Jennifer Lopez has always been a special kind of triple-threat force, the kind we so rarely see in show business anymore. She’s a dancer, a singer and an actress, and she’s a top-notch performer in all three areas. However, until recently, it seemed she may never get her due credit in the acting category. While she’s never won, she’s been nominated at the Grammys twice (though the infamous Versace dress was enough to write her into Recording Academy history for life), but she’s never been acknowledged by the Oscars—not even once.
This was supposed to be her year. At 50-years-old, Lopez played the electric Ramona, a savvy stripper with some questionable business methods, in Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, a fantastic summer film that was snubbed by the Oscars entirely. With months of intense training, Lopez perfected the art—and the sport—of the pole dance, which she put on gorgeous display in the film. She surely has permanent scars on her feet from high-heeled blisters. She portrayed a perfectly imperfect woman, one who was doomed by her own drive. She asked us to step into her fur.
It was easily one of the most brilliant acting performances of Lopez’s career, but Hustlers hopefuls were ultimately left dissapointed when this year’s Oscar nominations were revealed. So 2019, after all, will not go down as Lopez’s year. Except that it will: At Sunday night’s Super Bowl in Miami, Lopez, along with global pop sensation and dance master Shakira, delivered the performance of a lifetime, and it was important for so many reasons.
Firstly, Lopez proved to everyone—especially members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, if any of those codgers were watching—that she was worthy of that Supporting Actress nomination. The Academy often prizes calculated character or biographical roles over eccentric ones, but they should’ve taken a chance on Lopez and her take on Ramona. As it turns out, physical movement (i.e. learning to pole dance, which is an extremely difficult exercise to maneuver), can be just as crucial to a role as one’s emotional acting and idiosyncrasies. When Lopez ascended on stage Sunday night while floating seamlessly on a slick, silver pole, it was as if to say, “Hey, Academy! Look what I learned to do for my art!” It’s also worth mentioning that, again, at 50-years-old, it looks like Lopez is in the best shape of her life.
This year’s Super Bowl took place in Miami, so to have anyone perform who wasn’t a Latinx artist would’ve been positively myopic (the NFL has made that culturally nearsighted mistake before, and very recently: Last year’s game, in Atlanta, chose to feature Maroon 5 over any one of the city’s storied rap artists. Big Boi appeared only briefly.). Last year Cardi B, another Latinx artist, reportedly turned down the Super Bowl gig offer in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. Jay-Z also reportedly turned down an offer. But given the crop of artists who actually did appear during the 2020 shindig—Shakira, J-Lo, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny (who sang a bit of his and Cardi B’s 2018 collaborative hit “I Like It”) and Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin—it felt like a monumental moment for Latinx music, following years of Latin-dominated pop music finding its way onto the charts. These artists sang in Spanish, an especially important gesture during a time when U.S. leaders are fighting the president’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policies.
Shakira and Lopez are both performers over the age of 40, and while that may not seem like a big deal, it is. No one thinks anything of it when aging male performers bare their chests and play to screaming crowds, but Shakira and Lopez’s beautiful number last night has already been met with criticism for being “objectifying” and not family-friendly. Those takes are stale. Lopez and Shakira appeared strong, fortified and empowered last night, and I’d like to see any of those grumpy Twitter parents get up there and dance for 15 minutes non-stop. It takes immense skill and strength.
Besides, Lopez and Shakira are both parents themselves! Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter Emme Maribel Muñiz actually made an appearance during the show, blowing everyone away with a few seconds of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” following Lopez’s performance of her classics “Jenny From the Block” and “Get Right.” Shakira drummed during the number before Lopez returned to the stage draped in a Puerto Rican flag. The moment was one of the most powerful of the whole night, football game included. The choir of children backing Muñiz, who then joined Shakira and J-Lo in a high-energy dance, made it all the more special.
Shakira, J-Lo and their entire crew of talented dancers radiated joy throughout the entire performance. To behold these independently successful female performers look so happy and strong while playing to a stadium of 100,000 football fans is radical in itself. The show was incredibly feminine and ferociously performed.
It may have been a stunning moment for J-Lo (and her posterity), and we’re so happy for the Kansas City Chiefs on their first Super Bowl win in half a century, but let’s be real: This Shakira meme was the night’s biggest winner (and a culturally significant moment). If this footage doesn’t get your week off on the right start, I don’t know what will: