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- MTV Interview -

(Jennifer's Career)

What does "On the 6" mean?
I wish I could remember who it was who came and asked me, "How did you go from being a Puerto Rican girl who lived in the Bronx to doing movies and now recording your own album?" And I said, "I used to get on the 6 [a subway train line] and go to the city and do my auditions and take my lessons, voice lessons and dance classes, and all that kind of stuff."

So much about your career has sort of established you as a pioneer and made you a role model for a lot of people who look up to you now. Do you feel that burden at all?
It really happened with the movie "Selena" for me. It was really scary. I remember being very freaked out, like, "Ohmigod! What if I disappoint somebody?"

I started out just wanting to do good work. And because of what I do, that inspires people. And so long as I keep doing what I'm doing, it's not so much a responsibility as it is something that's sort of a gift that you get... for actually being able to pursue what you love to do. If you inspire [people] to go after something that maybe they wouldn't have done cause they're not used to seeing people of their culture in that position, that's all just icing on the cake for me.

Did the "Selena" experience influence your decision to launch a singing career?
I really, really became inspired, because I started my career in musical theater on stage. So doing the movie just reminded me how much I missed singing, dancing, and like... sharing that love with people, like, right there with you. You know what I mean?

When you're doing a movie, you're playing different characters. People don't really get to know you. With music, you really get a sense of who people are. So now, when people see me perform, it will be a different thing. They'll be getting more of who I am, who Jennifer is. [And] the songs and the music [are] very personal.

It was funny, because this was my first album, [and] I had never worked in a studio or anything like that. So coming in, I remember going into the booth, [and everyone was] like, "Do you want to turn off the lights?" And I go, "No..." "Do you want some candles burning?" And I'm like, "No. Why?" "Oh, I don't know. Some people just like to set the mood." And I'm like, "Well, if everybody else does it, I'll do it then too! Light the candles. Burn the incense. Whatever. Bring in the dancing boys." [Laughing]

So how'd you hook up with Rodney Jerkins for "If You Had My Love?"
It was funny, because Rodney came in, like, early in the process.... He called up and he played me something over the phone, [but] he was busy with other things, and I was busy doing what I was doing, and we didn't really do it. A month before we finished the album, he came in... and I played him a few of the finished tracks that we had. And he came back the next day with, like, 9 different snippets [Laughs] and he's like, "You can have whichever ones you want." And I picked two of them. So that's "If You Had My Love" and "Not That Serious."

There are a lot of strong tracks on the record. What made "If You Had My Love" cross the finish line first? Sounds like it was a big battle.
It was. It's just hard. It's like, "Which direction do you want to go? How do you want to be perceived?" There's so many things that go into it. And you have the record company, you have your managers, and you have everybody who's like, "I think this, I think this." And you have like your friends, who are like, "No way! You can't do that! You gotta go with the other one!" And every five minutes your mind changes. At the end of the day, this was the one that we thought would be right to go out first. I feel good about it. It's doing really well.

There's so many things going on with this record. It's you crossing over from film to music, and it's also really at the forefront of this huge explosion in... what would you call it, Latin soul? Latin pop?
Yeah, Latin pop. I call my music "Latin soul" because it's not so much dance-oriented...it has R&B flavors with the Latin and the pop and the dance, but it definitely has those R&B bass lines and stuff like that.

As [for] the whole Latin pop [explosion]... I just think people are becoming more exposed to [the music]. It's always been there. There's always been Latin performers... Ricky's been around. Ricky Martin, who made the big splash. I was so proud [at the Grammy Awards]. They kept cutting to me [in the audience]. I was glad because I was so proud. He just brought the house down. The energy in there was incredible. But that's that Latin flavor, and people, when you feel it, it's undeniable. It doesn't matter where you're from.

I just think that a few years ago, they might not have had the nominee for Latin Pop Album on the Grammys, but this year they did. And this year, it's an explosion. It was just a matter of time, just like anything else: exposure.

I wanted my stuff to have a Latin flavor to it. My favorite type of music is salsa music... and hip-hop music, so I wanted to like mesh those elements somehow. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I wanted to have both feels. I wanted it to have the heavy groove, but then again, I want it to have that Latin flavor -- that passion to it.

You wrote lyrics for a couple of the tracks including "Should Have Never."
The Trackmasters brought me this [instrumental], and basically it was just, like, the beat with a Spanish guitar on top of it. I just loved it. We added the strings and all that kind of stuff later.

But Corey [executive producer/co-writer Corey Rooney] was like, "You gotta think of something to write," and I was like, "You write it! I don't write!" And he's like, "Just go home and listen to it." And I would listen to it and listen to it, and then I was like, "I have an idea of what I want to write about: when you're with somebody, and somebody else comes into your life, and even though you love this person, somebody else is there..." And he's like, "Well, what do you want to say, though?" And I said, "I just want to say, 'I should have never touched you, I should have never looked at you, I should have never held your hand... I didn't think it was gonna be this bad,' y'know?" And he goes, "Okay. Well, that will be the chorus." And then we just sat down and wrote the rest of the song right there.

Do you psych yourself up for a song like that? Do you place yourself in the mind of the woman who would be singing that?
Yeah, absolutely. It was funny. I did a duet on this [album] with Marc Anthony, who is to me one of the most incredible singers that's out today. And he said something to me when we were recording together. He said, "I know when you're singing it, you feel it. But remember: when I hear it, I have to feel it too."

So it's the same type of thing as with acting. It has to come from somewhere real. Because if it doesn't, nobody's going to connect to it. So it was just a real challenge to learn how to channel it, just through your voice, and have it come out on the track. [It's one] thing when somebody sees you singing live. They can feel you, they can see you. But when they're just listening on the radio, it's a different story. So that was definitely challenging for me, and something that I had to learn. It's just as intense as acting in that way.

Tell us about "Let's Get Loud." You worked with Gloria Estefan's husband Emilio on that one.
Emilio was incredible. Right at the top. He was one of the natural choices to work with just because of the Latin flavor of it all. And I was like, "I don't want it to be straight Latin! I want it to be more like, y'know, dance-y music-y," and he was like, "Okay, okay." He was really amazing and very supportive. And just, to me, him and Gloria are just an inspiration.

And that song's got lyrics by Gloria, is that right?
Yeah. Actually, the song was supposed to be for her album, and for some reason she had tons of great hits so she didn't need it, thank God! So Gloria [said], "See if Jennifer wants to use that song." And I was like, "Ohmigod, yeah! Give it to me! Please give it to me!"

Another track is the Marc Anthony duet, "No Me Ames," which is cool. [There are] two different versions of this one.
Yeah, right. Now [Emilio Estefan] heard the ballad version, actually... he had nothing to do with [that]. It was actually Marc Anthony. He had asked me to do a video with him, and I said, "Well, I'll do the video with you, and you have to sing on my record." [Laughs] Fair trade.

And no sooner had he left the studio [when] he visited me here at the studio. He calls on the phone and says, "I have the song.... It's an old Italian song, but we'll get it translated into Spanish. And we'll do it."

So we did it. It's a beautiful ballad... kind of a conversation between two people. But when Emilio heard it, he was like, "Oh! I could do something with this!' And he took it and turned it into a salsa record. He made a tropical remix of it, and it's actually the one they're playing on the radio right now.

For the American audience, how would you describe who Marc Anthony is?
Okay, he's like, the number one salsero. If you hear his voice, immediately you're like, "Who is that?!"

And what's Puffy like to work with?
He's one of those people who's just blessed with that ear from God. It's just like a gift he has. To me, he's an incredible talent. He knows how to make 'em dance. One of the most brilliant people out there.

He's good for the ad-libs. [Laughs] "C'mon! Let's dance!" Y'know, I can't even do it. I'm not even going to attempt to go into his domain. I'm just glad that I got to work with him.

How have the rumors been about your relationship?
I think because we're really good friends and we have hung out together and stuff, people run with that. Who haven't they rumored me with this year? [Laughs] This year I have been rumored with them all. And to tell you the truth, I haven't been with no one. [Laughs] I wish I had that much action. I mean, I'd be more relaxed. Maybe I wouldn't have worked so much this year. I don't know.

Are you in love right now?
Um, no.

Then who is "My Superstar?"
Oh, hell no! Listen to this one! "My Superstar?!"

"I love you and you love me and that's all I need to know."
Hmm.

[That's a] thank you on your record.
Yeah. That's my favorite.

That's a special someone who you want to keep out of the public eye.
Absolutely.

Is that hard for you right now to keep private life?
Yeah, because everybody wants to know [who I'm with] for some reason. I don't know why.

Like you wanted to know [that kind of stuff] when you were a kid in the Bronx, right?
Absolutely. I totally understand it. I totally understand it. I don't complain. But then again, I don't explain either. [Laughs]

 



- iCAST Interview -

(Public Questions)

 

So get this: I went onto eBay the other day, and found a California Jennifer Lopez license for sale for $2.95. I came to the realization that you know you've finally made it when somebody has immortalized your photo on a California license.
What? So, somebody can have my license?

It's like a fake one.
But you can do things with fake IDs. That worries me. But it is funny. We're going to have to talk to somebody about that.

Yeah, check on eBay. I was trying to buy it for you, but I didn't have enough time. Anyway, some of our users posted questions for you in one of our forums. Let me just hit you with a few of them.
OK.

What was it like working with Tarsem [The Cell's director]? And considering his background in music videos, would you consider him for your next video?
I don't think that I can get him now that he's a big movie director, and he's way too expensive. So I don't know, I don't think so. I think he'll stop doing videos for a while.

Did you have favorite scenes in the movie?
There are so many. The movie is so visually incredible that you're just constantly amazed. I never expected it to be so groundbreaking. There are so many that are just impressionistic, they just stay with you.

So it's the kind of movie you have to see more than once, because there's so much to see. There's so much eye candy.

At what point in your acting career did you feel that it was OK to parlay your acting notoriety into a singing career?
You know, to me, things happen naturally and I let them happen that way.I always knew that music was part of my life and was going to be part of my career, and I just let it happen -- things happen at the time they're supposed to happen, and you kind of have to just go with it.

And now you're working on a clothing and perhaps make-up line?
I would like to. Those are projects I would like to do right now. I'm going to get my production company off the ground and start producing or co-producing some movies and then, more in the future, maybe do something like that. I've always been interested in fashion and make-up. I enjoy visual things like that.

 



- Online Entertainment Interview -
(Jennifer's Stardom)

 

It couldn't have been the easiest thing in the world for a kid from the South Bronx to get to where you are now.
When I told my parents I wasn't going to college and law school--which was aiming really high where I came from, but it was an attainable goal--they thought it was really stupid to go off and try to be a movie star. No Latinas did that--it was just this stupid, foolish, crapshoot idea to my parents and to everybody who knew me. It was a fight from the beginning.

How do the folks feel about your foolish, crapshoot idea now?
It was just a matter of me winning that little battle and gaining their support. When I did finally make it, they were happy.

What was your big break?
Definitely In Living Color, because it brought me out to L.A.

Were that show's bad-boy comedians on constant booty call, or did they pretty much leave the Fly Girls be?
We were separated. We rehearsed in different rooms, and we only taped on one day, when they weren't there. But we knew them and they were great to us. It was a good show...hip and cool.

What enabled you to rise so far so fast? I mean, Money Train alone would have derailed most young actors' careers.
I was the only one who came out of that movie smelling like a rose. People just seem to respond to me when I go in to read for them. The same weekend Francis [Ford Coppola] hired me for Jack, and I got Blood and Wine after auditioning for Bob Rafelson six times. It just happens, I don't know why.

There must be something you consciously do that impresses these legendary directors.
It's all about controlling the emotion, you know? Anybody can scream, anybody can cry. It's about just being in the moment and doing whatever comes natural.

There were mass auditions all over the country to find the actress to play Selena. What gave you the edge?
A lot of people came out for the auditions who probably looked a lot more like Selena than I do. But I believe they were trying to find somebody who could capture who Selena was, what she was like inside and why she was such a special person.

Which was?
She was happy. She loved life, and she loved what she did. She worked with her family and had great family values. She embraced her culture.

And people have embraced her like a saint, especially after her death. It must be daunting to play someone who's so passionately worshipped.
It's a very touchy subject; she didn't pass away that long ago. She's so fresh in everybody's mind, so it's definitely a huge challenge. Even people who didn't remember her now know what she was like, how she acted. They know everything about her. They're definitely going to be looking at me with a critical eye--I know that. But to me, it's a challenge. Actresses are always complaining there are no challenging roles--but here's one of those roles.

The Mexican-American press initially gave you a pretty hard time. Was that because they resented a New York Puerto Rican playing a Chicana symbol?
There was some of that. The day I did the Astrodome concert, it was filled with 33,000 people, and I really didn't know how I'd be received. Up to then, the press had been really weird--not just because I was Puerto Rican but because it was Selena, you know what I mean? Any actress who would have been cast would've gone through the same thing, so I tried not to take it personally. But her fans were great once they saw me perform. I shook some hands, got to know them, and they got to know me. They saw I was a regular person, not somebody out there trying to make them forget Selena. In general, I think the Latin community is pretty happy that the project was made with a Latin writer-director, a Latin actress and an all-Latin cast and crew.

Which doesn't happen often. Any ideas why Latino cinema has had such a tough time getting established in the United States?
African-Americans banded together and said this was something they were going to do, and I think it's something the Latino community has to do, too. We need to realize there is strength in numbers, and if we say we're going to write our own stories and do our own things, then we can force our way in.

The force certainly seems to be with you. You got paid $1 million for your roles in Selena and U-Turn, which is the most a Hispanic actress has ever earned.
If you think about it, it's pretty sad that I'm the highest-paid Latina actress. Look at what my salary is, especially in this business! I just feel like Latinos have been underpaid in every way long enough. So I'm happy if I can help further the community in any way.

You didn't get paid as much for Anaconda, but we hear you had a good, kick-ass time filming it in the South American jungle.
I'm the hero! I play a first-time documentary director who goes down to the Amazon. She's all excited, but then things start going wrong, and she has to take charge of everything. Me and Ice Cube save the day! The action really takes you through it. I got pretty bruised up. But I love action movies. I would be an action star--if I had the opportunity--in a minute. They're tough to do. It's hard on your body to do those things 12, 14 hours a day, but I love it.

I'd reckon your dance training comes in handy when it's time to do action scenes.
Definitely. I'm very athletic and agile, too, so that all helps. I don't look stupid doing the moves. You know, some women are not good for that; they're good actresses, but they're not good for the physical stuff. You have to be able to sell that. They have to believe you could actually hold your own in the boxing ring with Wesley Snipes.

Evidently you're not bad at Hollywood infighting, either. You managed to stave off Sharon Stone's attempt to get your role in U-Turn.
That's not what happened. I met Oliver Stone first, and he loved me. Then I went off to film Anaconda and research Selena. Sharon Stone got interested in the part, and I thought, "That doesn't work, the role's an Apache Indian." I figured they'd just change it for her, and I was much too busy to care. But they couldn't agree on a price, so Oliver called me back. That's how it all went down.

What's U-Turn about?
It's a film noir based on a story by James M. Cain [Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice]. I play Nick Nolte's wife in this little Arizona town, and Sean Penn's a drifter who comes through. She's just one of those women who wants to get out and is looking for somebody to get her out.

And was Stone the lunatic we've heard he is?
He's not crazy, he's a genius. I love Oliver, loved working with him. He was totally great to me--a real actor's director.

What do you do when you're not making movies back to back?
I don't have much of a social life. But I'm a regular girl. I like to shop, I like to go to the mall and hang out and get facials, get my nails done and buy shoes. I'm thinking about recording some Spanish music. And I've still got a lot of publicity to do over the next few months. Right now, just being at home sounds real nice.

Especially since you just got married. Who's the lucky guy?
His name is Ojani Noa. He's from Miami. I met him in a restaurant where he was working.

Is he good-looking?
Yeah, he's good-looking. He's done some modeling.

Does he want to be an actor, too?
He was talking about it, but I'm like, "After you've seen what I've been through, working nonstop these past six months, you want to be an actor? You retard!" But I don't know, I guess I make it look easy.

Last question on Ojani, speaking for the male population of the Western hemisphere: What has he got that the rest of us don't?
He's got me!

 



- Mr Showbiz Interview -
(Selena Interview)

When she died two years ago, Selena was poised for crossover success in the English- language music business. Will the movie bring her that successin another form, by convincing Hollywood that Latin American stories appeal to broad audiences?
I hope so. Some people consider it a Latin movie, which it's not. It's a movie that everyone can enjoy. If it does well, it shows to Hollywood that we can do more movies. It's also important for me because it's a really great role. And it's important to Selena and her fans, to have this memory of her.

Warner Bros. conducted a huge casting call for this film, not just for the role of Selena, but for everyone in her band and in the Quintanilla family. Did you have to fight hard to win your part?
I got a call saying that Gregory Nava was going to direct the Selena story. Now, I knew she was about my age and they might be considering me for it. But it wasn't this thing like, "I have to get this part." I think it wasn't until I auditioned that I really wanted it. That's when I realized that there was all the dancing and singing, and then I got really excited about it. We had to do four scenes from the movie, and five minutes of dancing to her numbers for concert scenes.

You were the best- known actress considered for the role, but you were still asked to audition. How did you feel about that?
I'm still at the stage of my career where I have to go after things that I want. It would be stupid not to. Even if I was at the caliber of Sandra Bullock or Michelle Pfeiffer or Julia Roberts, if there was a role I wanted, I'd say, "Can I come in and read for that?" That's how you get to do the good roles. You can't let it get offered to everyone else before it comes to you.

What did you like best about Selena's personality?
One of the things that made her so popular was that she was always just herself. She didn't try to hide her figure, all that stuff. She was Latin, she had dark hair, and she dyed her hair even blacker than it was. She wore bright red lipstick. It was never a thing with her to say, "Maybe I won't wear this miniskirt, maybe my butt won't look so big if I wear this instead." She accentuated what she had. And women look up at her and say, "My body's just like that. She's showing it, so why should I feel ashamed of it?"

Selena was famous for her body- baring costumes. Did you ever feel self- conscious?
Well, if you watch the films I've been in, you can see what my figure's like. It's not like you can hide it. But when I get in with the wardrobe designer, they're thinking, "Let's see, she's looking a little hippy, she's got a big butt, what should we do?" They're always trying to minimize-- put it that way-- and it's because we see all those actresses who are so thin and white. Latinas have a certain body type. Even the thin ones, we are curvy. I've always had trouble with wardrobe people!

Selena was Mexican- American; you're a Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx. What similarities are there between your backgrounds?
Being Latina in this country, that's the parallel. Of course, there's a lot of differences. There is the Nuyorican culture here in New York City, and there is a whole different Tejana culture. But there are parallels between us: growing up and being treated a certain way, or not being treated a certain way. Being a minority. Being a woman.

What did Selena's life teach you about being a celebrity?
I used her as an example when I was making this movie. She was very good with her fans. She was always very gracious, and always took time to talk to them. She realized that her fans were the most important thing. There were a lot of ad- libs in the movie, and one of them was at the Grammy speech when she thanks her fans. It did happen in real life, but that wasn't in the script. I made sure to end the speech with a thank you to her fans. It was a constant thing with her, from the time she won her first Tejano music award when she was sixteen years old.

What actresses did you admire as you were growing up?
I didn't have a lot of role models. There weren't a lot of actresses I could identify with, being Puerto Rican. But I loved West Side Story, and that says it all right there. I identified with it. It was my favorite movie and I wanted to be Rita Moreno. Not Maria: she was kind of wimpy and she blamed her brother for things. But actually, now, if I could ever do West Side Story, I would want to play Maria. I think that's the actress in me, wanting to be the center of attention and the star of the show.

When you portray a real person, you're obliged to do a lot of research. Where did you start?
Her family was wonderful. They were on the set, and I spent time with them before we started. I watched every piece of videotape I could get, because you act different in interviews than you are offscreen. I think anyone who does a film like this about a real person, you have to do your homework and find every insight, into who she was and what made her tick, and what was the flaw in her personality that led to her death. It was a good [casting match], because we were at the same kind of points in our careers: we were enjoying some success, but we weren't like hugely popular. We had a lot of parallels in our lives, and Selena and I were similar types of personalities. It was lucky for me, that way.

Can you elaborate on the idea that you and Selena were at similar stages in your careers?
Well, one of her friends said that at the end, Selena was always tired. And I could understand that. I thought, "Of course she was tired!" She had a boutique, she was recording her new album, she was touring and doing gigs all over Texas. We had a lot of things in common. I was flying in and out, working on four films at the same time. She also was a very big- hearted person. She was a fixer. That's one of the reasons that Yolanda [her murderer] slipped into her life.

With all these movies coming out, you are becoming a public figure. Does Selena's fate scare you at all?
Do I feel scared that something like that could happen to me? There's always that fear. I have managers in my life who are always telling me to be careful! I have protective people in my life. But you can't stop living because of it.

My parents came to the set one day and they talked with Selena's parents, and afterward my father goes, "I don't know what I would do if that happened to us, if we lost you." I said, "You can't think about things like that." Selena's father was always very protective of her, and then her killer turns out to be someone in their own backyard. Do you live your life in fear, not going out, being afraid all the time? You just can't tell.

Selena's dad pushed his kids very hard, making them practice their music when they'd rather be playing outside. Was there anyone in your life who pushed you to try harder?
My mom took us to dance classes when we were young. I was five when I started dance. My mother might have been a little of a frustrated actress, but she wasn't a stage mom. We went to dance classes every weekend. It wasn't till I got older that I started to pursue it myself. I went to different dance studios here in Manhattan.

Did your dancing background help you in imitating Selena's movements?
That was actually one of the hardest things. To learn how Selena moved, I had to watch a lot of videos for hours every night, and try to unlearn how I moved.

What kind of a relationship did you have with Selena's mother, and how did she help you prepare to play her daughter?
She's a very beautiful lady, and she was very protective of me. She was always saying, "You never eat, you don't want to look fat, you never drink enough water! You're just like Selena!"

The movie opens with Selena performing at the Houston Astrodome. Had you ever performed in front of a huge crowd like that?
No! I've almost forgotten how much I like to perform onstage, because I've been so caught up in doing films. It was great being in front of an audience, getting that immediate response. I was kind of spoiled: the first show I did, 35,000 people show up. I liked it! And that week I told my managers that I want to record something. I've gotta record an album. I love doing it so much. So maybe that's something to work on this year.

How difficult was it to learn to sing like Selena?
Well, I am a singer. I didn't think of it as lip- synching. I just learned to sing in her style, just as I learned to dance like her. I was actually singing, but of course they didn't record it.

When the movie introduces the woman whom we know is Selena's murderer, the audience at last night's screening started hissing. Were those difficult scenes to play?
One of the things I had to be careful of was that Selena never knew she was going to die. I had to approach it in a very "alive" sense. The way I portrayed her was very, very true to the way she was. She was a jokester. If you see any of her home videos, you'll see that. They were a very happy family. They still are. Of course, with the tragedy they have gone through, things have changed. But when you watch the videotapes, that comes through.

Selena's crossover fame came as a result of her being murdered. Why didn't the movie include that incident?
That would make it a TV movie of the week. That's not what this film was about. This is about Selena's life, and getting people to see what she was all about: her struggles, what she overcame and what made her who she is, and why she became such a phenomenon. That's what everybody is interested in-- why it's such a phenomenon. Why is everybody interested in this woman? This movie shows you why: she was funny, she was giving, she was loving, very different from many artists that we have in America. I want people to know who she was

 

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