Last week, Welcome2TheBronx was the first to talk about Jennifer Lopez’ annoying habit about clinging to her Jenny From The Block narrative after her profile came out in W Magazine.
Now today the folks at radio.com issued the same call that it’s time she gave up that story and let it rest in peace.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t knock her coming from nothing and creating a vast empire and recognizable empire that spans pop culture on a global scale. That’s pretty impressive for an individual.
It’s Time For Jennifer Lopez To Retire Jenny From The Block
No matter where she goes, J.Lo won’t let us forget where she came from.
July 15, 2013 4:11 PM
Amidst a press push for literally her entire empire, Jennifer Lopez has once again decided to don her “Jenny From The Block” cap to go back to the Bronx. Lopez took noted celebrity profilist Lynn Hirschberg there for a W Magazine August cover story. The feature reveals no new information on Lopez, instead retreading her roots as a Bronx native and In Living Color Fly Girl. But this story has been told and retold literally since 2002, when “Jenny From The Block” was released, long outlasting the Bennifer story that originally encircled the video (which co-starred Lopez and her then-fiancé, Ben Affleck).
Why does Lopez keep coming back to this narrative for herself, long past its sell-by date?
In truth, this idea of a girl from the hood isn’t a narrative about Lopez that could continue without her blessing. The tabloid media, with their love of printing women’s ages and hometowns as a way to distract readers from realizing they’ve written 50 words based entirely on rumors or untruth, need that information in all their J.Lo write-ups to fill space. And the more serious media, even in their fluff pieces on the star, like to use the backdrop of the Bronx to add in folksiness. When Lopez talks about herself in that context, both in her music and to the press, it passes on a sense of self-identification. She’s saying: “I’m just a girl from the Bronx. I overcame my situation. I am the American dream. I am still humble. I have a special appreciation for my success, because I came from nothing.”
But in truth, the marriage of duel identities — Jenny from the block and a pop diva — has been messy and at times appeared disingenuous. This is, after all, a woman who has no less than 20 fragrances emblazoned with her name and even more dance floor-ready hits.
The “Jenny From The Block” video itself was a mish-mash of messages. The lyrics insisted that she’d never forget where she came from and always be that girl from the low-income block in the Bronx, but it was married to images of Lopez looking like a Fellini film star in just a pair of designer underwear and a belly-bearing sweater. Or hanging out topless on a yacht. All with her very famous love interest. But still, just that normal girl is inside, under all the glamour. She vowed to “put God first and don’t forget to stay real.” But, you know, keep wearing rocks. There was something genuine about the number of fashion faux pas she committed in the video, the heavy make-up she still wore and the cavalier toplessness and belly showing. It felt like watching someone who was genuinely coping with her own rise, who wanted to keep an eye on the person she was before the fame. She was still a woman who hadn’t been inducted into the halls of high fashion and didn’t always wear the right things. And at the time, the video achieved something; it served as a commentary on success in general and the intense paparazzi surveillance Bennifer were under.
Between now and then, Lopez has soared into the world of high fashion and big-time fame, as exhibited by her latest video, for “Live It Up.” It opens backstage at a Paris fashion show and features product placement from the trendy Ice Watches, Swarovski and Nokia all in the first 30 seconds, as a way to influence viewers before they get bored and move along. Even before Lopez’s first verse in the song, Pitbull calls her Jenny from the block. It’s a disconnect from the current image of Jennifer Lopez, who doesn’t even present as a New Yorker anymore, let alone a Bronx girl. Through her career, Lopez has developed three personas: Jenny from the block, who represents the Bronx; J.Lo, who embodies Miami clubs with her music; and most recently, we’ve gotten Jennifer Lopez, the Los Angeles mom, Idol judge, fashionista and head of her own business empire.
Her Bronx upbringing is Lopez’s security blanket in terms of a public narrative, and the location obviously gave her a lot in terms of formative experiences. But what has Lopez given the Bronx, outside of many mentions in the press? She is a national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club of America, whose Kips Bay chapter she was a member of. But after an episode of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show that aired in 2012, in which Lopez went back to her alma matter — Bronx’s all-girls, private Catholic high school Preston — a Newsday editor who also attended the school wrote an op-ed piece claiming that Lopez had not returned to or helped the school since her own graduation. (It’s worth noting, said editor is a trustee for the school.)
In 2010, her former principal at Holy Family School, where she attained her primary eduction, publicly criticized the singer to the New York Daily News for never giving them a cent in donations, even after multiple requests.
Then there was the melee in 2011, when Lopez shot a Fiat commercial that showed her driving around the Bronx, talking about how the neighborhood influenced and shaped her. Except, she shot her scenes in L.A. and used a body double for the New York bits.
These days, “Jenny from the block” is nothing more than a persona that Lopez can put on or take off, just like couture fashion. The last time that the real Jenny from the block, without feeling like a cultural lift, can be seen in 2000′s “Feelin’ So Good.”
It’s fine to have a back story and to embrace your roots. Jennifer Lopez is a pop diva and a huge influence for Latina women. She’s a mom. She’s a movie star. She’s a fashionista with multiple fragrance and clothing lines. But she left the block 26 years ago.