LOPEZ was first thrust into the spotlight when she won
out in a nationwide search for an actress to play the
lead role in Selena, director Gregory Nava's
biopic about the slain Tejano singer. The film made a
respectable showing at the box office, and Lopez's
uncanny portrayal of the singer won her critical raves
(she scored a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination) and
a reported $1 million salary, a paycheck that made her
the highest-paid Latina actress in history. Although
Lopez's rise to stardom seemed to happen overnight, in
truth, the actress had earned her place at the top by
consistently plying her exceptional talent.
The daughter of a computer specialist and a
kindergarten teacher, Lopez always knew she wanted to be
a performer. She started her showbiz career as a dancer
in stage musicals most notably in a European tour of
Golden Musicals of Broadway and in a Japanese
tour of Synchronicity and in various music
videos. But it was when she won a national competition
of about two thousand contestants vying to become one of
Perez's "fly girl" dancers on Fox's In Living
Color that Lopez finally cracked into Hollywood.
Lopez knew she wanted to make the transition to acting,
but she followed Color producer Keenan Ivory
Wayans' advice to stick with the show for a while before
making any attempt to move on.
After a couple of seasons spent shaking her booty
during the commercial segues on In Living Color,
Lopez got her shot at acting when a co-worker, whose
husband was writing and producing a pilot called
South Central for Fox, suggested her for a part.
The show was practically over before it started, but it
did pave the actress's way into two more short-lived
series, Second Chances and Malibu Road.
Lopez effectively brought her television career to an
end in 1993, with a role as a heroic nurse in Nurses
on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7; the siren call
of the big screen could no longer be ignored.
In 1995, Lopez appeared in Gregory Nava's critically
acclaimed Mi Familia, a film that introduced the
actress's talent to top filmmakers. In 1996, she beat
Judd and Lauren Holly for the supporting role of Robin
Williams' teacher in the Francis
Ford Coppola comedy Jack. The movie was
fairly embarrassing, but Lopez was unscathed by the
experience, a feat she had previously accomplished with
the sluggish Money Train, from which she emerged
"smelling like a rose," while co-stars Wesley
Snipes and Woody
Harrelson took a critical trashing.
Despite having previously worked with Nava on Mi
Familia, Lopez was subjected to an intense
auditioning process before she succeeded in landing the
lead role in 1997's Selena. The movie increased
Lopez's Hollywood stock considerably, and the parallels
between the actress and the singer, who was poised for
break-out stardom at the time of her death, were
unmistakable. Lopez drew certain lessons from Selena's
life. "I used her as an example when I was making this
movie," Lopez says. "She was very good with her fans.
She was always very gracious, and always took time to
talk to them. She realized that her fans were the most
Selena marked a new beginning for Lopez in
more than just career terms. At the wrap party for the
film in San Antonio, Lopez's boyfriend, Ojani Noa, took
the microphone and proposed to her on the dance floor.
The couple married in early 1997; if Lopez didn't know
that she had achieved stardom, she soon found out for
sure when apparently false rumors of her imminent
divorce were printed in mainstream newspapers after only
two months of marriage. The marriage fell apart in less
than a year.
Luckily, her newfound notoriety wasn't all negative:
Lopez was named one of People magazine's Fifty
Most Beautiful People for 1997, and her first
post-Selena project, Anaconda, was the
film that finally knocked Jim
Carrey's Liar Liar out of its holding pattern
at the top spot in the spring box office rankings. Yes,
1997 certainly turned out to be a banner year for Lopez.
She starred opposite Jack
Nicholson in Bob Rafelson's well-received noir
thriller Blood and Wine, and revisited the genre
in the fall when she appeared opposite Sean
Penn in Oliver
Stone's U-Turn. Lopez beat out a bevy of
A-list actresses to land the female lead in Steven
Soderbergh's steamy 1998 crime film Out of Sight,
in which she starred as a U.S. marshal who falls in love
with one of her captors (played by George
Clooney) after she is taken hostage during a prison
break. For her next outing, Lopez got ant-imated, in the
DreamWorks tale Antz.
In June 1999, the former fly girl filed a musical
chapter with the release of the Latin pop album On
the 6, which achieved platinum status within two
months. Meanwhile, speculation about her personal life
has continued to be rampant. Since her divorce from Noa,
Lopez has been linked variously with Sony Records
president (and former Mr. Mariah
Carey) Tommy Mottola, Latin pop star Marc Anthony,
and Sean "Puffy" Combs. Recently, Lopez and Combs
dropped the public facade that they are "just friends."
Coming up for the multi-talented Lopez is a sci-fi
film titled The Cell and a possible tour in
support of On the 6.