Even after a two-decade reign as one of the biggest names in music and film, Jennifer Lopez feels as though she’s just getting started.
As an executive producer and judge on the competition series World of Dance, Lopez has the chance to revisit the excitement she experienced at the start of her career as a dancer vying for the spotlight. Now in its third season, the show is part of a new phase in her career, which began after her time on American Idol allowed audiences to connect with her in a more authentic way than before.
EW had the chance to speak with the star — who will turn 50 in July and is celebrating with a U.S. tour, It’s My Party: The Live Celebration — about her passion for the art form she considers her “first love,” how she went from being picked apart by the media to being relatable, and the importance of women creating their own opportunities in entertainment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you’re spending time with artists just embarking on their careers, as you do while working on this show, does it breathe fresh life into your own work?
JENNIFER LOPEZ: It’s so funny because the show does do that. It reminds me of when I started out and that innocence that you have of the possibilities of everything that can happen to you and your dreams coming true, working hard, struggling. All of those wonderful things that make you who you are later in life. It just takes me all the way back there. But for me, I always feel like I’m at my humble beginnings.
Do you still have moments of wonderment when it comes to your work, as these contestants have?
I definitely have moments like that, where I think, “Wow, look at my life.” Then there are moments where I feel as though I’m just starting out, and that I have so much more to accomplish. I think maybe that’s one of the secrets, is to never feel like you’ve arrived anywhere and that there’s so much more to go. With World of Dance, it takes you back to the beginning and reminds you to stay that way — stay fresh, stay new, stay hopeful, to know that there’s more to go, that there are dreams to accomplish and how good that feels, that the journey is the biggest part of your life, not so much the destination.
This show was largely conceived by you. Over the past few years, it’s become more common for artists — particularly women — to become content creators. What do you think that means for the industry going forward?
When there are no opportunities, you have to create them yourself. Over the past 20 years, that’s what’s been happening with women: We’ve been realizing we’ve been marginalized, we’ve not had the same opportunities as men. But there has been an evolution where women are realizing their own power and what they can accomplish and the things that they deserve, and that they have a lot to contribute and to offer. If no one is going to do it for you, you have to do it for yourself.
Is evolving your style of dance important to you, is it something you still study?
Absolutely. That’s a big part of every show we put together. We think of how we can make everything fresh and new and what kind of new young choreographers can we bring in with new styles. I never want to get stuck in an era or a moment. I want to keep evolving and growing. That’s why World of Dance is so special to me. I love dance, it’s my first love.
There was a shift in the trajectory of your career after you served as a judge on American Idol. Audiences saw a different side of you and began to relate to you more. What has that transformation been like?
Well, the world changed so much. When I first started out, there wasn’t social media and people didn’t really know who you were. They just knew your music, your movies, your work, but also what people wrote about you, and it was once removed. So they believed a lot of what they read because it was the only information they had. If you were one of the people who got beat up in the press, sometimes for no reason — maybe just for being a woman, or just for being successful — they didn’t have any other point of reference.
When I did American Idol, people actually got to see me, my personality, who I really was, and see me talk for myself and how I felt about music and what I do and love, that I’m a good person who has emotions and feelings. They saw me for who I really was and not what people were writing about me, and I think that changed and people started relating to me in a different way. That was a big change for my career and how people perceived me. It was lovely, it really was a lovely time in my life. Since then, the world has changed because now you do get a peek inside people’s lives. The more content you create, the more you let people in, the vulnerable you are — they see you as a real person and not some two-dimensional character on a screen. It makes them realize that you’re just like them. You’re struggling, succeeding, trying, loving, crying — you get angry. You’re just a person. The more they can see that and feel that, it makes them feel that they know you.
You’re set to embark on the It’s My Party Tour this summer. We saw how the experience of your first world tour, in 2012, was so monumental for you. How will that experience play into the new set of shows?
That was the first time touring the world. That is obviously something I’m going to bring with me on this next tour. This is the first time we’ve toured since then. I’m super-excited about it because the live experience, going out and seeing your fans and having them come out and see you, was something I’d never gotten to do. I didn’t realize there were fans all over the world; you hear about it, but until you experience it and see how different they are in every country, or every city even that you go to, it’s so impactful and for them to see you and feel you and for you to have a dialogue with them, even for a couple of hours one night, and share the music that you love and dance and create an experience. That’s what I took from the last tour, being able to go out there and make people dance and make them happy and feel something. It’s such a blessing in my life.
Tickets for It’s My Party: The Live Celebration — which includes opening acts featuring former World of Dance performers — will be on sale this month at livenation.com. World of Dance airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.