J-Lo: Lopez in denial

J-Lo's happy to tell Tiffany Rose about her new film, but not about her use of fur

In the lobby of LA's Four Seasons Hotel I am checked, re-checked, probed, prodded, X-rayed, and branded with a sparkly, pink, wrist-band, I am then given the all-clear, by a burly, black-suited CIA-looking fellow with a walkie-talkie, to interview Jennifer Lopez about her new movie, Monster-in-Law.

Lopez has received death threats for wearing animal fur and mink eyelashes in her latest music video, "Hold you Down", and for using fur in her new fashion-line, Sweetface. There was a pre-interview warning: no fur questions or Lopez will walk out.

The 35-year-old has a $350m fashion and fragrance empire, has sold 35 million CDs, and gets $12m per picture for her acting. The Puerto Rican beauty, who boasts that her struggling years consisted of missed meals when she was just "Jenny from the block" (that's a block in the Bronx, you understand), has transformed herself into a global institution.

The acting began with some impressive offerings in the late 1990s, though more recent films, such as Shall We Dance and Gigli, have struggled. The pop career snowballed after the US box office success of Selena (1997), in which Lopez played the slain singer, Selena Perez.

It was the "Bennifer" media circus surrounding her relationship with Ben Affleck (which ended in January 2004) that threw a spanner in the works. Lopez admits she at first welcomed the attention. "I don't want to complain. I take responsibility for the fact that I didn't make adjustments," she has said. "Now I'm a little more careful. I travel in a certain way. I leave at a certain time. I learned."

In a black, figure-hugging, backless, Fendi dress which accentuates her precious derrière, with her earlobes and wrists dripping with diamonds, with chocolate-brown doe-eyes, flawless cinnamon skin, and cascading honey-highlighted hair, she's breathtakingly gorgeous. "I think that's an aspect of being in this business. You have a public persona," she explains in her strong Bronx accent. "Who you really are, that's your own thing, you have to hold onto that yourself. Your family knows what is all true, but it's all about keeping a focus on the work."

Monster-in-Law marks the end of Jane Fonda's 14-year absence from the big screen. Lopez guffaws at how she worked out to Fonda's exercise tapes in the 1980s, and admits she was a tad anxious at the prospect of working with the 67-year-old Oscar-winner. "I couldn't be scared, and I had to gain her respect," she smiles. "I had butterflies in my stomach. But at the end of the day, I had to bring to the table what they were paying me for."

Lopez plays a hippy-chick, Charlie, who finally meets the man of her dreams, Dr Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan), only to discover that his mother, Viola, (Fonda) believes Charlie is not good enough to marry her son. "We had some crazy, fun times on this shoot," says Lopez. "There were two scenes which we kept rewinding which were hilarious! They were the cake scene where Jane pushes my face in a cake, and the time when she punches me in bed. All of the slaps were real, and a lot of bags of ice were needed."

The middle of three daughters, Lopez was raised in a strict Catholic family in the Bronx. She recounts her initial taste of success. "The second movie I ever made was called Blood and Wine, with Jack Nicholson, and I was brand new at that point. I was like: 'I'm in a movie, what's he doing here?' And he's right across from me!"

"What you learn from actors like Jack and Jane is their work ethic. That's what I'm all about these days."

'Monster-in-Law' opens on 13 May

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