A Bronx-born actress-singer-dancer of Puerto Rican descent, Jennifer Lopez quickly went from a rising starlet to leading lady, with her sultry, intelligent eyes, luxuriant wavy hair, and fluid body of legendary voluptuousness coming across well on the big screen. Lopez first won attention as a "fly girl", one of the back-up dancers on the Fox variety series "In Living Color" and went on to act in several failed TV series before reaching the big time, leading in feature film and hitting the top of the Billboard charts. This daughter of a computer specialist and a kindergarten teacher always wanted to perform and began taking dance lessons at an early age. Lopez later danced in the European tour of "Golden Musicals of Broadway", in the chorus behind Hinton Battle in the Japanese tour of "Synchronicity" and in numerous music videos and TV variety specials. While she made her film debut in "My Little Girl" (1986), her real showbiz break did not come until she beat out 2,000 other aspirants, impressing choreographer Rosie Perez, and landing a spot in the chorus of "In Living Color". Lopez stayed with the show from 1991-1993, when she elected to branch out into acting. TV roles came quickly, although the vehicles were not all that successful. She made her TV-movie debut as a nurse among crash victims in the dense Mexican jungle in "Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7" (CBS, 1993). She went on to portray Melinda Lopez, a Latina maiden under the watchful eye of her father (Pepe Serna) in the short-lived CBS series "Second Chances" (1993-94), and repeated the role in "Hotel Malibu" (1994), an equally unsuccessful revamp of the former. She also appeared in "South Central" (Fox, 1994), as a co-worker of star Tina Lifford. In 1994, Lopez even co-hosted "Growing Up Roses" (CBS), a special recapping the best moments in Tournament of Roses Parade history. TV proved too small a medium for Lopez, whose talent and charisma as well as hypnotic good looks cried out for the big screen. Her first feature success came with Gregory Nava's "My Family/Mi Familia" (1995), which found her cast as the youthful version of the matriarch of the Mexican-American family, a woman who survived illegal deportation and near-drowning to return to her husband in Los Angeles. That same year, she co-starred as the pistol-packing Gloria Santiago opposite Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes in the action blockbuster "Money Train". In 1996, she was Robin Williams' sympathetic fifth grade teacher, (a role not specifically written for a Latina) in "Jack", a fantasy by Francis Ford Coppola that starred Williams as a ten-year-old whose aging process is drastically accelerated. Lopez was catapulted to prominence when she was cast in the title role of "Selena" (1997), the moving biopic about the beloved slain Tejano singer. Selena's influential life and tragic death made for a truly compelling film, and the actress' vibrant, intuitive portrayal set her apart from her peers and readied her for stardom. With strong reviews for her turn in the noirish thriller "Blood and Wine", Lopez was poised for greater things, as evidenced by her casting alongside Nick Nolte and Sean Penn in Oliver Stone's "U-Turn" (both also 1997). In 1998, Lopez solidified her leading lady status, starring opposite George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's subtly steamy action thriller "Out of Sight". Displaying a winning sense of humor that added a down-to-earth charm to her undeniable sultriness, Lopez proved a good fit for heartthrob Clooney, and the two displayed the kind of onscreen fireworks that were notably missing in the actor's prior efforts. Winning rave reviews for her performance, Lopez was well on her way to superstardom, and made the most of her fame by releasing her debut album, a decidedly NYC-flavored dance record entitled "On the 6" after the subway line that runs from her Bronx home into Manhattan. While the singles "If You Had My Love" and "Waiting For Tonight" tore up the charts and pumped out of nightclub speakers, Lopez was enjoying more screen success as the star of the odd sci-fi thriller "The Cell" (2000). Directed by famed commercial and music video visionary Tarsem, the film drew from various art influences, and made up for lagging plot devices with an sweet dose of eye candy. Lopez outfitted in ornate, elaborate and futuristic garb pleased audiences, though her courageous but slightly stilted performance as a child psychologist with a talent for probing the subconscious was less remarkable. In 2001, she tried her hand at fluffy romantic comedy, playing "The Wedding Planner" who quite literally falls for the groom (Matthew McConaughey). Lopez showed a surprising talent for the sillier side of things, and convincingly ditched her glamorous image for one of a frazzled workaholic prone to pratfalls and other embarrassing mishaps. Audiences flocked to the feel-good comedy, and the final week in January 2001 saw the film as well as her newly-released album "J.Lo" hit the top of their respective charts simultaneously. Keeping up her career's positive momentum, Lopez starred as a policewoman who falls for Jim Caviezel in the romantic thriller "Angel Eyes"(2001). In 2002, Lopez starred in Michael Apted's thiller/drama "Enough". In this film, Lopez played an abused woman who realized that the only way to escape her abuser (her husband) was to kill him. Both "Angel Eyes" and "Enough" performed wanly at the box office, but Lopez, who also released the poorly reviewed but popular album "This is Me..." in 2002, remained one of the most talked-about performers of her generation and a perennial fixture on magazine covers and entertainment news shows--a status that went into overdrive following her 2002 engagement to actor Ben Affleck. Her next film cast her in a mild, "Pretty Woman"-esque Cinderella mode for "Maid in Manhattan" (2002), in which she played a housekeeper at a high class New York hotel who falls for a handsome politician (Ralph Finnes). Lopez's public profile reached critical mass with the release of "Gigli" (2003), the mob-based action-comedy on which she first met (and presumably fell for) Affleck. After months of media hype surrounding the "Bennifer" relationship, public expectation of an on-screen romance between Lopez and Affleck was so high, the film was the subject of extensive reshooting and reconfiguring to accomodate the perceptions, although Lopez's character was written and initially shot as a confirmed lesbian. The film, a gangster action-comedy in which Affleck plays an incompotent mob thug, was the victim of bad buzz for months before its release and received a critical drubbing--possibly even an over-harsh response--when it finally hit theaters, giving it almost "Ishtar"-like bomb status. Lopez continued to exist at the eye of the media storm when she and Affleck called off their wedding in September 2003 and split for good in early 2004, followed by press reports that she sought solace with Latin singing sensation Marc Anthony. Meanwhile, the "Bennifer" backlash was so intense, the makers of the next Affleck-Lopez collaboration, writer-director Kevin Smith's middling romantic comedy "Jersey Girl" (2004) extremely downplayed Lopez's involvement (and indeed, her role was small and brief, playing Affleck's doomed wife in the film's opening sequences). The final shocker came five months after the Lopez-Affleck split when Lopez suddenly married the newly divorced Anthony in surprise ceremony that perhaps solidified her off-screen reputation as the Elizabeth Taylor of her generation--although the couple took eight months before officially confirming their marriage and refused to discuss it further. In midst of her busy life as a celebrity, Lopez also continued to make films: she was paired opposite Richard Gere as an icy dance instructor who rediscovers her passions as she teaches Gere's obsessed family man how to move across the dance floor in the romance "Shall We Dance?" (2004), a role that made great use of her prowess as a dancer. In 2005 Lopez--who announced that she preferred it if the media dropped the "J-Lo" monicker--made headlines with her live duet with Anthony at the 47th annual Grammy Awards (their over-the-top, melodramatic performance of the song "Escapémonos" was snickered at by critics of her musical ability, though Anthony took home the Grammy for best Latin pop album for "Amar Sin Mentiras") and she demonstrated her continual entreprenurial spirit with a new fragrance launch, the debut of her Sweetface clothing line (which prompted protests from animal activists due to its use of fur), and a new album, "Rebirth," a return to club-style dance beats which launched to initially disappointing sales. Her next film, the comedy "Monster-In-Law" (2005), pitted her effectively against screen legend Jane Fonda (in her first role in 15 years): in the film Lopez's sweet-natured temp finds the man of her dreams, only to be menaced by his meddling, over-protective mother who hopes to drive her away. Candy-sweet on the outside at first, Lopez eventually reveals the inner steel that made her more than a match for the icon Fonda. Her next film, Lasse Halstrom's "An Unfinished Life" (2005) was released long after completion due to the complexities of the restructuring of Miramax following the departure of Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and while Lopez generally recieved good notices for her role as a widowed mother in an abusive relationship who seeks shelter with her estranged father-in-law (Robert Redford), The actress also developed and executive produced the TV series "South Beach" (UPN, 2005 - ), an ensemble drama about three young adults whose dreams and aspirations lead them to Miami. She next was set to star in "Bridge and Tunnel" (lensed 2006), a romantic comedy in which she played a stock trader who depends on a suburban teen who day-trades on his home computer.
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