It’s always nice to meet the neighbors, particularly if you live in Water Mill and the new kid on the block is Jenny from the Block. This past August, Jennifer Lopez purchased an $18 million estate, adding Hamptons homeowner to her list of credits—actress, singer, dancer, record and television producer and fashion icon who knows how to wear Versace.
Lopez’s life wasn’t always designer gowns and mansions. She grew up in the Bronx with her Puerto Rican-born parents, and attended all-girls Catholic schools. By the age of 19, Lopez was paying for her own singing and dancing lessons and auditioning for dance roles whenever she got the chance. In the early 1990s, she became a “Fly Girl” dancer on “In Living Color,” along with Carrie Ann Inaba, who would go on to judge “Dancing With the Stars.” Lopez followed her “Fly Girl” gig with a job as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson, and appeared in Jackson’s video “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
Four years later, Lopez got her big break, landing the title role in Selena, the biopic of the short life of the Tejana pop star, Selena Quintanilla. Roger Ebert wrote that it was “a star-making performance.” In her next film role, in Out of Sight, an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel about a deputy federal marshal who falls for a dashing thief, Lopez proved herself to be “a hard-working, pistol-packing bombshell,” with “seductiveness and grit,” according to The New York Times critic Janet Maslin. One of the film’s most memorable scenes found Lopez and co-star George Clooney locked in a car trunk, bantering with sizzling chemistry. The 1998 Out of Sight did more for Lopez than solidify her position as a box-office hit, it made her the first Latina to command over a million dollars for a film role.
At the same time her music career was taking off as well. Her debut album, On the 6, referring to the number 6 subway line which ran through Lopez’s Bronx neighborhood, was packed with hit singles, including “If You Had My Love,” “Waiting for Tonight,” and “Let’s Get Loud,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Dance Recording category. Another single, “No Me Ames,” which earned two nominations at the Latin Grammy Awards, was a duet featuring Marc Anthony, who would later become her husband.
Lopez returned to films with a string of romantic comedies that found more favor with audiences than critics. The Wedding Planner debuted at number one while her album J.Lo held the top spot on the charts, making her the first actress/singer ever to have a film and an album hit number one simultaneously. Ralph Fiennes romanced Lopez in Maid in Manhattan, in another rom-com that raked in box office bucks, despite the fact that Lopez was the most unbelievably chic hotel chambermaid in history. In Shall We Dance? an American remake of a Japanese film of the same name, Lopez played a ballroom diva who teaches Richard Gere how to tango. Monster-in-Law gave Lopez a chance to match wits and quips with Jane Fonda, eventually winning her future mother-in-law’s respect before walking down the aisle.
Off-camera, Lopez has had her share of romances, often with less success than her film counterparts. Her first husband was Cuban-born Ojani Noa, whom she married in 1997, and divorced 11 months later. Next, Lopez dated Sean Combs, aka P. Diddy, rapper, producer, and entrepreneur, but a 1999 shooting outside a New York nightclub resulted in Combs being charged with felony gun possession. The strain of the trial and constant media attention put an end to the relationship.
Lopez’s second marriage to backup dancer Chris Judd lasted a year and a half, ending when Lopez began a romantic involvement with the actor Ben Affleck. Dubbed “Bennifer” by the press, the high-profile couple planned to marry in 2003, but called it off just hours before their Santa Barbara wedding.
A few months later, Lopez started seeing an old friend, Marc Anthony. They would be married on June 5, 2004. It was Anthony’s second marriage, and Lopez’s third. The couple welcomed fraternal twins, Emme and Max, in 2008. Lopez’s career branched out in new directions—she launched a fragrance, clothing lines, and continued her philanthropic efforts regarding children’s health issues. She also became a judge on “American Idol,” heading into her second year on the show reportedly to a $20 million dollar paycheck. Last May, Anthony appeared as a guest on “Idol,” with Lopez joining in as a dancer, wearing little more than a lot of fringe, proving the former “Fly Girl” could still shake it with style.
But by July, the couple had decided to separate, and Lopez bought her Water Mill home to move on to the next chapter in her life. Lopez has been honored by Artists for Amnesty International for her film Bordertown, and has led numerous philanthropic endeavors to benefit disadvantaged women and children. She also has new fragrance and clothing lines, as befits the fashionista who appeared at the 2000 Grammy Awards in an insanely low-cut jungle green Versace that was voted the “fifth most iconic dress of all time” in a poll published in The Daily Telegraph. “It was a nice dress,” Lopez said, admitting that double-stick tape was necessary for keeping the dress securely in place, “I had no idea it would become such a big deal.”
We can only hope she’ll wear it around the neighborhood.