A multi-hyphenate star in the mould of Spanish music sensation Jennifer Lopez, with a career spanning several decades will certainly have some other dreams to pursue and some wisdom and lessons to share.
On Wednesday night, Lopez walked the red carpet in a hulking hot pink Giambattista Valli gown for the world premiere of her new film, Second Act, Lopez sat down at The Wing in Soho to talk about what she’s learned.
In Second Act, Lopez stars as Maya, an overworked 40-something trying to climb the corporate ladder who gets passed up for a promotion in favor of a younger man “who went to a fancy school.” In her subsequent search for a new job, Maya reinvents herself with an artificially enhanced resume—but guess what? Street smarts can count as much as book smarts!—and an uplifting romantic comedy is born (think Working Girl and Maid in Manhattan). At The Wing, Lopez spoke in front of an eager audience about her experiences in the film industry, learning from her past relationships, and even FaceTimed her son to show off his buzz cut. “The movies that I am picking right now are very specific,” Lopez told the crowd. “I am close to 50. Those are things that are real in my own life, and as an artist, I have to play what I know. That is all I can do.” She and her producing partner, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, are always thinking about “what roles I can play that are authentic to me, where I can tell a story that no one else can,” Lopez said: “That’s how we think when we’re creating.”
5 more life lessons from Lopez’s talk at the Wing:
1. Silence your inner critic.
“When I first started in my career, it was almost as if you had to be quiet…if you did speak out, it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, are you speaking?’ That inner eye-roll I had going on was real and it was part of the time [we were in],” Lopez said. “Now, [women] are kind of in this moment when we realize that our voices are being heard and we are speaking up more. We are saying that we accept this, and won’t accept that, and that we want to be treated equally. It is a much more empowering time.”
2. Celebrate your age.
“I think [being 49] is important. That is why we wanted to make this movie…There is that part of your life where people are writing you off and you are ready to give up, because there are only so many times you can bang your head up against the wall. Then you go, ‘Maybe it is not supposed
to be, maybe I’m not supposed to dream bigger, maybe I am supposed to stay right here. Maybe the bigger better life isn’t for me’—and that’s a bunch of bullshit. Submitting to that thinking is the failure. That is why it was important to make the movie. The only thing stopping you is you. At the end of the day, there is going to be ageism, there is going to be racism, there is going to be sexism, there is going to be social classism. It is going to exist and you still have to know that even with that, ‘I am still doing this. I am still getting it done, I am going to defy all of those odds.’ It was important for us to put that message out there.”
3. What makes you different makes you strong.
“I always said that when I went out to Hollywood, it was the fact that I was from the Bronx that helped me. It was that I was so different from everyone out there that separated me, and it became my biggest strength” Lopez said. “That is why throughout my career, I am always Jenny from the Block, I’m real. It is important to me, it is who I am, it is that blood that pumps through your veins, it makes you hungry to remember that you had nothing, and then to want more.” Plus, she added, “I definitely have had to pull out the Bronx on people at the times when they are not correct and not being respectful in the way that they should to a young lady.”
4. It’s not them, it’s you.
“It all starts with you. I remember going through relationships and being like, ‘He’s this, he’s that, he’s wrong,’ and it was always the other person. Then I realized it was me. I had to figure out myself. I had to figure out why I was making the choices I made. We hear this all the time, but you have to love yourself. I had to figure out what that means. I thought I did, but that means taking care of yourself, being your own keeper, making good choices for yourself, figuring out negative patterns figuring out where you’re hurt and healing, all of those things from your past. That was my biggest piece of wisdom and that is what I am teaching my daughter, to love yourself, be whole on your own first, and then you’ll have a great relationship with the people at work, with your family, and with [those] whom you choose to share your life with.”
5. Do your part for the future.
“It is important for me that a lot of women who work on the set and the cast look like real life. When we produce films, that is what we make sure is reflected. Sometimes movies are more Hollywood and glossy but it still has to look like real life. It can’t be some bullshit. The only movie that ever inspired me and inspired my whole career was West Side Story. The reason was because there were Puerto Ricans in it. It didn’t matter that they were gang members! It mattered that they were singing and dancing and beautiful and they were in love. That was enough for little girl from the Bronx to do all that I have done and to evolve and to become a bigger person, human, philanthropist, and mother.