Jennifer Lopez‘s fans just want the best for their Puerto Rican pop queen.
Over the years, we’ve seen our girl transform from a Boricua Bronx backup dancer (who once lived off one slice of pizza a day) to a bona fide pop culture force, now worth a casual $150+ million. But between the singer’s most iconic moments—playing Selena Quintanilla in 1997, giving us “Waiting for Tonight,” rocking Juicy Couture jumpsuits, inspiring non-women of color everywhere to book that secret butt implant procedure—Lopez has also had her fair share of romantic trysts that have thrived and fizzled in the spotlight. But we’re not here to talk about all of them; we’re here to talk about only the best of them: her relationship with the Ben Affleck.
Here’s the thing about Bennifer. When the pair first got together after meeting on the set of Gigli in 2001, they ignited a pop culture couple frenzy that hadn’t existed prior to their romance. Both at the top of their career games at the time (Affleck was riding high after winning the 1998 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Goodwill Hunting, and Lopez was a top musical act and starring in back-to-back hit rom-coms), they redefined the notion of a celebrity power couple.
Though others existed (Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, for one), Bennifer’s union broke the moUld: Interracial relationships were still a rarity in the early aughts—and even rarer was a white, male, A-list Hollywood heartthrob who walked the red carpet with a Latina woman by his side and, quite frankly, openly fawned over her in interviews and praised her professional success, rather than downplayed it.
Even recently, Affleck (nearly two decades later) called out the “sexist, racist” tabloid hoopla surrounding their relationship and condemned how the media portrayed Lopez during their romance. A white man defending his former woman-of-color partner in the press? We wouldn’t witness that type of passionate defense again until Meghan and Harry circa 2016. We love to see it.
It seems as though Affleck was one of the most sensible romantic matches the superstar has had throughout the years. Further evidence comes by way of a 2003 interview with Pat O’Brien, when Lopez said that Affleck wears the pants in their partnership—but only because she likes it that way. “We respect each other,” she said. “But I’m traditional in a way that I take on the woman roles in certain things. I like to cook and I liketo make sure he has things, you know, I’m a caretaker. I like to take care of people, and it’s no different in our relationship.”
They were inherently equals in success, sex appeal, and influence.
Later in 2019, Lopez told Harper’s BAZAAR, “For me, the relationship journey has been very up and down. But it didn’t have to do with anybody else but me—it was about me figuring out me. Until you learn to love yourself, you can’t completely love [someone else] in a way that is pure and true.”
In a way, Lopez’s past loves reflect that common path so many women take when they’re working to find their perfect match. The fun party boy type (Diddy), the fellow passionate artist (Marc Anthony), the promising father figure and profitable business match (Alex Rodriguez). But the biggest takeaway from Affleck and Lopez’s two-year relationship is that it was simply a time when Lopez seemed to be if not her happiest, definitely her most carefree (aside from her becoming a mother, of course).
One day she’d accompany the actor to the red-carpet premiere of Daredevil, the next he was affectionately rubbing her booty and stripping off her bikini top in her “Jenny from the Block” music video. (I like to call it “the booty rub felt around the world.”) They were inherently equals in success, sex appeal, and influence. Even though their former union was linked to a less-than-well-received career decision, their romance did inspire some timeless pop culture fodder. Lopez’s fan-favorite single “I’m Glad” from the 2002 album This Is Me… Then was rumored to have been written about her feelings toward her then beau, and, of course, “Dear Ben” lives on in pop music infamy.
Though the singer has alluded in interviews over the years to why certain relationships of hers have failed, she has never spoke ill about Affleck. If anything, she would often reminisce on her time with him and about the possibility of a reunion—if maybe they had a met at a different time, perhaps their love would have persevered.
“I think different time different thing, who knows what could’ve happened, but there was a genuine love there,” she told People magazine back in 2016. She also described their split on the Today show as her “first big heartbreak” and told HuffPost Live that she had zero regrets looking back at their time together.
“I would do it all over again, I think. I really would. Even the relationship part,” Lopez admitted in 2015. “I just feel like everything is part of your story and your journey and is meant to be and helps you grow if you’re willing to look at it, and I’m willing to look.”
Given her recent reunion with Affleck, it seems like J.Lo is ready to look again.
This article first appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.