For Variety’s latest issue, we asked Lorene Scafaria to write a tribute to Jennifer Lopez, one of 50 people to make our New Power of New York list. For the full list, click here.
I met Jennifer Lopez in the kitchen of her house in Los Angeles almost three years ago. I bought an outfit for the meeting, like a freshman on the first day of school, which is probably around the first time I saw Jennifer Lopez on TV: a Fly Girl, a third-season replacement, a runner-up given a lucky break, though watching her, then and now, it seems luck had little to do with it.
Jennifer walked in the room, straight from a workout, like a prizefighter without a scratch. And yes, she glows from within and is all the things you’d want Jennifer Lopez to be — tough, cool, smart, warm, charming, challenging, maternal, relatable, ethereal, singular.
It’s easy to take Jennifer Lopez for granted. She’s made hard work look effortless for so long. She embodies the American dream, a kid from the Bronx turned dancer turned actor turned movie star turned pop star turned global sensation turned brand turned icon. Y’know. That ol’ story.
Just reading her list of singles makes you remember every hook — “If You Had My Love,” “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” “I’m Real.” You’re singing too, I know. From “Selena” to “El Cantante,” there’s not a false note in her filmography. She’s real.
It’s almost funny to write this love letter to Jennifer because “Hustlers” is my love letter to Jennifer. I’ve been cheering for her my whole life. Working with her was more like going to the gym together, getting to spot a true athlete at the bench press, adding weight to the bar and then standing back and marveling at her strength and power and endurance. I couldn’t wait to see Ramona show up every day, rhinestone lighter in hand, two-toned hair, some days a jungle cat, other days a mama bear.
Between watching from afar and seeing her up close, not much has changed. After all this time, I’m still in awe of Jennifer Lopez.
Lorene Scafaria is the director of “Hustlers.”