Jennifer Lopez Childhood, Bio, Career and Upbringing

Jennifer Lopez also known by her nickname JLo is an American singer, actress, and dancer. As a child, Jennifer Lopez had always dreamt of being a superstar actress. But that was a huge challenge owing to the prevalence of racial discrimination within the Hollywood industry at that time. Notwithstanding, she was determined to break through every barrier and prove that when it came to success, it was not about race but talent. This article focuses on the story of how Jennifer Lopez grew from childhood to stardom.

Jennifer Lopez In Her Neighborhood

As a little girl, Lopez used to put up shows in the sitting room for her parents. She just loved performing. So at age five, her parents enrolled her in dance classes at the local Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club where she learned ballet and jazz dancing.

Consequently, she started piano classes. People in the neighbourhood mocked Jennifer for dreaming of becoming a superstar because she was Latino. ¹“When I said I wanted to be a performer, people went ‘Yeah, right,’” Jennifer said. “You don’t do that where I come from.” But Jennifer didn’t let these words stop her. “If I could describe myself in a few words,” Jennifer once said, “strong would be one of them. I know what I want, and I’m willing to go for it”

At sixteen, she auditioned for a role in the movie My Little Girl irrespective of the fact that she was Latino and an upcoming at that. To her, she could charm the director and get the role. And what are you thinking? She won the role of Myra, of course. Lopez knows how to get whatever she wants.

Jennifer Lopez leaves Home

She continued with her dance classes while in high school and she dreamt of being a performer. However, due to the prevalence of racial discrimination in the Hollywood industry, her parents advised that she forget about performing and studying law. They cared too much to let her suffer rejection and pain.

But you can trust Lopez with her stuff. She didn’t give in. Though she started studying law as her parents advised, after a semester, she dropped out to follow her passion.

Her parents were furious and gave her two options: go back to school and study law or leave the house!

This was tough for Lopez. She had always been a daddy’s girl trying to please her parents. But it was time to follow the voice inside.

She left home and soon won a scholarship to a dance school in Manhattan. Then she rented an apartment above the school’s studio where she spent every day dancing and auditioning.

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Success Seemed Far

For a year and six months after Lopez left home, success eluded her. Yet she kept pushing and after a succession of one-time gigs, she landed a long-term job in Europe touring for five months with the show Golden Musicals of Broadway.

She was thrilled at the opportunity. Though her joy was short-lived as she learned that she was the only performer in the show without a solo. Lopez was heartbroken and turned to her mother for solace. Unfortunately, mom did not offer her the sympathy she looked for. “I called up my mom crying because I didn’t think I’d been given a fair shake,” Jennifer said. “I thought she’d offer me some sympathy. Instead, she said, ‘Don’t you ever call me crying again! You wanted to be in this business, so you better toughen up!’ And I did. That was the best advice I’d ever gotten in my life.”

J. Lo As Fly Girl

After the five months tour, Jennifer continued auditioning. One time, she auditioned for a Fly Girl dance role in a new comedy variety show In Living Color. But she didn’t get the role.

However, a Fly Girl dancer quit the show so the producer, Keenen Ivory Wayans, called her to take the spot. Hollywood dreams were finally coming to life.

She danced as Fly Girl for two years or so and landed an opportunity to dance in Janet Jackson’s video, That’s The Way Love Goes. Even so, she got yet a better opportunity as Janet Jackson offered her a spot to be one of her dancers for her 1993 summer tour.

J Lo In South Central

She was still rehearsing for the tour when she learned that she had been selected for a role she auditioned for in a new sitcom South Central.

At this point, Lopez had two options. To give up superstar Janet Jackson’s offer or take the acting role in South Central.

It was a tough decision, but Jennifer knew what she wanted. Her dream was to be an actress. Dancing was only a strategy she used to get herself there. So she gave up superstar Janet’s offer and went for her heart. “For a dancer, [theJanet Jackson tour] was one of the best gigs you could get,” Lopez later remarked. “I just happened to have other plans.”

In South Central, Jennifer played the role of Lucille; a comical grocery store cashier. At this point, her parents became proud of her. And in the same year – 1993, she won a role in the television movie; Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7, where she played the heroic nurse Rosie Romero.

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The Bad Breaks for J. Lo

Unfortunately for Lopez, South Central was cancelled after its first season. But before that, television executives at CBS had noticed her skills so they invited her to take part in the new series they were developing.

Jennifer accepted the invitation and played the role of Melinda Lopez in the CBS drama Second Chances.

Once again, this new drama lasted only one season but Jennifer had yet another chance and starred in Hotel Malibu. However, Hotel Malibu turned out to be the third consecutive television series Jennifer starred in that lasted only one season.

Do you think this is some sort of misfortune or what? If you were in Jennifer’s shoes, what would you take these events to mean? Share your thoughts with me in the comment section.

J. Lo Continues Auditioning For Film Roles

Yet, as luck had this stunning lady, the CBS executives believed in her skills and offered her a long-term development deal which meant they would find a proper and successful series for her to star in. This was a great opportunity for Lopez since CBS was the highest-rated network at the time.

Surprisingly for the network, Lopez declined the offer. She believed there was more out there for her in filming. So she began auditioning for films after films.

At first, it seemed like she had made the wrong choice because she didn’t get jobs as she had expected. It was so devastating that she thought of returning home. But she refused to give up.

In 1995, Lopez auditioned for the role of a young mother- Maria; in Gregory Nava’s new movie, Mi Familia. Nava was captivated by Lopez’s skills so he gave her the role.

Directors Began To Notice Jennifer Lopez

One of the movie’s highlights turned out to be the part where Lopez’s character – Maria; had to fight her way through a raging river across the U.S./Mexico border. She had to endure a day of shooting in freezing thirty-eight-degree water. She refused to complain or give up. To Lopez, this was the chance to show her dedication, and it got her in the eyes of many directors.

One of the directors that noticed Lopez was Joseph Ruben. He invited her to play the role of Grace, a tough-as-nails female detective on the transit beat for his new movie Money Train. Lopez accepted the offer and began preparing for the role. She met with and spent time with real transit cops to see what their job entailed. This was to enable her to play the role as professionally as possible.

Unfortunately, the movie was not a big hit. It faced great criticism in the press but Lopez was singled out for her professional performance irrespective. This landed her another big role in a movie Director Francis Ford Coppola was directing.

Coppola had noticed Lopez in Mi Familia so he invited her to audition for the role of Miss Marquez in his new movie Jack. Lopez got the role and gave it her all. Her character was a school teacher; so again she went on to learn what it meant and took to be a schoolteacher. She called her mom who was a schoolteacher at the time and modeled her character after her mom’s teaching career.

She also played roles in blockbusters like Blood and Wine, and Anaconda

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Jennifer Lopez Breakthrough: Selena

Though her major breakthrough came when she won the lead role in the biopic of slain Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez. On March 21, 1997, Selena premiered. Suddenly, Lopez was everywhere. Selena took in more than $50 million at the box office. Her performance in the movie made viewers take notice. Critics lauded her performance, and she became a star overnight.

From her Selena paycheck, Lopez bought a new Cadillac for her mother. She was proud to see her mother happy and it was a thrill to return to her neighborhood and neighbors who mocked her for dreaming to be a star.


Jennifer Lopez has worked her way to where she is currently and she deserves fame and wealth. As Lopez would say, “If I could describe myself in a few words,” she said, “strong would be one of them. I know what I want, and I’m willing to go after it.”

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Today Jennifer Lopez’s net worth in 2021 is US$400 Million and that can buy The Veneno Roadster (the most expensive Lamborghini priced at US$8.3 Million.) 48 times. Not bad for some with a childhood like Jennifer Lopez’s

For more of Jennifer Lopez read: Jennifer Lopez’s Biography: See How Similar Her Upbringing Is To Yours.

Information credit: Jennifer Lopez by Heidi Hurst

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