It’s been 20 years since Jennifer Lopez released her now-iconic bop, Jenny from the block, as part of her This Is Me…Then album. Now, she’s reflecting and opening up about the personal and professional journeys that led to creation of this monumental album. In conversation with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1, the award-winning actress and singer also discusses Ben Affleck—her inamorato at the time of writing the album and now-husband. From the desolation of their relationship and its impact on her career to the strides she made after and their reunion almost 18 years later, Lopez bares all.
Read highlights from their conversation below.
On Why She Decided To Celebrate The Album Now
Jennifer Lopez: 20 years ago, I fell in love with the love of my life. I was working on an album and it was called This Is Me… Then. It was all about capturing that moment in time. Now, the most amazing, incredible, unbelievable thing has happened. The reason we’re here is because I want to capture this moment in time because it is even better than the first time.
Zane Lowe: That album was written and inspired by somebody you fell deeply in love with. Here we are 20 years later, reflecting on them now with the same person that you are once again deeply…What are we, in the Twilight Zone?
JL: It is a little bit like the Twilight Zone. It doesn’t happen. That album really captured a moment in time where I fell in love with the love of my life. It’s all right there on the record. I didn’t even realise what was happening and what I was doing. It was just every day going from the set to the recording studio, doing the thing, being in love, him coming into the studio, writing and going, “This reminds me of… ” You know what I mean? Me tweaking the lyrics with him. Every single song that we wrote there, me writing ‘Dear Ben’, it was such a special moment in time to have captured.
On How It’s Prophetic
JL: I decided to call it This Is Me… Then, this moment in time was captured by finding your soulmate in that time and it’s all there. When I listen to the lyrics now, I didn’t even realise I was writing some of our story that would happen, which was still sick. Some of the records on there, which were more obvious about Ben, but even records that you were like, “That’s a breakup record,” I didn’t even realise that it was prophetic in a weird way.
On How Ben Affleck Is Her Biggest Fan
JL: He loves that album. He loves that music. He knows all of the words. You know what I mean? It’s crazy. He also was with me while I was creating it. You know what it is to make an album. You’re listening to the demos in the car. You’re listening to the mixes. “I wrote this today. What do you think of this?” It was that over and over again for two years while we were together, two-and-a-half years that we were together. He knows it so well and he loves it so much. He’s my biggest fan, which is awesome, and supporter. When he came back into my life again, the same thing happened where I felt so inspired and so overtaken with emotion that it was just pouring out of me.
On How It Wasn’t Love at First Sight with Ben
JL: I think what happened is, as we worked together, we became such good friends. We realised that we were crazy about each other. I found myself kind of thinking about him after the movie was over. And having to take care of my own business, because I was coming out of a relationship at that time. But it’s like you just knew it. It’s just like, “This is the person I want to be with.” And that happened over a period of months. It wasn’t an instant thing because we weren’t allowed to do that. Yeah, it kind of grew over time.
On The Pitfalls Of Fame And Tabloid Culture
JL: It was a new thing and it destroyed us. That was part of what destroyed us was the outside energy that was coming at us. And we loved each other. It was hard. It felt, at times, unfair, but neither one of us is that person to be like, woe is me. So we were like, well, we just got to dust it off and keep it moving. I think, in the weirdest way, that it motivated both of us to then become and do the things that we wound up doing, which is going into hyper-gear. He went into hyper-gear and I went into hyper-gear. But not together. We had to do it separately. He went on to start directing, win his Oscar, do his second Oscar, do his thing where people had written him off in a way.
The same thing with me. It was just like people were like, “Her music career is over. She’s this, she’s that.” You know what I mean? I wasn’t getting movies. I had to power my way back. I had to work and work. I got divorced and I was like, “Okay, I’ll do the reality show. I’ll do the television show. I’ll do the single. I’ll do this.” And it was just, “Okay, I’m going to go on tour for the first time.” All these things with two babies. It fueled us in a weird way that we felt we had to prove ourselves again.
On Learning How To Love Herself
JL: You need the mistakes. You need to fall down to pick yourself back up and go, what am I… Like for me, after my divorce, I was like, what am I doing wrong? I have two babies, trying to make this work with all my heart and soul. What am I doing wrong? What is wrong with me? And it made me look at myself. And that’s when the work began, which was… My kids are 14 years old now, my twins, and it was a journey of 10 years of figuring myself out and making the same mistakes and doing it again.
Okay, I got that piece figured out, but still this is not good. This piece now, that piece. And you start putting the pieces together and you start digging deep into yourself until you become whole. You have to learn how to love yourself. I was on that journey of trying to figure out what it was to love yourself because I knew that I could never really have true love in my life again until I figured that piece out. That is the most important piece. It took all these different avenues and different practices and ideas and coaches and all kinds of life coaches and therapists and books and whatever I could get my hands on. And then all of a sudden, you start crafting this new person.
On Surviving And Working Through Her Pain
JL: When people really look at the things that I’ve chosen to do at different times, it is very telling. I’ve always been that way, that I have to do things that really resonate with me or it just doesn’t feel right. I can’t fake certain things. I’m an actress and I’m good at that. I love making movies, but I’m not good at being fake at all. But then, there was this side of me that, like you said, where did the pain go? I was in so much pain for so many years. I just had to survive in a way. My way of surviving was by working more, doing more, and hiding that side of myself. I had to do it. I didn’t make music in that way… that I did in 2002, until now.
On Getting Back Together with Ben Affleck
JL: I think now that we’re older, we realise, it’s much more clear, because even when we felt that way, now we know. Now, we know. And there are no questions and there is no kind of like, “Well, let’s see how this goes.” Like, “Nope, it’s me and you. That’s it. All the way, till the end. That’s it. It’s going to be us.”
ZL: Was it quick? When you came together again and realised that the love was still…
JL: Immediate? That was the immediate.
ZL: We’re not wasting any more time.
JL: We’re not, we know. We had our kids and we had to tread lightly and carefully so they could come along with us…Because they didn’t live those years before. And they’re like, “Wow, they’ve known each other forever.” And that’s it. We did know each other forever, and we had to live these separate paths and we did other beautiful things and we had these amazing children.
But when we came back together and the universe and God and, as it would have it… Once we got whole enough and complete enough and loved ourselves enough and could stand on our own two feet really completely, as the universe would have it, we were brought into each other’s lives again. And it was a crack in the clouds and that song came through and it was like, “Boom, that’s it.” And we were both very sure.
On Getting Her Happy Ending 18 Years Later
JL: Dude, I wouldn’t even perform these records. It was so painful after we broke up. Once we called off that wedding 20 years ago, it was the biggest heartbreak of my life. I honestly felt like I was going to die. It sent me on a spiral for the next 18 years where I just couldn’t get it right. But now, 20 years later, it does have a happy ending. It has the most would-never-happen-in-Hollywood ending. “That would never happen. We’re not going to write that because nobody would believe it” ending. It’s funny because when me and Ben got back together, he was like, “You never performed the songs. You never did I’m Glad. You never did this. You never did that.” I was like, “You’re right. It was painful.” It was a part of me then that I had to put away to move on and survive. It was a survival tactic, for sure.
On Being Most Inspired Musically When In Love
JL: A lot of artists feel, I think, or my experience with other artists is that when they’re suffering, when they’re in pain, they come out with this really crazy art. For me, it’s the total opposite. When I’m in love is when I’m inspired the most. I was the most inspired then and I have not made another record like that since then.
On The Possibility Of An Upcoming Tour
Without a doubt. I’m either going to tour or go to a residency. I’m going to create this show. I will create this show. Yeah. This Is Me Now and Then tour. Now and Then tour, we should call it. We just did it. That’s it. It’s done. Listen, I never know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to go away too much right now. I want to be home.
On Bad Bunny And Paving The Way For A New Generation Of Latin Artists
Oh yeah, and in that moment I think we felt a huge responsibility. Like okay, this is how to show people what Latinos are and too, we’re beautiful and strong and happy, and you know what I mean? And there’s nothing to be afraid of. In the country at that time, it was a lot going on, which is why I decided to put the cages in there and make that statement and all of those things. But yes, I mean with Bad Bunny, seeing now that Spanish music, because I didn’t even start in Spanish music. I was singing English music and did some Spanish records here and there. But that Spanish music is now global music, is American music, with English speaking music in the weirdest way, you know what I mean? Is so phenomenal and such a change.
Watch the full interview here.
*This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.