Jennifer Lopez: ‘It’s Still a Challenge for Women’ in Entertainment, 20 Years After ‘Selena’ Release

Jennifer Lopez Selena Movie
Courtesy of Warner Bros

Jennifer Lopez catapulted into A-list territory playing the title role in “Selena,” which hit theaters exactly two decades ago on March 21, 1997.

Since that breakout role, Lopez has built a media empire as a record-breaking musician, Golden Globe-nominated actress and accomplished producer, becoming one of the most influential Latino celebrities of all time. Despite her success, Lopez says women still face challenges in the entertainment industry today.

“[‘Selena’] was a meaty role, but it was few and far between, especially for Latinos to have a role like that,” Lopez recalled to Variety about the biopic, where she portrayed the meteoric rise and murder of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Lopez added, “I think it’s still challenging for women, especially being Latina. Thinking about ‘Selena’ 20 years ago and to have a role like that, I was very lucky. I was very fortunate. But it’s still a struggle for women.”

Speaking to Variety this week at an NBC press event, where she was on hand promoting “World of Dance,” Lopez said, “At this point, you have to create your own opportunities and I think that’s why I got so much more into producing and taking into our own hands as an artist. I think it’s the second phase of your career — you kind of make a name for yourself and show everybody what you do and where your talents lay, and then you have to take it into your own hands and be the artist that you want to be. I think [the industry] is still moving and growing, and it’s always a challenge for women.”

Lopez is currently balancing her Las Vegas residency, while starring on NBC’s drama “Shades of Blue,” which was just renewed for a third season, and gearing up to serve as a judge on the network’s upcoming summer dance competition series “World of Dance,” plus the broadcaster’s next live musical, “Bye Bye Birdie Live!” She’s the face of all those projects, but Lopez is a force behind the scenes — she pitched the idea for “Bye Bye Birdie” to NBC, shepherded “World of Dance” to television and executive produces “Shades of Blue” through her Nuyorican Productions banner.

The superstar admits that at the time “Selena” was released, she did not imagine her career would boom into what it is today. “No. I didn’t,” Lopez says when asked. But, she’s still taking matters into her own hands.

“It was the same for me then as it is now, which is that I always wanted to be the best performer, singer, dancer, actress that I could be. It’s the same for me now, but I’m lucky to be able to expand that into so many different roles and produce my own things,” Lopez says. “It’s pretty amazing what it’s grown into. I don’t take it for granted. I’m very fortunate.”