat entertainer: proficient in dancing, acting, and singing. Among her chart-topping songs is the 2002 single “Jenny From the Block,” in which she praises her Puerto Rican heritage and childhood upbringing in the Bronx, N.Y. The song put both demographics on a global stage, and Latin representation in the entertainment world only rose from there.
Through her work, Lopez provided cultural visibility that was sorely needed in Hollywood. In 1997, the actress walked the Academy Awards red carpet for the first time, alongside only one other Latin actor. In that time period, less than 1% of films and entertainment programs focused on Latino subjects. Today, that number has risen to 5.8%, according to a 2017 research study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. That number still remains incredibly small, but successful Latina careers like Lopez’s create immeasurable exposure for future progress in Latinx representation.
In 2000, Lopez broke another barrier, stepping into the world of fashion and technology, seemingly without meaning to do so. At the 42nd annual Grammy Awards, the “Hustlers” star walked the carpet in that famous, jaw-dropping green gown designed by Donatella Versace. The look created so much internet buzz that Google actually had to create a new search function in its newly developed software: Google Images.
“At the time, it [Lopez’s Versace gown] was the most popular search query we had ever seen, but we had no way of getting users exactly what they wanted: JLo wearing that dress,” former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said.
Twenty years later, Lopez rocked the fashion world once again by wearing a remake of the famous gown in Versace’s Spring Summer 2020 Show during Milan Fashion Week in early September. And in case you were wondering, yes, she still looks that good.
So while Latinx representation in the media still has a long way to go before it is adequately inclusive, celebrities like Lopez bring immense aid to the cause, and pave the way for new Latinx artists to emerge.
Her timeless beauty, poise, and determination defines a generation of storytelling and entertainment. And lucky for us, it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down any time soon.