The ''Selena'' and ''Out of Sight'' star opens up about her debut CD, the paparazzi, and her relationship with Sean ''Puffy'' Combs

Some divas wear slinky cat suits. Other divas prefer to put on turbans and boas. But before her interview, Jennifer Lopez decides that the most diva-ish thing to do is simply not to get dressed. As she emerges from the bedroom in a midtown Manhattan hotel, her bare feet scrunch across the carpeting. A large diamond cross gleams at her throat. Alas, she isn’t nude. In fact, her legendarily voluptuous posterior — which is fast becoming an erotic totem up there with Uma Thurman’s lips and Pamela Anderson Lee’s bust — is eclipsed by white terry cloth.

But while choosing to wear a hotel bathrobe for an interview isn’t subtle — are they holding auditions for a White Diamonds ad? — it’s no less than the daring that one expects from a woman who once dissed half the young actresses in Hollywood. And the gambit has its effect. It isn’t until the next day that a stammering reporter finds the courage to ask just what she was wearing under her robe. ”Nothing,” admits Lopez, staring down her strong, hard nose with big, unabashed eyes. ”That’s why I kept adjusting my robe — so you wouldn’t be mortified.”

Truth be told, the only thing that would be mortifying on Lopez’s body is burlap. Armed with an aggressive sexiness, not to mention a potent combination of what every diva worth her Versaces must possess — talent, fearlessness, and lip — Lopez, 28, has, in the last two years, rocketed from up-and-coming actress to Hollywood’s super-diva of 1998. It’s a description she doesn’t relish. ”I have a problem with the term,” she says. ”I feel like it means that you are mean to people, that you look down on people, and I’m not that type of person.”

But make no mistake, Lopez is filling out the title fully, with equal measures of success and controversy. On the career front, she’s broken through as the highest-paid Hispanic actress ever, pulling down $2 million for last summer’s Out of Sight. Says director Gregory Nava, who gave Lopez (whose parents are Puerto Rican) her biggest break in 1997’s Selena, ”A big Latina star is just a great point of pride for the whole community.”

This year, she also lent her voice to her first animated film, Antz (opening Oct. 2, 1998), as Azteca, a comely worker ant, who, quite unlike Lopez, is unquestioningly happy with her lowly place on the bottom rungs of the colony. But Lopez was perfect for the part, says the film’s codirector Eric Darnell, because ”She’s got this great combination of control and invulnerability — she came from the Bronx and had to hold her own there — and also a certain sort of sensualness that’s hard to come by.”

And in early 1999, if everything goes according to plan, Lopez hopes to enter the true province of divadom: Whitneyland. That’s when Sony Music — the force behind Mariah Carey and Celine Dion — plans to unleash Lopez’s debut album, a mix of ballads and dance tunes, that the company hopes will be the biggest Latin crossover sensation since Gloria Estefan. ”It was a no-brainer,” says Jeff Ayeroff, copresident of Sony’s Work Group, who decided he wanted to sign Lopez at their first meeting. ”I was like, ‘I’m a fish. You’re a hook.”’