The Thing About J. Lo

The thing about Jennifer Lopez that I love – that makes going to see her perform the fourth show of her “It’s My Party Tour” down in San Jose tonight so fuckin’ special – is that she’s been around, at least musically, for 20 years, which is about the same amount o’ time that I’ve called the United States of America home.

J. Lo has been there all along, and so have I.

As a kid from Peru, I felt this pride when she headlined 1997’s Anaconda, sharing the silver screen with folks like Jon Voight, Ice Cube, and Owen Wilson in a blockbuster by Luis Llosa, a Peruvian director. I was chuffed that not only had he hopped on the Jennifer Lopez the Movie Star bandwagon early but that she was drawn to a project by someone who came from the same place as me.

Living in Lima, I saw the video for her first single, “If You Had My Love,” premiere on MTV Latin America (and presage the advent of 24-hour entertainment à la carte thanks to that good ol’ pre-Y2K tech, that crazy little thing called the Internet), and then we all saw plant her stake on the ground, take her seat at the table, and open doors for rooms that were previously quite exclusive, as part of the so-called Latin Explosion of the time (which was literally covered by Time magazine), alongside artists like Ricky Martin, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, and her then-friend, Marc Anthony. How cool it is that, thanks in no small measure to J. Lo, the American landscape is now browner and livelier.

Later, living in Miami, I came of age around the same sunny spots that simple girl from the Bronx (as I once heard La Lopez demure to a highly complimentary Joan Rivers out on some awards-show red carpet) sort of came of age, too. So you know her music resonated in tangible ways. It was on a lot, and it seemed I was always waiting for tonight.

In October 2001, my sister and I even sat at a table next to her and her second husband, Cris Judd, at Larios on the Beach. They were on their way to Italy to see a Versace show and visit with Donatella, and to celebrate their recent nuptials. Those were the days, when she still could go to a restaurant on busy Ocean Drive, wearing little to no make-up, sit on the terrace, and simply enjoy the day with her peeps, without a bunch of security. I’ll never forget it: She was wearing a light pink tracksuit, probably one of her own JLO brand ones, her hair was up in one of her signature tight buns, her jewelry was fabugold, and she smiled and discreetly waved at my sister after I had the restaurant bring out some cake to sing a little “Happy Birthday.” For the record, it was, for realsies, my sister’s birthday.

Later yet, after she and Anthony got together and married, our orbits continued to dance around each other because they bought into the Miami Dolphins, as well as real estate on Brickell Avenue, so they were in town a lot, and I would hear about them meeting with this or that home designer or making appearances at whatever hot spot was lit that week (Club 50 one night, LIV another…). Ever the multi-hyphenate, J. Lo added a lot of magic to my Magic City experience. It was in Miami that the couple confirmed they were expecting their twins. So the excitement was real.

The last time Jennifer Lopez and I were in the same space together, I was waiting for an interview at the premiere of her Back-up Plan in 2010.

No lie, I’m obviously still hoping for one. What a feeling, though: In our ways, we both made it known. And here we are.

Cheers to J. Lo.

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