Jennifer Lopez plunks herself down on a chair in the hallway of the Istanbul stadium where she’s just spent an hour and a half singing, dancing and mesmerizing 12,000 screaming, adoring fans. She’s just completed date 37 on her six month, 55-date ’Dance Again’ World Tour.
But right now, she’s out of her sexy, skintight rhinestone-studded costumes designed by renowned designer Zuhair Murad. Instead, she’s in sweatpants, black rhinestone high tops, a crocheted cape and big sunglasses with her long hair spilling out — of course looking just as young and gorgeous at 43, as she did up on stage just a half hour before.
But what’s so unexpected is that she’s just patiently waiting outside a room where boyfriend of over a year, 25-year-old Casper Smart is doing a short press interview. While the minutes go by, she chats about how there have been so many men in the crowd at her three Istanbul shows, and how much they respond during her show. She likes the idea that they are there supporting the women they love.
“I think I became part of their history, too. The songs were part of their lives,” she reflects. But then Casper emerges also in his sweats — he danced throughout the show, and she holds her hand out to him. “Come on, Papi,” she says softly, perfectly happy that he has just had a moment in the spotlight.
The Real Jennifer Lopez — Why She’s Not Who You Expect
This is not the Jennifer Lopez you might expect after years of seeing her in the world’s most glamorous gowns, named the planet’s Most Beautiful Woman, the singer who’s sold more than 70 million records worldwide, was paid $30 million to be a judge on American Idol for two seasons, who’s created a $2 billion fragrance business and who once stunned in a plunging slit-to-the-waist Versace gown at the Grammys. That’s all true, but it’s not that version of Jennifer Lopez who’s been on a grueling world tour since June, literally singing her heart out almost every night, keeping up the spirits of her 75-person crew and also toting her energetic , four year-old twins, Max and Emme, from stop to stop. But that’s the totally down-to-earth Jennifer that I saw when I recently spent four days behind the scenes with her, Casper, her longtime partner/manager Benny Medina and the rest of her touring family and crew. When Jennifer and Casper left the Istanbul Stadium, it was to get on a boat to ride across the city’s famous Bosphorus River dividing the continents of Asia and Europe. The stadium was in Asia, but her hotel was over in the European side of the city.
Being Mommy, Her #1 Priority
Once on board, there were two people who could have especially cared less that J. Lo is one of the world’s biggest and most influential stars. That would be adorable, long-haired daughter Emme — a mini-J. Lo — and super cute son Max, a Marc Anthony mini-me. Both just wanted mommy’s attention, Emme crawled into her mom’s lap to share Jennifer’s ‘glamorous’ dinner — a grilled cheese sandwich. And Max fixated on trying to get J. Lo’s permission to eat potato chips even though Casper was insisting on healthy food. This is also the Jennifer who talked completely openly about her past and current relationships which inspired both her Love? album and this “Dance Again” tour.
The Pain of Her Marriage Breakup
“I was going through a divorce and the breakup of a family, which was devastating to me because family means everything to me. I had to turn that into something better,” she explained. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to just survive it, I want to come out better than that.’” She was completely inspired when she heard the song “Dance Again,” penned by Enrique Inglesias, Pitbull and Red One. “I had to beg and beg Enrique to give it to me. I told him — ‘that’s my song.’ And finally, he gave in. “‘Dance Again’ became my anthem…an expression of what I needed to do at that time in my life and for what I was taking on with this tour. It was a beautiful metaphor that became my reality,” she said. And an anthem it is for both her and her fans that she uses it to close every show on the highest and most positive note possible. “Always remember, you will live, you will love, you will dance again,” are the words on the backdrop of her stage, and they are a very, very personal message. “I wanted to tell other women that no matter how bad your situation, how hard, you have to get through it, you have to hold on for one more day because you will get through it, even if it feels like it is taking too long,” she tells me. In fact, at one point in her show, she asks her audience- ” what do you do if something gets you down? In the Bronx (where she famously comes from), we get right back up!” and she gets her throngs cheering wildly. Says Jennifer: ”If my fans see me going through that in front of them — they know how much family and love, mean to me ,and how much it hurt me to end my marriage — then it could help them,” she believes.
Jennifer Worked Hard on Her Marriage
“Jennifer is a ‘fixer,’ she likes to think she can work things out, and she tried for a long time to fix things in her marriage,” her best friend and partner/manager, Benny Medina says. “She’s the kind of person who takes responsibility. She doesn’t blame people, she blames herself, so it’s hard.” So what was it that finally pushed her into ending her marriage? “I realized that I couldn’t allow myself to stay in a relationship that wasn’t working,” she explains. But even after that hard realization and determination to get out of an unhealthy relationship, ending her 7-year marriage to Marc Anthony was incredibly hard. She was depressed. What woman, no matter how famous or not, wouldn’t be? But Jennifer refused to let a dark depression completely overtake her.
How She Pushed Herself To get Back Up
“I didn’t want to be the woman who stayed in bed for months,” she told me. “I did do that a little, but I knew I had to get through it.” So she read inspirational affirmations by You Can Heal Your Life author Louise Hay, like the one posted today on Louise’s site — “I am safe, it’s only change.” “I’d dance every day, I’d work out, I’d say a little prayer and I still wouldn’t feel any better. Then I’d go to bed and get up the next day and do it all again. It was a process, and it very gradually got a little easier.” She knew she couldn’t give into her blacker moments. “I had to do it for my kids. I had to get through it for them,” she explained. She also realized that SHE had a relationship problem. “I had to figure out what I did wrong that I was in a relationship where I was accepting situations that weren’t good for me. If you’re allowing yourself to be in a bad relationship, you need to understand why,” she explained. When Benny and her fans on Twitter urged her do a world tour, J. Lo jumped at the idea and ended up using the creation of her “Dance Again” show and tour as a form of therapy.
Dance Again: Her Hugely Important Message To Women
“At the end of the day, it’s your job as an artist to bare your soul a little. I had control to deliver this message, so I did. I wanted to have the audience leave a little more hopeful ( after my show). They jumped, danced, felt silly and may now would be thinking, ‘Ok things didn’t work out before, but maybe this time, it will,’” she says. It’s a philosophy, she wholeheartedly endorses, to the point of showing message slides as a backdrop in her show, which say: “I still believe in love” and “I remain an eternal optimist about love.” Benny agrees that Jennifer used her own pain and anxiety to create her “Dance Again” world tour show. “Everything she believes in about life and love created a cathartic experience,” he says. “She’s a girl who loves being in love — it’s part of her DNA.” Not only does she still believe in love, but she proudly delivers a powerful message at the end of each concert on a backdrop slide: “I want the fairytale — it’s still my biggest dream.”
“I Believe in the Fairytale More Than Ever”
And she tells me, “I now believe in the fairytale more than ever. I believe in happily ever after with love. I have my kids, and I will always have my family, so I have love.” But what about the romantic love that has eluded her? “It’s nice when someone comes along, and it works. It’s great. I’m lucky to have someone in my life now who understands my family and accepts them,” she reveals. The “someone” of course is dancer, choreographer and now “Dance Again” creative director, Beau Casper Smart. “Casper’s great with the kids. He’s happy to be their human jungle gym at times,” a member of the tour tells me.
Why It’s Working With Casper Smart
It’s clear he’s completely comfortable with the big family atmosphere. He tells me he grew up as a middle child in a five-kid-family of both brothers and sisters headed by a single parent, his mom. His mom was a big part of his life. “Even when I was 17, I wasn’t embarrassed to kiss my mom on the cheek,” he says. Casper and Jennifer first met when he danced in Jennifer’s “On the Floor” video, but they didn’t get involved until after she hired him to conceptualize the energetic video for her single, “Follow the Leader.” “He put laughter and happiness in her life at a time when she could use it,” Benny says. As for Jennifer she explains the initial attraction this way: “He stood out for me because of his fearless quality.” Then when she decided to create the “Dance Again” show, she literally created the outline for the whole show herself, in April 2012, and then Benny and Casper helped her conceptualize all of the details.
How She Created the ‘Dance Again’ Show
“First, I wrote down all the songs that I knew fans would want to hear in the show, so I could figure out how to configure them to express myself as an artist. I knew the show had to be passionate and high energy to have a Latin touch, glitz and glamour and style. And I wanted to tell women that the key to a healthy relationship is ‘loving yourself’,” she says. Was she surprised that the Casper, who she was involved with romantically, would turn out to work so well with her on the show? “When we first started working together, I didn’t realize how much he would have to offer, and I could play off him — he had been listening to all my songs and had great suggestions for how to put the show together,” she says. Nevertheless, despite how much Jennifer wanted to say yes to her fans’ requests that she go on tour, plus she wanted to challenge herself, she had key conditions before giving the go ahead. She outlined them to Benny: “I needed to make sure that I had the babies with me and that they would be well taken care of. I wanted to have Casper with me, you (Benny) with me, and I wanted for us all to have some fun,” she told Benny, he relates. The answer to making the world tour work for Emme and Max was bringing along her cousin Tiana Rios and mom Lupe help take care of them. Jennifer doesn’t like to have nannies but she loves to have family close, for both her children and herself.
Making Touring Around the World Work For Max and Emme
“My mom was a teacher for 20 years — first grade, kindergarten and phys ed, and so my mom gives them a lesson every day,” Jennifer says. The family, all stays in a big suite at every hotel along the way. And just like at home, the rooms are strewn with toys, it’s Nickelodeon on the TV, and the kids are on a regular schedule, so they get as much time as possible with their mom. “They’re on our schedule — so they go to sleep late after the show, and they sleep late,” J. Lo shares. “They have to have 10 hours of sleep every night — that critical to prevent crankiness. When they get up, they have breakfast, and then they go in with my mom for their lesson.” Jennifer may be the star that 13 million Twitter fans adore, but eyewitnesses report that she’s the one giving Max and Emme their baths, reading to them and eating meals with them. “She makes every effort to make a normal life for the kids. She’s totally hands on,” says a tour member. On many days before heading to the show, Jennifer slips out with the kids to head to a playground, a museum or church to have family time.
Was Bringing Max and Emme on the Road The Right Thing?
“Even my own family questioned my decision to bring Max and Emme on tour, ” she confides. “But being with me is so much better than not being with me and wondering where mommy is.” But beyond that, she points out that she feels her children are learning so much from being on a world tour. “They look at maps, they know the world is big, they’ve learned different bits of languages. When I have a day off, it’s all for them, and if I can’t go out, they still go with my mom or their Aunt Tiana. They site see. They get a lot more out of this tour of so many countries than I do. I see the hotel rooms, arenas and gyms.” Max and Emme still see those arenas, too. They come to every show to watch mommy work. Before mommy goes on stage, they play in the stadium hallways with the show’s dancers, who are also happy to twirl them around. They sometimes join in the pre-show circle along with Guadalupe , J Lo and the dancers where a prayer or affirmation is offered up – “Let us help Jennifer shine bright tonight. We dance in your honor. Let’s give our best performance yet”, was one night’s prayer. Then during J. Lo’s performance, they watch their mom on stage seated in little chairs on the side. They’re normal kids and like normal siblings, they fight and make up. Max likes to play and kiss Emme . But she won’t let him all the time because boys can be rough. “Why won’t you let me kiss you more?” Benny recalls Max asking Emme recently. “Because you’re not supposed to kiss people all the time,” Emme replied. The pair will turn five on February 22nd and head to kindergarten next fall.
Her Demanding, Endless Days
So how does Jennifer do it all? Handle the pressure of a 55 date world tour? Manage singing and dancing almost non-stop for 90 minutes almost every night? Plus fulfill all her other work duties and obligations? On one day of my visit, Jennifer was up and looking stunning at a photo shoot for the cover and an inside feature story of a major fashion magazine, by 7:20 a.m. There was no complaining, no hint of fatigue, and she was in total pro-mode for the entire day. And let me tell you — it wasn’t easy. Almost every shot was outside, and it grew increasingly colder throughout the day. But while everyone else got goosebumps and huddled under heaters, Jennifer smiled, posed and soldiered on without an apparent shiver. She knew what she had to do and made sure to give the magazine what they wanted and needed. And it wasn’t even that she had no diva attitude, none. No – she was totally friendly to everyone there, all day! She only left at 4:30 p.m., with barely enough time to get to her show through the heavy traffic on the other side of Istanbul.
She Sings Live! Lip Synching a No No
Then, there was the decision that Jennifer made before the tour, to sing live and not synch. She actually sings live through her entire show. “We all decided before the tour that Jennifer was going to sing live, so she really had to train for it – it’s really hard to sing and dance at the same time and she barely stops during the show,” Casper explains to me. “She worked with vocal producer Kuk Harrell to train her voice. She did vocal exercises and warmups. The voice is like any other muscle. You have to train it, and it responds. Jennifer got better and better.” Even after each performance, J. Lo isn’t done. She meets and does photos with fans who have won local “Tweet to Meet” contests, she greets local press and VIPs, before gathering Max and Emme to head back to the hotel. But it’s a grueling, grueling schedule often requiring bus and airplane travel post-show to get to the next city and packed arena, with her 75 person “travelling circus.”
How Does She Possibly Do It All? Her Secrets Revealed
So how does she do it? “I’m never worried about her — she’s the hardest worker,” says the serious dark-haired young woman charged with the daily organization of the tour. “Jennifer shows up ready to get the job done, and she ALWAYS gets it done.” But the young woman, who has worked with J. Lo for the past couple of years is protective. “She’s not a robot. She needs to have her family and her boyfriend with her, or it would be too much. And she needs her few days off, or it would be overwhelming.” Part of making sure that Jennifer stays healthy physically and mentally is making sure that she gets 8 hours of sleep and on most days, an hour-long workout to keep her incredible figure in tip top shape. Autumn, a slim friendly blonde, puts her through a Tracy Anderson workout most days. Tracy, who is based in New York and LA, and has a roster of incredibly fit celebrity clients like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, has designed special workouts to keep Jennifer’s endurance and muscle tone strong. Autumn is her Tracy Anderson trainer on-site.
Why She HAS To Workout as Well as Do The Show
“J. Lo’s workouts have to give her the ability to sing and dance and to be a presence who is giving energy to so many people during her shows,” explains Tracy. Giving energy, giving hope, giving fun, entertaining — Jennifer does do it ALL that during her show. From the moment she appears on stage in a stunning rhinestone number with a hat and feathered cape and shouts out “Hello Lovers’ to her audience, to the last sexy dance with Casper in “Dance Again,” Jennifer is a tour de force in front of her of thousands of wildly enthusiastic fans. No matter how tired she might be, she “brings it” every night. “I have a lot of love for those people in the audience every night. They got up, bought a ticket, sometimes stood for hours and even if I don’t feel like I have the smile in me, I feel like they deserve my best. I’m very conscious of that ,” she says, after one of her Istanbul shows.
Every Show Has To Be Great — I Won’t Phone It In!
“When I decided to do the tour, my goal was to come out better. I wanted to grow. I didn’t want to phone it in. Every show, I’m challenging myself — how can I sing this a little better, make this step or move a little better,” she reveals. So there have been multiple goals for Jennifer on her “Dance Again” tour: to grow as an artist and performer, to grow as a woman who is learning to love herself, and to inspire her audiences particularly women to know that they can pick themselves up after a tough breakup and find love again. “I wanted to turn my breakup into something better. I didn’t just want to survive it — I wanted to come out better than that,” she shares. Well, she gets an A+ on all those fronts. And even though she longs to get home and enjoy cooking for her family and friends and having TV night in with her kids, she’ll barely have time to enjoy Christmas after her last tour date in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Dec. 22nd. The premiere of her next film, a sexy, crime thriller with Jason Stratham, is coming up fast – it opens Jan. 25. No doubt it will be her best performance yet. But for all the Hollywood glitz of the world that she’ll return to, I hope she gets lots of time for more let-down-her hair moments, like my favorite one, I witnessed.
The Real J. Lo — At Her Very Best — Revealed!
It was 1:30 in the morning after the last of the Istanbul performances, the fun Tweet to Meet, our on-the-boat boat interview, and Jennifer, Casper, the kids and her mom all arrived back at their small hotel. As we walked in the back lobby, Jennifer suddenly spotted a big red velvet chair, sitting up one step. For some reason.It reminded her of a throne or maybe Santa’s chair. She clambered in and then went into full-on goof off mode, pulling down her hat and slinging her feet over the chair, giggling and cracking up Casper and the kids. A couple of tourists just looked on totally stunned at what they were seeing — the infamous J. Lo in sweats, laughing and kidding around, like a kid herself. Then, it was time to go upstairs and crash. The next night would be another blowout performance in Belgrade!