Lopez was born and raised in the Castle Hill neighborhood in The Bronx, New York City, New York to Puerto Rican parents Guadalupe Rodrguez and David Lopez. She has two sisters, Lynda and Leslie. “Our parents had a strong work ethic – there wasn’t really any other way,” Lynda Lopez told Rolling Stone. Lopez’ parents also stressed cultural assimilation, especially the need to speak English. Lopez spent much of what she called “the boyfriend years” secretly meeting with first-love, David Cruz, with whom she remained in a relationship between the ages of 16 and 25. “I was always climbing out windows, jumping off roofs, and he was sneaking up,” she said. “It was crazy.” Lopez spent her entire academic career in Catholic school and acknowledges that she still prays regularly. Lopez financed singing and dancing lessons for herself from the age of 17. After leaving a one semester-long career at Baruch College, Lopez divided her time between working in a legal office, dance classes, and dance performances in Manhattan clubs at night. After months of auditioning for dance roles, Lopez was selected as a dancer for various rap artists’ music videos, and was given a guest spot on the American Music Awards. After being rejected for the role twice, Lopez gained her first regular high profile gig as a “Fly Girl” dancer on the television comedy program In Living Color in 1991. Soon after Jeniffer Lopez became a back-up dancer for famed singer Janet Jackson and made an appearance in her 1993 video “That’s The Way Love Goes”. Scheduled and contracted to go on Janet Jackson’s World Tour, she asked the superstar to be let out of her contract to pursue her acting dreams.
Lopez has appeared on the short-lived television programs South Central, Second Chances, and Hotel Malibu, the television movie Nurses on the Line: The Crash of Flight 7. Lopez broke into the big screen in 1995, in the drama My Family and then appeared opposite Wesley Snipes in the action film Money Train. Lopez has also played roles in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1996 comedy Jack starring Robin Williams, and the 1997 thriller Blood and Wine with Jack Nicholson. Lopez played the lead role in the 1998 film Selena for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She also became the first Latina actress to get paid $1 million or more for one film, the role.
Lopez guest-starred in the sixth season finale of Will & Grace in 2004.
In May 2006, MTV gave the greenlight on her executively produced reality show, Moves. The show will follow the lives of six aspiring dancers as they struggle to make it in the competitive world of professional dance. Lopez, who took an active role in selecting the show’s participants, is also slated to make cameo appearances over the course of the season and the show’s eight-episode run is scheduled to begin this winter.
Lopez’ debut album On The 6, a reference to the 6 subway line she used to take growing up in Castle Hill, was released on June 1, 1999, and reached the top ten of the Billboard 200. The album featured the multi-week number-one lead single, “If You Had My Love,” as well as the top-ten hit “Waiting For Tonight.” It also contained the Spanish-language, Latin-flavored duet “No Me Ames” with Marc Anthony, though the song was never released as a single in the United States. Despite this, the music video for “No Me Ames” received moderate airplay on the U.S. music channels VH1 and The Box. On The 6 also featured guest artists such as Big Pun and Fat Joe on the track “Feelin’ So Good.” It failed to make the top fifty of the Billboard Hot 100. “Let’s Get Loud”, the final single, earned Lopez a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Dance Recording category in 2001. “Waiting For Tonight” was nominated for the same category the previous year.