Is Jennifer Lopez headed for a diva meltdown? She puts the ''over'' in overexposed, making Nicholas Fonseca wonder if J. Lo isn't just one tired misstep away from pulling a Mariah

By Nicholas Fonseca
Updated December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Is Jennifer Lopez headed for a diva meltdown?

Every time I turn on the television, I see Lopez laughing, smiling, confessing, dancing, singing — SELLING. Her music. Her clothing line. Her perfume. Her movie ”Maid in Manhattan.” Her life. Does this woman sleep? Does she eat (at her restaurant, Madre’s, probably)? And when did she find the time to build her relationship with Ben Affleck, much less settle in for a cozy evening at home so that he could propose marriage?

I ask these questions with concern not because I think Jennifer Lopez is a talentless hack, but because I’m worried that she’s officially reached the pinnacle of overexposure. Sure, watching her kick Billy Campbell to a pulp in ”Enough” was great fun, and her new single ”Jenny From the Block” — absurd premise notwithstanding — forces itself into my cranium at least once a day, but the woman is EVERYWHERE. And unless you’re a female teen who calls her your personal hero, it begins to grow tiresome.

Of course, J. Lo knows exactly what she’s doing; her current career arc has been timed with such calculated brilliance that it makes one wonder if the singer-actress and her team wouldn’t have had more luck than the U.S. government in sussing out Bin Laden in Tora Bora last fall.

Watch her respond to reporters’ questions with unoffensive, gracious answers, and you’ll soon realize that no female superstar in recent history — save Madonna during the great ”Sex/Erotica” onslaught of 1992 — has assaulted the press with such force. (Britney Spears doesn’t count, because if you look closely, you see a dull plea in her faraway eyes that screams, ”I didn’t really want to come here tonight, but my handlers figured it was a good photo op. Can I go home now?”) Why, when DJ/singer Angie Martinez turned down her judging gig on ”American Idol,” I was counting the minutes until J. Lo shuffled her schedule and stepped in as a replacement.

Since she broke out with her big-screen role in 1997’s ”Selena,” Lopez hasn’t been shy about the fact that she believes stardom is in her blood. We all know that fame and fortune are everything she ever dreamed and hoped for during her formative years as — all together now — ”a girl from the Bronx.”

She’s also not shy about the fact that she’s a hopeless romantic, or the fact that she wants to conquer every sector of fame that will have her. In short, she’s the little girl at the school talent show who wasn’t comfortable just lip-syncing a song. She dreamed up an entire dance routine, gathered the goods to make an outfit, and stayed up late every night so that no step was out of place.

But is all of this self-created hype just a precursor to one big misstep? Will the self-proclaimed workaholic find herself desperately grasping for a few minutes of rest, as happened to Mariah Carey during the long, dry summer of 2001? Will her notoriously sober lifestyle crumble around her, as happened to Whitney Houston over, well, the past decade? Will America finally say ”This is enough… then,” and send ”Maid in Manhattan” back to its chambers?

It’s not bloody likely. After all, Lopez — whose latest album set a personal first-week sales record — purposely positions herself in the center of a million controversial media storms, but she’s careful to make sure that they’re of the cleanest variety. Her seemingly flip approach to romance and wedlock may turn off some folks, but let’s admit it, people: Her break with former backup dancer Cris Judd made the Britney/Justin and Angelina/Billy Bob splits seem like bloodbaths in comparison.

Gossip columnist Liz Smith recently compared Lopez to another serial romantic — Liz Taylor — and I’m inclined to agree. Like Taylor, Lopez loves being the center of attention, and she’s not afraid to admit as much. She loves her jewels, and she’s not afraid to flaunt them. She loves her men, and she’s not afraid to move along when she grows tired. Which, I suppose, is the way you have to treat yourself when you’re working hard to record an album, make a movie, conduct promotional interviews, keep your much-ballyhooed body in good shape, and find true love. Maybe it’s the only way she knows to avoid a meltdown.