recorded this with Emilio Estefan in South Beach," she says,
as the pulse of Estefan's beats begin to fade. She opens a bottle
of grape drink before sitting down on the studio's leather couch.
"He played me a bunch of tracks, then Gloria [Estefan] remembered
a song she had recorded but decided against using. It was Gloria
who suggested that Emilio give me this song." The autobiography
continues. "After I had finished filming Selena, I was really
feeling my Latin roots. I cut a demo all in Spanish, but the
big companies were more interested in doing an English record.
So I decided the record would be a blend of all of my influences."
nervy, and a competent songstress, the 28 year-old just experienced
a somewhat imperfect year - a roller-coaster ride, really. For
one thing, Lopez divorced her husband of one year, Ojani Noa
(a subject not open for discussion). Then there are those rumors
of romantic ties to rap impresario Puff Daddy. But Lopez insists
it's all about the music. "Puff Daddy has heard some of my stuff,
and he really likes it. He feels I created something different
and new," she says, laughing. "And he should know because he's
the best in the business." And last summer, though she won critical
acclaim as the high-heeled, fierce femme in the film Out of
Sight (with George Clooney), her unscripted performance on the
pages of film magazine Movieline sparked quite a flap.
journalists try to create a persona that's not really there,"
says Lopez, who was accused of dissing fellow Hollywood dream
kittens Cameron Diaz, Winona Ryder, and Gwyneth Paltrow, among
others, in that infamous interview. "It used to bother me being
portrayed as this bitchy person, but now I feel that the public
understands me better than some writer. There are people who
know who I really am, and that's good enough for me."
be one of those people would be to know of Lopez's unpredictable
sense of humor and her unexpected playfulness. She recently
returned to the Bronx of her childhood to do a photo shoot for
a book on best friends. With Arlene Rodriguez, her best friend
since second grade, Lopez decided to relive the Catholic-school
days for the shoot. "It was all her idea to dress up in the
plaid Catholic-school uniforms," says Rodriguez, who works as
her personal assistant. "I was really scared because those plaid
skirts never looked good on me, but we had so much fun." Growing
up, Lopez was surrounded by diverse musical genres. "I was in
third grade when The Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' changed
my life," she reminisces. It's difficult to imagine Lopez break
dancing in her Jenny Jen graffiti sweatshirt, Lee jeans, Adidas
sneakers with phat shoelaces, and big hoop earrings.
she walked to school in her uniform, the seminal sounds of the
Bronx underground and neighborhood boom boxes became her sound
track. "But then, when I came home, my mother would be listening
to Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, or Diana Ross. That's my background,
so I wanted to include all of those elements in my own music.
It's what I call Latin soul."
many actors who have recorded instant bargain-bin bombs, the
shrewd Lopez is bringing more than ego and nostalgia to her
debut project. "After signing with Sony, I discussed how I wanted
the record to sound," she says. "I was played many songs, by
artists ranging from Babyface to Diane Warren, but I felt it
was important that my record be less pop and have more urban
Latin appeal. Of course, that took a little explaining." Blessed
with a dream team of collaborators that includes co-executive
producer Cory Rooney and her resident vocal coach, soul survivor
Betty Wright (whose sassy "Clean Up Woman" is an R&B classic),
Lopez has already recorded a batch of songs with noted songwriters/producers,
including Track Masters (who worked with Mariah Carey) and Emilio
Estefan. She cowrote the lyrics for the touching "Should Have
Never." And she even sings an enchanting Spanish-language duet
with spicy salsa dish Marc Anthony, who gave her some advice.
"'Make the listener feel every word,' he said, and that's what
I'm trying to do," she reports.
been trying to discover what works, to tap into the emotion
and drama that I bring into my acting," she adds. "And believe
me, there has always been a lot of praying on my part." Chuckling
at her vocal protegee's serious tone, Wright says, "Since the
first day we began working together I've called her Sister Face.
It has two meanings: First, she is so cute, but at the same
time Jennifer doesn't have a problem facing down any issues
that might bother her. There are folks who will backstab or
talk when you're not around, but Jennifer will face anything.
She also has to be one of the most spiritual persons I've ever
met." Like many young Puerto Rican princesses coming of age
in the wild kingdom of the boogie-down Bronx, Jennifer Lopez
is a product of her parochial school upbringing. "Although I
went to church every Sunday, it wasn't until I was an adult
that I realized how important it is to have a relationship with
God." But what about the curse of guilt that is supposed to
loom over every Catholic's head like a dark cloud? "I've been
doing a lot of reading recently about the way the human mind
works," says Lopez. "What stayed with me was a chapter describing
guilt as a useless emotion. It doesn't make you feel good, it
doesn't change anything. If you want to change something, then
change it. That's the only way to get rid of ugly feelings."