The shoe must go on.
Jennifer Lopez was meant to be in her hometown of New York City today, where she was going to launch her new (and very good) footwear collection with DSW. Instead, like many of us, the hottest woman in the world is working from home. In her case, that means calling me from her house in LA, where the sounds of her laughing twins (Emme and Max, 12) echo in the background.
"If I sound out of breath, it's not because I'm sick," she vows. "It's because I'm working out!" (Weight training, FYI.) "My [DSW] sneakers have quite a lift in them, actually," she says. "You know the sneakers with the really sick bottoms, like Balenciaga? That's the kind I like. I mean, I'll always take an extra half an inch if I can get it. Absolutely."
We think of J.Lo as a stiletto icon—the bedazzled platforms in Hustlers, the nude pumps in The Wedding Planner, the 5-inch sandals she throws into the ocean singing, "Love Don't Cost a Thing." But the high school track star insists "I was a tomboy growing up. And even when I was a dancer in my late teens and early 20s, it was all about Doc Martens, Timberlands, and combat boots. And I’m from the Bronx, so I’m kind of a born sneakerhead—where I come from, your sneakers say a lot about you. It’s a big deal, what kind you’re wearing, how you style them. So sneakers are a big part of the new line. Believe it or not, I do wear them a lot."
I ask about the first time she danced in heels. "Probably when I was about 16? I went to my junior prom," she laughs, "And back then, you dyed your heels to match your dress. You got these satiny shoes and you sent them out to get dyed so they’d be the same color as your gown, and that was so grown up. That was the way to do it when you were from the Bronx and going to prom back then, and I was like, 'I am not taking these off, they’re amazing.' So I made it through the whole dance with my heels on, but in the limo afterwards, I think I took them off. You're with your girls, and you make your date hold them."
Ginger Rogers famously said, "I can do everything [Fred Astaire] does, but I do it backwards and in heels." Lopez has a similar reaction, and describes her first professional dance gigs (including—fun fact—an early '90s gig dancing for New Kids on the Block) as "being thrown to the sharks and learning how to swim" because of the teetering heels involved. "But the more practice you put in, the better you get," she says, "Which is true for everything—if you want to do something, you’ve got to practice. And this is the time to do it. You have time, go practice what’s important to you, or something you’ve been meaning to learn. Even if it’s walking better in your heels!"
Ah yes, we do have time—even the famously busy J. Lo. "We’re all stuck at home right now," she confirms. "I am! Everybody’s quarantined and the world is upside-down and crazy. So we’ve gotta make lemonade out of lemons right now, don’t we? We have to find ways to focus and work from home, but also finding things to keep our spirits high. I don’t know anything that makes me happier than shopping for a pair of shoes. To be honest with you? I think there’s a lot of online shopping going on right now. And that’s not to make light of this very serious situation, and the people working very hard to stop it. But we have to stay human and we have to keep our sense of humor in hard times, as well."
Okay, so even J. Lo is self-isolating. But what exactly does 'work from home' mean when you're a global icon? "There’s so much to do, right?" She laughs. "This situation, if we’re lucky enough to be healthy—and if you are, be grateful—but if you’re healthy and home, it’s a real reset button for so many of us. To be honest, for me, working from home is reading scripts, developing new projects, even working out and learning new dance routines. Because now, you can use the time to prepare. At some point, hopefully soon, we’re going to bounce back. We always bounce back. And so we need to use this time to get ready to come back even better… Nobody wanted this to happen, but if it has to be this way, you can take advantage of the time and work to get better. But do that work from home," she says firmly. "This is such a difficult time for everybody. There are so many people who are sick. We just want to contain it and work from home. Even my kids are working from home and they're 12! They’ve got virtual school now, and we’re all home together, which I'm really happy about. To me, there's no greater luxury than getting to spend real time with my kids."
And PS, the kids are why she went viral on TikTok. "They love it, so they're always encouraging me to use it. They love when I do! But for me, I swear, TikTok isn’t a social media app, it’s a dance app. You click around, you find a new move you want to learn, and you do it. You can do it with your kids, you can do it with your parents or your friends. If you’re stuck at home right now, you can go on TikTok and practice dancing, which is always something that makes your mood better. I’m all about it."
As we're talking, a Wall Street Journal story pops up on Twitter. It's not about COVID-19 or the Democratic Primaries, but about J. Lo herself. The headline blares, "Can Women Really Look Like J.Lo At 50?" and I don't know, so I ask her.
"The Wall Street Journal?!" she exclaims. "I mean, that's amazing… I'll tell you what I wish I'd known about being 50 when I was younger: It’s not over. When I was in my 20s, I don’t know what I thought about being 50 except that it was basically just the end. I didn’t think I’d be in the best shape of my life. I didn’t think I’d be able to say that in a way, my career is taking off, even though I’ve been going for a long time, you know? I have so much experience now. I have the knowledge that, if I use it, is a huge advantage. The narrative women are told is that you’re kind of put out to pasture at a certain age. And what I’ve found is that it’s the total opposite. If you keep working hard and pushing yourself, you can be better as a person physically, mentally, emotionally. Stop asking, 'Will I look like that?' and just ask, 'What do I want to do next?' Because you can make it happen, you know? And nobody ever told me that."
But first: stay home and practice walking in heels.
JLO by Jennifer Lopez shoes are now available at DSW.com
Faran Krentcil Editor at Large, ELLE.com "Her beauty and her brain go not together." —William Shakespeare