Dancer-singer-actress Jennifer Lopez hadn't danced, sung or acted much since taking time off to have kids — although People reportedly paid her and husband Marc Anthony $4 million to $6 million in 2008 to parade them on a magazine cover, ironically the most successful thing she has done in years.
Before her hiatus, she had a string of flop movies, a single that didn't crack the Billboard Top 10, and an American Music Award downshift from favorite pop/rock female artist in 2003 to the more niche-y favorite Latin artist in 2007. Oh, and her record label just dropped her.
Now, at 40, she is calibrating a comeback that has included guest appearances on How I Met Your Mother, Saturday Night Live and reportedly an upcoming episode of Glee, all to support her romantic comedy The Back-Up Plan, opening Friday.
In the meantime, with businesses encompassing music, movies, a clothing line and a Cuban restaurant, she's the ninth-richest woman in entertainment, says Forbes magazine, which in 2007 estimated her net worth at $110 million.
So shed no tears for her career. Dancer-singer-actress or waitress-writer-dog walker, we all have our highs and lows. Here are hers:
After her film debut as a teen in the 1986 indie drama My Little Girl, she gained a toehold as a professional dancer. Joining the Fly Girls troupe on the sketch-comedy series In Living Color in 1991, she left after two seasons to dance in Janet Jackson's and Puff Daddy's videos, and to play a prominent role in the 1993 TV movie Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7. At this point, she's just another fresh face — but clearly a performer driven to succeed in more than one field.
Lopez quickly got cast in the short-lived CBS drama Second Chances, becoming one of only two in the ensemble to transition to its brief revamp as Hotel Malibu. After three episodes of the Fox drama South Central, she gained attention and an Independent Spirit Award nomination in 1995 for her role in Gregory Nava's My Family. That same year, her first big studio film, the Woody Harrelson-Wesley Snipes action flick Money Train, flopped — but it showcased her as the next hot young ingenue.
Big break, 1996-97
Next hot young ingenues get opportunities. After Francis Ford Coppola's Jack (1996) and Bob Rafelson's Blood and Wine (1997) came the explosion: Selena, Nava's 1997 biopic of the murdered Tejano singer did modest box office but made Lopez a star. The horror hit Anaconda, starring Lopez's tight, sweaty T-shirt, swiftly brought more attention. Not even the flop U Turn, her third film that year, could tamp down her rise.
Big time, 1998-2001
Lopez scored great reviews for her out-of-the-box performance as a federal marshal in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998), opposite George Clooney. She scored a No. 1 single, If You Had My Love, in 1999, and her debut album, On the 6, went to No. 8. Now she was riding high as a movie star, with the successful The Cell (2000) and The Wedding Planner (2001), plus a No. 1 album (2001's J.Lo) that spawned two chart-topping singles (I'm Real and Ain't It Funny, both featuring Ja Rule).
Cruising along 2001-03
Two movies tanked in a row (2001's Angel Eyes, 2002's Enough), although Maid in Manhattan proved a hit. And the album J to Tha L-O!: The Remixes made it to No. 1. Her next album, This Is Me ... Then, peaked at No. 2. Her signature single, Jenny From the Block, reached No. 3 in late 2002. Her next, All I Have, featuring LL Cool J, did hit the top a couple of months later. It was her last single to even come close.
Jenny from the flop, 2003-07
In the wake of media saturation of "Bennifer" — Jennifer and fiancé Ben Affleck — the couple's movie Gigli (2003) was a critical and commercial dud, becoming the first movie to sweep all six major categories of the Razzie Awards. She got mostly cut out of Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl (2004), and Shall We Dance did great internationally but flopped here. Monster-in-Law was a modest hit, but as University at Buffalo American studies professor Elayne Rapping, author of several books on popular culture, noted, "That was a Jane Fonda movie. Jennifer Lopez could have been anybody."
The prestige drama An Unfinished Life (2005) sank big time, as did El Cantante (2007), the biopic of salsa pioneer Hector Lavoe, which she produced and co-starred in with husband Marc Anthony. Her album Rebirth (2005) peaked at No. 2, and both Brave and her Spanish-language Como Ama una Mujer (both 2007) reached No. 12.
Hard to say. Falling during a dance routine at the American Music Awards in November didn't help. Neither did that much-derided catsuit she wore on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Epic Records dropped her in February, putting her album Love? in limbo. As for romantic comedies, Rapping wonders about that choice: "She's incredibly sexy, and her sexuality has always been a big part of her identity. That's not typical of women in romantic comedies, who tend more to be cute." Yet, after The Back-Up Plan, Lopez has another romantic comedy, The Governess, in the works.
Still, you never know. Jenny's been around the block, and she has confounded expectations before. We might just find ourselves high on J.Lo all over again.