Jennifer Lopez is a woman who doesn’t do anything by halves. Whereas some people are singers, J-Lo is an award-winning, chart-topping superstar who enjoys success in two languages. She doesn’t just act; in Selena she was the first Latina actress to earn more than $1 million dollars for a film, has been in more than 25 movies and is executive producer on new hit show The Fosters. She doesn’t just launch an eponymous perfume, she launches 20. And when she gets pregnant, she has twins. There’s no doubting that this glamorous 44-year-old single mother is an overachiever at every level. The question is, how on earth does she fit it all in?
With the American Idol star heading back to Dubai to enthral the Dubai World Cup race-goers with a concert, we managed to steal a few minutes of her time to ask her how she juggles a career and motherhood. Rather aptly, while talking to Aquarius, the star’s six-year-old twins, Emme and Max, are in the background, calling for their mother to come and read them their new storybooks. As she deftly switches between the interview and her children, she explains, “For their birthday they got the 5-Minute Stories by Disney. She got the 5-Minute Princess Stories and he got the 5-Minute Stories for Boys... so they are into that right now. They love those books. They just got them yesterday.”
It’s a wonder Lopez finds time to read to her kids between all of her work commitments. With a new season of American Idol under way, two movies scheduled to be released over the next 12 months (an animated film about aliens called Home hitting screens this year, and a feature film called Lila & Eve next year) plus a new album on the horizon, her fragrances, TV shows and everything else that comes under the Lopez brand, she must have to be very conscientious about making time for her kids.
She says, “I just do what every mum does... You give them a bath, you spend time with them, you read to them, you watch movies with them. You take them to the park and play dates. It’s just all the regular things mums do.”
It’s frankly remarkable. As supporters of all mothers, we recognise the stresses and strains of raising kids and admire the willpower of any woman who chooses to pursue a career alongside motherhood. But Lopez takes the working mother thing to a whole new level.
According to Lopez’s manager, Benny Medina, it comes down to a strong work ethic. “She got very used to just scooping those kids up and going, whether it was European fashion shows, music video sets, film locations, American Idol judging...” he says. “She likes to work. The Jennifer DNA is based on work.”
And while for some women motherhood knocks career ambition off the priority list, for Lopez, becoming a mother and realising that she was a role model for her own children made her all the more determined.
She says, “I think a lot about teaching my kids to work hard. I’ve learned something about kids – they don’t do what you say, they do what you do.” In another interview she said, “It’s this weird thing that happens where you are striving to be as good as you can be so that they turn out well. And that requires that you be a really great, evolved, aware person. Which is pretty awesome. But it’s also putting tremendous pressure on yourself – which is why women feel so guilty!”
Guilt, or no guilt, Lopez has more career ambition in her little finger than many of us have in our entire bodies. Not only is she in the middle of another season of American Idol, where she gets to put her 15 years’ experience in the music industry to good use mentoring young aspiring artists, but her 10th studio album is to be released in the US on June 17.
Additionally, the Dance Again singer has been causing a stir online with the release of two new music videos. Same Girl was shot in the Bronx with strong references to her Jenny from the Block days, while I Luh Ya Papi sees the star shifting up the stereotypical music video scenario where women are objectified by doing the same to men. Think male models dancing on a yacht in super-small trunks, washing cars, pouring water over themselves and pretending to enjoy it... you get the idea.
If these videos are anything to go by, her upcoming album will see Lopez owning her power and not being shy about it. But according to the singer, being confident about her voice is a recent development. She says, “The biggest insecurity I had was my singing. Even though I had sold 70 million records, there was this feeling like, I’m not good at this.” She references ex-husband Marc Anthony as being a key factor in the shift. She says, “He kept telling me, ‘You’re the only one holding yourself back from reaching your full potential as a singer. You have to let go’… I was always so insecure and just kind of going along. Then I grew, little by little, and realised, wait a minute, this is not a fluke. I’m not a mistake... I know what I’m doing.”
It’s this raw, open side of Lopez that makes her such an inspiration. She’s out there raising her children, loving and hurting her way through relationships – all in the public eye – while she constantly strives to push herself and her career to new levels of success, seemingly without fear. How can one person be so driven? She says it’s down to having balance in her life. “I think about all these amazing moments on stage and movie sets. Still nothing matches the joy I get when coming off stage and having my kids waiting there in the wings... That’s when my two worlds collide and I feel whole.”
As our interview comes to a close and Lopez excuses herself to return to her children’s story time, it feels like we are privy to seeing those two worlds overlapping. Gliding seamlessly from the stage to the school run, from an interview to her kids’ bedtime rituals, she’s a great example of an ambitious working mother – one who shows us it is possible to have it all, if you want it all enough.