Born to Puerto Rican parents on July 24, 1969 in the Bronx, New York, Jennifer Lopez is one of the most recognizable film actresses, television personalities, and recording artists in the world today. Her first big break in show business came in 1997, when she was chosen to play the title role in the blockbuster movie Selena. From 2002-04, Lopez dated the actor Ben Affleck, to whom she was briefly engaged. For comprehensive details about her entertainment-industry career and her personal life, click here and here.
Lopez was elated when Barack Obama was elected U.S. President in 2008. Attending the Latino Inaugural Gala in Washington, DC on January 19, 2009, she described Obama as “the biggest star here, even though it's chock-full of celebrities.” “The night he won the election,” Lopez recalled, “you could feel it in the air. I was … watching him with tears in my eyes, thinking, 'Yes. Something is different. Something is happening.' We're very excited.”
In subsequent years, Lopez developed something of a friendship with the president and his family. In 2011 she watched the Super Bowl with Obama at the White House.
When Obama ran for re-election in 2012, Lopez appeared, on his behalf, in a campaign video along with fellow female celebrities like Beyonce, Eva Longoria, Olivia Wilde, Sheryl Crow, Ashley Judd, Julianne Moore, Kerry Washington, and Jane Lynch. Lopez also recorded a “Latinos for Obama” campaign ad, where she lauded the president for “fighting to keep Latino families out of poverty.” “President Obama has had our backs from the beginning,” she stated, “so its time we get his. Latinos will play a key role in this election.”
Lopez has likewise expressed great admiration for Hillary Clinton. When the latter formally announced her presidential candidacy in April 2015, Lopez said: “I'm very excited by the news.... I think it's time for a woman [president].”
By contrast, Lopez has voiced contempt for another female political figure—Republican Sarah Palin—whom she derided as a “cabrona” (bitch) in a 2010 television appearance.
On several occasions, Lopez has made headlines by accepting enormous sums of money to perform in highly controversial venues:
- In July 2011, the corrupt Uzbek industrialist Azam Aslamov paid Lopez $1 million to sing at his son's wedding, where one of the guests was Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, a man widely condemned for his involvement in human-rights violations, torture, and murder.
- On another occasion, Lopez was paid $1.4 million to perform for ten minutes at the Moscow birthday celebration of the notoriously corrupt Russian oligarch Telman Ismailov.
- In September 2012, the dictatorship of Azerbaijan booked Lopez to perform at an upcoming FIFA soccer tournament for a reported $2.5 million. The singer's representatives, meanwhile, negotiated a separate contract to stage a music festival in that country.
- In October 2012, Lopez gave a concert in Belarus, the only dictatorship in Europe.
- In November 2012, Lopez was booked (for $2 million) to sing “Happy Birthday” to the corrupt Russian bureaucrat Alexander Yolkin, who was arrested the day before Lopez’s scheduled performance at his birthday party.
- During a June 2013 concert in Turkmenistan, Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to that country's president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, whose regime was described by Human Rights Watch as “among the most repressive in the world.” Lopez’s publicist subsequently said, “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
In June 2013, Lopez actively lobbied for the television industry to reserve more roles for Latino actors. “There's a big revolution going on,” she told the press. “It's like a media and cultural revolution of Latinos here in the United States. We're realizing our power. We're realizing that we matter here. We're not just the guys working behind the scenes in the kitchens and as a plumber.... We really have influence. We're really growing as a community and we've come into a place where we deserve to be considered and served and catered to....” Lopez also delivered variations of this message in meetings she had with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the National Council of La Raza, and Democratic U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Bob Menendez.
While the state of California was suffering through a historic drought in the summer of 2015—and its residents were required to turn off their lawn sprinklers in order to conserve water—Lopez continued to water her lavish, meticulously landscaped three-acre estate in Hidden Hills (Los Angeles County). One of Lopez's neighbors told reporters that the entertainer was “pretty dismissive” of the water restriction: “She has said, 'Oh, so I’ll just pay some fines. What are they going to do?'”
Presenting herself as a devoted environmentalist, Lopez drives an energy-efficient (60 mpg) Toyota Prius. But she also routinely flies all across the United States on gas-guzzling private jets. Indeed, her numerous trips between New York and Los Angeles consume approximately 2,750 gallons of fuel apiece.
In 2014 Lopez released a new documentary series titled Los Jets, which centered around an “underdog” high-school soccer team from North Carolina composed mostly of young illegal immigrants from Central America. The show's stated objective was to “put a human face to the illegal immigration debate that rages in the United States.” At a LULAC luncheon where she promoted the series, Lopez said: “It is about the American dream and social and politic issues. But also, it's about just wanting to belong.”
Lopez today has a net worth of approximately $300 million. This includes a $10 million estate and mansion in the Hamptons and a $22 million penthouse in New York City. Just prior to purchasing the penthouse in 2015, Lopez sold her 17,000-square-foot mansion in Hidden Hills for $17 million.