Jennifer Lopez Has Always Been One Of The Most Empowering Women in Hollywood

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

Over the past few months, Jennifer Lopez’s career has been resurgent. Although she has been an A-list celebrity for almost three decades now, there appears to have been a shift in the conversation when it comes to J.Lo. Over the years, her every move has been closely, constantly scrutinized. Her failed relationships were plastered on magazine covers; her infamous green Versace dress was mocked throughout the early 2000s.

Most damaging, she has been continually portrayed as a demanding diva. And to some degree, it eventually became clear that these rumors likely have a lot to do with the fact that she is a powerful Puerto Rican woman.

Ultimately, press and fan treatment of the actress-slash-singer has minimized her cultural impact. The truth of the matter is that Lopez is an extraordinarily talented Latina woman who has managed to thrive in a world run by white men. And now, at the age of 50, she finally seems to be getting the recognition she deserves – thanks in large part to her new film, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers.

While the film itself has garnered mixed reviews, Lopez’s performance as the ambitious stripper Ramona Vega in Hustlers has been praised by critics and audiences alike. In fact, there’s even been talk of an Academy Award nomination. A few years ago this would have sounded unthinkable, but at this point it seems likely that when the New Jersey bookie sites and Vegas casinos release their preliminary Oscars odds, Lopez will be high on the list for Best Actress.

It’s not only Lopez’s magnetic performance that’s worth talking about though. The truth is, she’s always been charismatic in film roles – even the infamous 2003 flop GigliHustlers is also a progressive triumph, portraying sex workers – specifically Ramona – in a much different light than most other major motion pictures about strippers have done in the past. In Hollywood, the narrative is often that sex workers are broken people who, out of pure need, are forced to sell their bodies for a meager sum of money; usually these characters are also drug addicts, just for good measure.

Ramona is not this traditional character. In fact, for all intents and purposes, Ramona is a boss. Without spoiling too much, we’ll just say she’s savvy enough to swindle the untouchable men of Wall Street, and kind (and skilled) enough to take proteges under her wing. And she isn’t doing it because she’s desperate for cash.

Obviously, the portrayal isn’t perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the film also gives us the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that Jennifer Lopez has been empowering women, and specifically women of color, for years. While Hollywood continues to have a diversity problem, it was worse when Lopez was getting started. When she began her career as a fly girl on In Living Color in 1990 there was barely any Latina representation. Her beautiful portrayal of the late Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in the highly successful 1996 biopic further helped to move Latinas closer to the forefront of mainstream media.

“For me, J.Lo was the only example of Latinidad in TV and film, so her existence alone was revolutionary,” noted Kristal Sotomayor, a documentary filmmaker, to Oprah Magazine. “She changed my perception of Latinidad because she was able to be a triple threat, not just an actress portraying a stereotype.”

J.Lo has also spoken out herself on numerous occasions about the oppression she has faced as a Latina.

“It’s a difficult situation,” explained Jennifer to NBC Latino in 2016. “I’ve struggled with it in my career because I am a Latin so there are certain roles that I’m not considered for and my name never even comes up.”

Considering all of this as a broad arc, it is just wonderful that Jennifer Lopez is now being recognized for her empowering presence and influential talent, rather than being reduced to mere tabloid fodder. However, it is also a shame that Jenny from the Block hasn’t been treated like this throughout her entire career.

Close Menu