Jennifer Lopez Is Our First Real Latina Rom-Com Queen

Jennifer Lopez’s life and career have taken the world on an unforgettable roller-coaster ride. We’ve witnessed the ups, downs, and unexpected twists in between. She may not always be a favorite among critics, but Lopez has continued to produce films through her company Nuyorican Productions, elevating herself to celeb royalty. As she juggles the many crowns she wears, one that deserves the spotlight is her role in essentially being our first Latina rom-com queen.

Sure, some of her earlier films, like 2002’s “Maid in Manhattan,” were criticized for perpetuating Latina stereotypes (and 2003’s “Gigli,” which she costarred in with Ben Affleck, was chewed up and spit out by film critics for just not being funny). But despite the naysayers, Lopez has never given up her spot as a rom-com star. The 2005 romantic comedy “Monster-in-Law,” which she stars in alongside Jane Fonda, followed those less desirable films and became one of her highest-grossing films to date.

Lopez is to the 2000s what Meg Ryan is to the 1980s and ’90s. Her comedic timing is always on point, and mixing it with her vulnerability has created a recipe for success in the rom-com genre. From 2001’s “The Wedding Planner,” which grossed $94 million worldwide, to 2004’s “Shall We Dance?” which brought in $170 million at the box office, and recent films like 2022’s “Marry Me,” which racked up $50 million, Lopez has continued to solidify herself as a rom-com queen. Other Latina actors have dipped their toe in the genre and done well: think Salma Hayek in 1997’s “Fools Rush In” alongside Matthew Perry, and Eva Mendes in 2005’s “Hitch” alongside Will Smith. However, the Puerto Rican actor continues to stretch the bounds of the rom-com characters she portrays. In one role, she’s struggling with a difficult mother-in-law, and in the next, she’s toting guns and combat boots, as she did in 2022’s “Shotgun Wedding.”

The 54-year-old multitalented star doesn’t wait for the opportunities to come either — she creates them for herself. She recently dropped $20 million to produce 2024’s “This Is Me… Now: A Love Story,” an Amazon original showcase that coincided with her first studio album in a decade. Through breathtaking choreography, star-studded cameos, awe-inspiring costumes, and scene changes, Lopez takes viewers on a journey through her love life, a hot topic in the public eye for years. And, of course, she throws in some comedy with her therapist, who is played by longtime friend and fellow Bronx native Fat Joe. Despite the harsh criticism and low ratings, the musical film was important for Lopez to detail her love life in her own way, not the media’s.

Overall, Lopez has brought in approximately $1 billion in gross revenue for her rom-com films. She is staking her claim in an arena that lacks Latine representation by a long shot. In 2019, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a report that showed the low percentages of Latine contribution on camera and behind the scenes. In partnership with Eva Longoria’s UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, the report found that only seven percent of films from 2019 featured a lead or colead Hispanic/Latino actor.

In other words, Lopez — for more than 20 years — has carved out representation where Latinas are nearly nonexistent. While the critics may lay on her heavily and unapologetically, we cannot deny that when it comes to rom-coms, she’s doing it bigger and better than any other Latina actor. She is laughing all the way to the bank and slowly and steadily bumping up those insultingly low percentages. There’s no doubt that Lopez has rewritten history and solidified a path in film that other Latina actors are sure to follow.

Zayda Rivera is a POPSUGAR contributor. She has been a professional writer for more than 20 years. Z is a Reiki Master Teacher, a yoga and Zumba instructor, a mindfulness and meditation guide, a tarot reader, and a spiritual mentor.

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