Jennifer Lopez

Occupation: Actress, Singer
Date of Birth: July 24, 1970
Place of Birth: Bronx, N.Y., USA
Sign: Sun in Leo, Moon in Aries
Relations: Ex-husband: Ojani Noa; companion: Sean (Puffy) Combs


JENNIFER 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 choreographer Rosie 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 out Ashley 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 important thing."

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.

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