Before the term multi-hyphenate emerged as the defining (and somewhat necessary) label for the Millennial generation, Jennifer Lopez rose to fame as a dancer, actor, singer, and producer. While some have been dismissive about her acting prowess in the latest Netflix hit, The Mother, not many might remember that JLo’s singing career came after she debuted as an actor, unlike most singer-songwriters who go on to dabble in acting later in their careers, looking for a new challenge.
Lopez was only 16 when she landed her first role in the 1986 film My Little Girl. It was a small role, but it helped her land a gig as a ‘Fly Girl’ dancer on the sketch comedy series In Living Color. Her first leading role materialised in 1997 when she was cast in and as Selena based on the real-life story of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Lopez became the first female Hispanic actor to earn over a million dollars for the film. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert called it “a star-making performance”.
She received her first Golden Globe nomination for her role but lost out to Helen Hunt for As Good As It Gets. When director Gregory Nava asked the studio heads at Warner Bros. to launch an Oscar campaign for Lopez—because he was convinced she deserved the win that year—he was apparently told that the Academy would “never nominate a Latina”. “I felt she not only should have been nominated, but she should have won an Oscar for that part,” Nava remembered them saying, “She deserves it, but the Academy will never nominate her. They’ll never nominate a Latina.”
Selena gave Lopez the idea to pursue a singing career, but she never gave up on acting. A few years ago, Lopez took to her Instagram to list six of her favourite films in a throwback post. Selena seems to be as dear to her as it is to most of her fans because she shared more than one photo from that film. But she also included her iconic rom-com roles too. The 2004 Peter Chelsom film Shall We Dance?, starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, along with Lopez, had made us all swoon.
Well, Shall We Dance? made it to her list of favs that also had Wayne Wang’s rom-com Maid in Manhattan (where she was paired with Ralph Fiennes), Oliver Stone’s crime thriller U Turn (where she co-starred with the likes of Sean Penn, Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Voight, Powers Boothe, Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, and Nick Nolte), Bob Rafelson’s neo-noir thriller Blood and Wine (with Jack Nicholson, Judy Davis, and Michael Caine), and Steven Soderbergh’s crime comedy Out of Sight (along with co-stars Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Dennis Farina, Nancy Allen, Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener).
Jennifer Lopez’s favourite movie roles
- Blood & Wine (1996)
- Selena (1997)
- U Turn (1997)
- Out of Sight (1998)
- Maid in Manhattan (2002)
- Shall We Dance? (2004)