Rolling Stone cover star Jennifer Lopez reflects on the early days of her career and the defining moments that cemented her status as an icon in The First Time. From her first film role to her first time performing live, which took place at Madison Square Garden, it’s clear that “Jenny From the Block” was destined to become the megastar she is today.
Lopez’s longstanding working relationship with director Gregory Nava dates back to her first-ever movie role in the 1995 film, My Family, where she starred alongside Jimmy Smits and Edward Olmos. Nava would later cast Lopez in her breakout titular role in Selena.
“I just remember the audition, going in. They made me come in five times because I wasn’t Mexican and they really wanted Mexican actors, and I was Puerto Rican from New York — not Mexican,” she says of her My Family audition. “Greg told me, he goes, ‘At the end of the day I really wanted to go with a Latina, but you know, you always have to go with the talent… and you won the part.'”
“I had to earn it,” she added. “But it was it was great and it was a great relationship that I still have today.
When asked about meeting one of her personal idols, Lopez recalls attending an Oscar party hosted by a Hollywood agent in the early ’00s.
“I went with Ben, and I met Barbra Streisand for the first time. She came up to me and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m such a huge fan,” she says. “And she goes, ‘How do you do it?’… You know, be so famous?’ And I was really puzzled by her questions. I was like, ‘Well you’re Barbra Streisand!'”
Streisand admitted to Lopez that she suffered from terrible stage fright. “I never thought of her in that way and it really stayed with me,” Lopez shares. “She was everything I thought she would be.”
While Lopez currently graces Rolling Stone‘s March cover, she found herself the magazine’s cover star for the first time in 2001, where she was photographed to portray “Jennifer the Conqueror.”
“I remember they had two tigers on the set and it was scary as fuck,” she shares. “They were sedated, they were sleepy — but still they were real huge freaking tigers and they had me in a metal bikini.”
Lopez also discusses her “painful” first time pole dancing for Hustlers, as well as El Cantante — the 2006 biopic of salsa singer Héctor Lavoe starring ex-husband Marc Anthony, which marked Lopez’s first outing as a producer. (Lopez also appeared in the film as Lavoe’s wife, Puchi.) “I still think it’s some of the best work that he and I have done,” she says.
In her new Rolling Stone cover story, Lopez discusses feeling like a Hollywood outsider despite her global superstar status.
“I think I’m an underdog,” she confesses. “I always feel like I was scrapping from the bottom. Always. I always felt like I wasn’t the one that was supposed to be in the room. That’s part of being Puerto Rican and from the Bronx and a woman. You know what I mean? All of that stuff. Not being born into a family with money. Not knowing anybody in the business. I just went out there and said, ‘Fuck it. I’m going to just try. I’m going to try to get in here.'” And that she did.