Jennifer Lopez’s biography is very easy to relate to, especially her upbringing. She had the kind of experience most of us had growing up. Just read on to see how similar yours is to hers.
Lopez was born on July 24th, 1970; in the Castle Hill area of South Bronx. A peaceful area of Bronx city that turned into a ghetto in the 1960s and ’70s.
She grew up with her parents and two sisters: Lynda and Leslie.
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J. Lo’s Strong Work Ethic
Her parents are Puerto Rican immigrants with strong work ethics. David, her dad was a computer specialist for an insurance company in Manhattan, and her mom, Guadalupe, was employed as a monitor at Holy Family School, which Jennifer attended. Guadalupe later went to school, earned her degree, and was hired as a kindergarten teacher at the school.
Mom and dad always placed a strong emphasis on the importance of hard work, determination, and education as a way to succeed in life.
Jennifer recalls, “My parents . . . raised us to do the right things—go to school, get good grades, try to get into college. It was about trying to have a better life. We weren’t allowed to hang out on the streets. Parties—God forbid. I’d beg for weeks to go, then have to be home by 11 p.m., when everybody else was just getting there.”
Many observers have pointed out that some of Jennifer’s best characteristics as an adult, including her perfectionism, positive attitude, and her self-confidence, and devotion to work, can be directly traced to the example her parents set.
Jennifer herself is quick to acknowledge that her upbringing has made all the difference in her life. In her opinion, most kids in her neighborhood were encouraged to aim high, but not too high. Jennifer and her sisters, however, we’re encouraged to think more boldly. She remarks, “There’s a fear [in the community I grew up in] to dream a little bit more, go a little bit higher. . . . If you’re really ambitious, then you’ll go to college, maybe be a lawyer. Forget being a doctor—it’s way too much school to pay for. [Yet] luckily, with my mom and dad, I really did get the feeling that we could do anything if we worked hard enough.”
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More On Jennifer Lopez’s Parenting
Also, they were practicing Catholics and they ensured their children received a Christian school education. David and Guadalupe consistently took their daughters to church every Sunday and instilled in them a strong sense of right and wrong.
As a youth, Jennifer didn’t take her faith much seriously—religion was something she grew up with. But as she grew into adulthood, she realized how important it was to be spiritual and have a relationship with God.
Guadalupe, particularly, was strict with her girls, intent on keeping them from the wrong company. As a result, says Jennifer,
“I was a good kid, always hugging people. Was very close to my grandparents and Ilistened to my mother and didn’t do bad things. Didn’t curse and I didn’t run around. Was never naughty, but I was a tomboy and very athletic. I’d always be running around and playing sports and stuff. I did gymnastics, competed nationally in track, and was on the school softball team.”
Jennifer Lopez And Watching Musicals
Guadalupe always made Jennifer and her sisters watch musical shows like Broadway Musicals and musical movies like West Side Story. And that was a contributing factor as to why Jennifer loved performing.
Jennifer says she watched West Side Story more than a hundred times as a kid. It was her favorite movie and she identified strongly with the characters. “I loved that it was a musical and about Puerto Ricans and that they were living where I lived. I wanted to be Anita because I love to dance and she was Bernardo’s girlfriend and he was so hot. But then Maria was the star of the movie. So it was basically like, I gotta be Maria. I think that’s the actress in me, wanting to be the center of attention and the star of the show. I just always wanted to achieve and be proud of myself.”
Though her parents never expected her or any of her sisters to pursue a career in performing.
Their aim of encouraging such movies shows and, extracurricular activities was to help keep them out of trouble on the street as they got older.
Based on this, Jennifer was enrolled at Ballet Hispanico, a dance school that teaches students both classical ballet and Hispanic dance traditions.
Jennifer attended dance classes every weekend at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club dance studio in the Bronx.
But as she grew older, she began pursuing dance on her own.
J. Lo Is Likened To A Little Devil
Although Jennifer describes herself as a good kid who had caring, attentive parents, she also learned how to handle herself out in the world. No amount of parental love could protect Jennifer and her sisters from the reality of the streets.
Life at home was one thing; going to school and growing up among classmates and peers was quite another.
So at an early age, Jennifer exhibited a tough side.
“She was actually a little devil,” says Jennifer’s fourth-grade teacher Carol McCormack. “That kid didn’t take anything from anybody. She was a tough little cookie. I remember I once took her class to meet some actors. She took over the meeting. Jennifer was only eight and there she was, grilling them about what they did and how much they were paid. I just couldn’t believe how much nerve she had.”
J. Lo In A Fistfight
At times, Jennifer seemed to possess two opposite personalities: the same little girl who loved giving out hugs and adored her grandparents was not shy about standing up for herself when the situation called for it, such as the time in fourth grade when she got into a fistfight.
“There were these two best friends and I started getting on with one of them,” Jennifer recalls. “The other one got jealous, so she told me that the other girl was always talking about me. In the end, I confronted her; she denied it, so I pushed her in the face. We started fighting and I knocked her down. It was pretty ugly, and although I’m not proud of the event, I did win the fight. Nobody ever messed with me after that, and I graduated from school unscathed.”
Even so, Jennifer is quick to point out that that was then, and this is now. “I was nine. I’m not a violent person. Women hitting each other is low class, and it looks ridiculous and stupid. But I can, and would, defend myself if I had to. I’m not going down without a fight, that’s for sure. I started that fight in fourth grade, but,” she adds, “I’ve matured since then.”
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How Lopez Got Her Flat Nose
When she was 13, Jennifer had an accident that could have changed her entire future—a truck carrying compressed gas cylinders hit her mom’s car.
“The only thing that saved my life was the fact that I was bending down tying my shoes in the front seat because his headlight flew through the windscreen and ended up in the back of the car. It would have smashed my face in. I don’t even remember exactly how my nose got fractured, but that’s why it looks like it does. People always tell me I look like I was hit with a hammer, but I like my nose. In profile it’s good, but if you look straight at me or touch it, you can see the flatness.”
J. Lo’s First Date
Unlike some girls who prefer to play the field, Jennifer preferred to have a steady boyfriend, although she didn’t date much as a kid. Her first crush happened in the third grade with a boy named Charles who had blue eyes and black hair.
“He was so cute. I never kissed him because I was only ten years old. He’d come over to my house every day and my mom would give us sandwiches and milk. I dreamt of marrying him. I saw him years later when he’d grown up, and let’s put it this way—he peaked early,” she laughs.
In the tenth grade, Jennifer started dating her first real boyfriend, David Cruz.
“He made me feel like a hot babe,” Jennifer says, noting, “We started dating when I was 15 and dated only each other for nine years. We were very careful. I’m not saying we weren’t having sex, because we were,” she admits.
But unlike her daydreams about Charles, by this time Jennifer was far more interested in pursuing a career than settling down.
Jennifer Lopez’s Sense of style
Initially, Lopez was fully on tomboy, Hip-Hop, and athletic fashion. “Then Madonna came along,” she says. “I always admired her, liked her music, her sense of style. I like that she changed all the time.”
Lopez was inspired by Madonna’s sense of style and she also got inspiration from outfit pictures she saw in fashion magazines.
“Everybody would look at me like I was a nerd—What is she doing? What is she wearing? —because people didn’t do that in my neighborhood; people didn’t work out or take care of their bodies. If people see you striving for things, it threatens them.”
J. Lo Struggles With What To Live For
Although in her heart Jennifer believed she could achieve whatever she put her mind to, she also had a practical side and for a while, intended to get her license to be a hairstylist. Her first job was in a salon sweeping up the hair from the floor. At home, she would practice her technique on her patient sisters. The results were less than stellar, Jennifer admits, because she had no idea what she was doing.
In high school, Jennifer was a good student earning high grades, and a natural athlete. She played softball, was a skilled gymnast, and competed in track. She also participated in all the plays and continued taking dance classes. Even though she never hid her passion for performing, Jennifer’s parents still assumed she would pursue a more practical and stable career.
“Where I come from, you got a job as a bank teller and got married, and being driven didn’t mean wanting to be a star. It meant being a lawyer instead of a secretary.” Although being an attorney “was aiming really high where I came from,” says Jennifer, “it was an attainable goal.”
J. Lo Leaves Home
For a while, Jennifer tried to juggle her parents’ expectations with her personal aspirations but soon realized she had to live her own life, whatever the consequences.
That said, it was still hard to tell her parents she was dropping out of Baruch College in New York City after only one semester to devote herself to being a dancer. Their response was understandably less than enthusiastic.
“It was a fight from the beginning,” admits Jennifer. “When I told my parents I wasn’t going to college and law school, they thought it was really stupid to go off and try to be a movie star. No Latinas did that. It was just this stupid, foolish, crapshoot idea to my parents and to everybody who knew me.”
Her parents gave her two options.
To go back to college and study law or leave the house!
Jennifer wasn’t willing to let the lack of support from family or friends deter her ambition. So she left home.
If you were in Jennifer’s shoes, what would you have done? Stay back and return to school or leave to pursue your dreams? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.
She took the No. 6 subway train into Manhattan. (Which years later would be the inspiration for the title of her first album, On the 6.)
Soon she 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.
She also went on any audition she could find. Jennifer says that was a particularly happy time for her. “To me, the struggle has always been the fun part.”
Jennifer Lopez’s Biography as regards her upbringing is one that many can relate to. She grew up in a ghetto-like neighborhood. Had loving and strict parenting that insisted on regular church worship, study, politeness, and hard work. But her teenage life was quite tough. She took responsibility for her life and future and held herself accountable for whatever her life would turn out to be.
This post is sourced from ‘Jennifer Lopez, A Biography’ by Kathleen Tracy.