Quest for perfection drives Jennifer Lopez
Watching young 'American Idol' hopefuls has rekindled Jennifer Lopez's passion for song and dance, she tells Mathew Scott
Jennifer Lopez has just spent the day travelling to and settling into her hotel suite in Stockholm when her assistant hands her the phone. We've tried to connect with the singer-cum-dancer-cum-social phenomenon twice before over the past 24 hours but fate - and the American's life of almost constant motion - has so far intervened.
Swept up in the whirlwind that surrounds her first world tour she is about halfway through a journey that began in Panama in June and will end near Puerto Rico around Christmas, having charted a course through South and North America, Europe and on into Asia.
But for the moment, at least, the 43-year-old has come to a complete stop after playing in Copenhagen the night before and she's got a few minutes at least to sit back and take stock of where her career and her life have taken her.
It was the experience of being a judge for two years on the hit talent show American Idol that, she says, got her thinking once again about getting back up on stage as she'd been watching all those young hopefuls come into the studio with stars in their eyes.
" American Idol was interesting. I actually really enjoyed it," says Lopez. "I love the show and loved doing it, but after two years of doing it, I felt that I had to get back to what I really do. But I did enjoy it. I loved watching the journey, the emotional journey, people went on."
Lopez says she was reminded time and again of the desire that drove her to her first auditions.
"It was something that I understood because I had gone through that myself and am still living it today by performing," she says. "So there was so much about it that was very natural for me. But I'm not a judge. That's not what I do for a living so it has been nice to get back to what I do, too."
The Dance Again World Tour - which stops off in Hong Kong on November 28 - has so far been a smash with fans and critics alike, a review in The Guardian claiming that the star's high-energy performance in London meant "it isn't J-Lo the mother or even J-Lo the diva who sticks in the mind, but Jenny from the block, who still knows where she came from".
Lopez says her live show - and her own on-stage presence - is something that is constantly evolving, even 20 years after she first grabbed the camera's eyes as a backup dancer on TV's In Living Color.
"I think you can't help but to grow," she says. "I think I'm at a really good point in my life as far as that goes, as far as being a performer. I feel like I have been doing it enough years now where I am super comfortable on stage. I know that it's not about me, it's about the audience and about having a good time. I have honed my show to the point where I know people really enjoy it. Everyone has a good time and I just feel good about it. The journey has been an amazing experience."
Raised in the Bronx, the middle daughter of three, Lopez's own fairy tale saw her famously move from living room performances for her family to small stage roles as part of touring musicals before she was first noticed on TV.
"When I first started performing was something that came naturally to me but it's just like anything - with experience you become better and better and better," she says.
It was acting, though, that first launched Lopez globally and performances in the likes of Selena (1997) and U Turn (1997) soon saw her commanding a reported US$15 million per film. But the release of her first album On the 6 in 1999 turned her world upside down.
Its first single, If You Had My Love, topped the charts in the US and the hits have followed ever since, from I'm Real to All I Have, to last year's On the Floor, Lopez has now shifted more than 70 million units worldwide.
Fame and fortune have followed but the hunger that drove her in the beginning has never really been sated. "It's funny," she says. "I do feel kind of the same as I did back then. The things that drove me on in the beginning are the same as now. There's a need to express yourself and to grow as a human being. There's a need to just get better at what you do and at your craft. From the very moment I started out that's what I wanted. I wanted to be a great singer and a great actress and dancer and those are the same things I want now.
"Every night I try to do it a little better than the night before."
Forbes magazine recently rated Lopez as the world's most powerful celebrity with earnings of around US$52 million in the past year. She's followed by paparazzi wherever she goes and every move, every slip of cloth or shake of those famous hips, is beamed instantly around the world.
She says at first - like anyone - she wasn't quite sure how to deal with all the attention.
"When that hit me I was doing movies and I had done Selena - that's when I realised that I had lost my anonymity," she says.
"That's when I realised people knew who I was and it was a scary thing at the time, that transition, that change in your life.
"But over the years I have learned to take the attention in my stride and to deal with it from a real place of gratitude. I've learned to just enjoy it along the way and not take it too seriously."
Becoming a mother has also helped fine-tune her focus, says Lopez, who has four-year-old twins Emme and Maximilian on tour with her. Although they will always be part of the showbiz family - their father is Lopez's former partner, singer Marc Anthony - Lopez says she tries to keep things as real for them as possible.
"We're together every day and they are surrounded by a lot of love. The same type of things that I grew up with, they are growing up with - the same type of food, the same people - they just have a little bit bigger house. And we travel a lot."
Not that Lopez is complaining. As her assistant calls time on the conversation, she finishes up with an insight into what she gets out of playing live to audiences across the globe.
"Every night you are doing the same show when you are on tour but what makes the difference, honestly, is the audience. It's the people, the fans, who are different everywhere you go," she says.
"There's a different feeling, a different energy. Every culture has its own feeling to it so it's nice to be able to go to all these places and be exposed to that and to experience that. That's one of the reasons I love what I do."
Jennifer Lopez, Nov 28, AsiaWorld-Arena. HK$1,580 (standing and seated), HK$1,280, HK$780 and HK$480 Urbtix outlets or online from urbtix.hk