It was supposed to be Jennifer Lopez’s day off. Cue visions of her lounging by her infinity pool in Bel-Air, friends hanging, tunes turned up. Instead, Lopez, the multihyphenate performer, producer and branding maven, held a half-dozen business meetings in her home here, from early morning until sundown, on ambitious ventures ranging from real estate to fitness.
A studio head was there, some developer types, marketing people, her TV and film producing partner, her manager and Alex Rodriguez, her boyfriend. The couple were hoping to have dinner together, but “you see what goes on around here,” she said, unapologetically, as they went over the day’s agenda.
A gracious Bel-Air mansion — complete with mini-waterfalls (yes, plural), fireplaces blazing in even empty rooms, and two bunnies that belong to Lopez’s 10-year-old twins — might seem an unlikely spot to transform into a C-suite. But when Lopez moved in two years ago, she designed an office like a boardroom, complete with big conference table. It just happens to be next to the couture-filled space where she gets her hair and makeup done. And so she whisks in, half-dolled up, to present her opinions and outsize ideas, and she sells them: J. Lo Inc., in action.
And now, at the end of this non-day off, she strode over on four-inch glossy Louboutins, with the posture of an equestrian and a C.E.O.’s firm handshake, to crisply discuss how her latest movie, “Second Act,” fits into her new entrepreneurial strategy. It all hinges on an acknowledgment of her power bossness.
Here’s what Lopez, 49, has recently come to realize: that J. Lo — the artist, the brand, the astonishingly dewy face and buffed physique — is even more valuable than the entertainment industry has given her credit for. Which is not to say she is after a bigger paycheck, exactly — although as the chorus of her recent single with Cardi B and DJ Khaled goes, “Yo quiero dinero.” But like a lot of people in her world who have experienced Hollywood inequity, what she is demanding, vocally all of a sudden, is her fair share. “I want what I deserve,” she said.
To hear her tell it, that stance has been hard-won. Over the last few years, as a divorced parent, she took painstaking stock of her trajectory, and decided she could level up.
“Understanding my own worth and value as a person made me understand it differently in my work, as well,” she said. It “has been a long journey for me. And so I’m very proud to stand in the shoes of, yes, I think I do deserve more. All artists do deserve more. We are the scarce asset. They can’t do anything without us. They have no product. So we have to understand that.”
That Lopez now openly mentions private equity as breezily as other actresses discuss character development may be thanks to Rodriguez, 43. The Yankee-turned-sports commentator is a longtime investor with a sizable real estate portfolio spread across 14 states — A-Rod Inc. He had organized several of her meetings that day, and some for himself.
Their partnership — they’ve been blissfully dating for a year and a half, and are the furthest thing from shy about proclaiming it — has given Lopez’s already bustling empire a new momentum, she and her partners agreed. “He just opened up our vision to other ways of doing” business, she said, “that were not only more lucrative but gave us more freedom, gave us more control over our own image and our own ideas, instead of giving them away.”
SHE WAS IN A SITTING AREA near her breakfast nook, propped up by a fleet of white throw pillows stitched with inspirational sayings — “Life is short, live your dream and share your passion,” “Start each day with a grateful heart,” “My favorite place in the world is next to you,” etc., etc. You’ve seen them all at a home goods store near you. More of the same messaging adorned the walls and tables. “You can’t touch music, but music can touch you,” read the ceramic dish in front of me.
These are not just totems of cozying décor. Lopez, a devotee of the motivational author Louise Hay, believes deeply in the power of daily affirmations and speaking the success you want into the world. (And if intoning “I am youthful and timeless” is responsible for her look, Goop should worry, especially because Lopez is also starting a skin-care line.)
Due Dec. 21, “Second Act,” the movie Lopez stars in and produced with her company, Nuyorican Productions, is built on a similar self-help-y maxim: “The only thing stopping you is you.” Lopez plays Maya de la Vargas, a 40-year-old assistant manager at a Queens big-box store whose life hasn’t unfolded as she imagined and who now dreams of better opportunities — opportunities usually not afforded to 40-plus women of color. The story dovetailed with Lopez’s worldview, that your status early on doesn’t necessarily determine your future, but your attitude does. No one bet that the Bronx dancer who started as a Fly Girl on “In Living Color” in 1991 would go on to become a powerhouse Hollywood entertainer and retail mogul.