If you haven’t noticed from the pastel-colored decor and egg-shaped candy taking over the aisles in stores, Easter is almost here. You may be celebrating…
She’s beautiful, rich and wildly successful. But as Jennifer Lopez has been reminding fans since her 2002 hit single “Jenny From The Block,” she also “can’t forget to stay real.”
“To me it’s like breathing,” the triple-threat sang at the time. Sixteen years later, Lopez is the recipient of MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, joining the ranks of superstar honorees such as David Bowie, Janet Jackson and Madonna.
“She’s our Madonna,” says Michelle Habell-Pallán, co-author of “American Sabor: Latinos and Latinas in US Popular Music,” of J.Lo’s unparalleled position within Latin culture. But unlike the Material Girl, who uses her ever-changing personal style to keep fans on their toes, Lopez does the opposite. Since her first hit single, “If You Had My Love,” dropped in 1999, the Bronx-born babe has maintained a stable of consistent go-to fashion and beauty looks, which sends an important message to her legions of admirers: J.Lo will always be J.Lo.
“What makes her stand out is that she never forgot where she came from,” says Habell-Pallán, noting that Lopez frequently “pays homage” in her makeup and dress to previous Latina icons, such as Ronnie Spector (with her 1960s-era bouffant hairdo and edgy eye makeup) and Rita Moreno (another dancer-singer-actress who pioneered a kind of Latin-inflected glam). “The way she communicates through style and through her videos — she’s learning from the women who came before her, and she never forgets her roots.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than in her most recent video, for the sultry, swaggering “Dinero.”
The sound is fresh and the collaborators — DJ Khaled and Cardi B — are undeniably of-the-moment. But the styles, while trendy, are also remarkably consistent with others that Lopez has worn throughout the years.
There’s a sheer and super-sexy, all-white look, which recalls similarly glam, gleaming outfits from the videos for “If You Had My Love” and 2001’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” A white fur coat, framing her flawless face in close-up, resembles a shot from “Jenny From the Block,” down to the fuzzy jacket.
She also dances in a cool, sequined baseball uniform topped with a crystal-studded Yankees cap: a hat-tip to her NYC-based hip-hop roots as well as her current flame, A-Rod.
Throughout her career, Lopez, 49, has swung from sexy to sporty, and back again.
She’s Jenny from the Block on stage and in her music videos, where she trots out her homegrown, Nuyorican style in midriff-baring tops and roomy bottoms. “It’s almost like she’s come out of a subway ready for an audition,” Nick Verreos, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising department co-chair and red-carpet commentator, says of this style.
“Jenny” also showed up in full force to the 2000 VMAs wearing pigtails, a crystal-studded bandana and a blingy Sean John crop: a nod to then-boyfriend Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs.
Usually, however, her red-carpet looks are pure bombshell. Triple-threat J.Lo dominates Hollywood red carpets with drop-dead, va-va voom gowns that often leave little to the imagination. (Her infamous green Versace number at the 2000 Grammy’s was so eye-catching, it prompted Google to launch its image search function to deal with all of the queries it inspired.)
“She’s fearless,” says Verreos, who has done red-carpet commentary for ABC and E! “She’s like fashion Wonder Woman.” Her signature style is one she’s worn since her first Oscars in 1997, when the newbie turned heads in a body-hugging, metallic beaded dress. From the plunging gold Marchesa gown she rocked at the 2009 Golden Globes to her sheer and strategically spangled Zuhair Murad at the 2013 Billboard awards, Lopez sparkles in front of the cameras.
“Everything she does always has that J.Lo realness to it,” says Lopez’s hairstylist Chris Appleton, who tamed her naturally curly tresses for “Dinero.” Among the star’s go-to ’dos is the one he’s dubbed “Bronx Barbie”: a 1960s-inspired half-up, half-down look that she’s worn for years.
“She always keeps it beautiful,” Appleton says of Lopez’s iconic fashions. “Girls want to emulate her. She doesn’t go avant-garde; everything she does has always got that beauty or that timeless feel to it.”
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