Jennifer Lopez opens up about motherhood, Scientology, and a “nervous breakdown” that she’s never publicly discussed
"Don't blow the horn," I tell my driver as we approach the gates. "I'm sure we're being watched. A guard will appear."
Sure enough, the ornate iron gates swing open and a large Latin guard speeds toward us on a Segway Human Transporter, his ear glued to a walkie-talkie.
"I'm here to see Miss Lopez," I inform him as glares at me through the window.
We are led through a canopy of beech trees and oaks on the immaculately manicured grounds of the Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez estate on the North Shore of Long Island--the same rolling acreage where F. Scott Fitzgerald set The Great Gatsby.
As we park behind a $300,000 Audie Spyker sports car, Anthony emerges from the driver's side and stares back at me. In a T-shirt and a pair of clam diggers that reveal a tattoo on his right calf, he strides into the house through a side door without a word.
I've caught the family on a bad day. Lopez, who gave birth to twins Emme Guatelupe and Max David only four months ago, has caught a bug from her daughter and is feeling ill. But, ever the trouper, she agrees to go through with our interview anyway, opening up about topics including Scientology, breast-feeding, and a "nervous breakdown," as she calls it, that she's never publicly discussed.
When I meet Lopez in a dimly lit pine study filled with gold records and Grammy awards, she has dispensed with the usual packaging and gloss. Her unwashed hair is pulled severely back and there's a halo of frizz around the crown of her head. She wears no make-up, her eyes are glassy, and her feverish cheeks are aglow. I think of Fitzgerald's heroine, Daisy Buchanan, whose face was "sad and lovely with bright things in it."
Before I can fully apologize for putting her through an interview, Max begins to cry upstairs. Daisy from the Block excuses herself and returns with both twins in her arms. Emme's ears are already pierced with tiny gold hoops in them. Max is wearing a black onesie with an array of sequins on its back.
After refusing to have a nanny for the first four months of her children's lives, she has reluctantly ceded that she may need one. "I'm trying out my first one today," she whispers. "But I still can't stand the sound of my babies crying without tending to them myself."
Lopez, wearing an orange Scoop T-shirt dress, looks as gratefully exhausted as any new mother. I ask her if she needs some privacy so she can nurse the twins who are beginning to squirm. "Is that something you've chosen to do? To breast-feed?"
"No," she says as I ask if the La Leche League has come after her for such a decision. She laughs and readjusts the twins in her arms. "No. No. Some people are radical about it. But to each his own."
"If you had had only one child would you have chosen to breast-feed?"
"No ... I ... ah .... it's not that ... I'd rather not discuss it. It's a whole other thing. If you want to go off-the-record I'll tell you."
We decide to stay on-the-record. "Have you suffered any postpartum depression in the last four months?" I ask.
She admits there have been a few rough days. "People kept prepping me for it, but it didn't happen. At the tenth day after giving birth all that chemical stuff did peak - that hormone thing - and I did cry a lot that day because I was having so much trouble moving. I had a c-section," she says. "Have you ever seen a c-section? I told them I didn't want to know anything, but afterwards they told me they had cut six layers. That's why you can't walk afterwards. I couldn't get up fast enough to feed the babies. It went on for about three days. Marc was helping out a lot and I was crying and crying and going, 'Oh, Papi … they're going to know everybody more than me." She begins to pretend she is sobbing, waking up a now sleeping Emme in the process. "They're going to love everybody more than me!" She stares into her daughters opened eyes. "Don't worry, baby. I was just acting," Lopez says. "Mommy is an actress and she does dramatic things."
Any sort of depression is hard to imagine from a woman who seems to barrel through any sort of emotional problem.
"I don't get nervous. I don't get depressed. Blah blah blah," she says, but pauses to reconsider. Still staring into her daughter's eyes, she reaches an instant, instinctual decision. She will start now, in this moment, not-lying in her daughter's presence. "There was a time when I was very overworked and I was doing music and movies and so many things. I was suffering from a lack of sleep. And I did have a kind of nervous breakdown. I froze up on a set. Well, not on a set, but in my trailer. I was like - I don't want to move. I don't want to talk. I don't want to do anything. It was on that movie Enough," she says, referring to the film in which she played a battered wife who finally fights back. "Yeah. I did. I had a nervous breakdown."
"There were no signs leading up to it. You really don't know what's happening at first. I was going, what's going on? It was about five in the afternoon in my trailer and I just sat there. I remember telling my assistant at the time - Arlene - to go get the director Michael Apted and I asked if I could go home because I was feeling so sick and weird. I kept saying, 'I'm not weak. I'm not weak.' It's funny what tricks your mind plays on you. I just didn't want people to think I was falling apart. But when I look back on it now it's so odd to me that those are the words I chose to say: I AM NOT WEAK. Michael let me off and when he left I just sat there and started crying and felt frozen. I didn't want to move. My bodyguard who had been with me for many years picked me up and put me in the car and they took me to a doctor ... Right away they want to give you pills. But I have never liked the idea of pills and kept saying no to that and just kept asking what was wrong with me. 'I'll tell you what's wrong,' the doctor said. 'You're sleep deprived. You're overworked. Go home and go to bed.' He told me to go back to work on Monday after a weekend of sleeping because if I waited longer that I would only get more panicked about working. So that's what I did. I've still never been to a shrink. I'm not a shrinky person."
The conversation turns to Scientology. "I know a lot of your friends are Scientologists," I say. "Your father has been a Scientologist for about 20 years ..."
"More than that now," she says.
"Scientologists don't believe in shrinks. Would you ever call on Scientology if you were having those problems again?" I ask.
"I do know a lot about Scientology. And I know about the practices. I know all about what the technology is and all that kind of stuff. It's very helpful. So in a sense, yeah, you do call on it."
"Do you consider yourself a Scientologist?"
"If you were, would you be open about it?"
"Yeah. I wouldn't have a problem saying it because I know what it is. I have no problems with it and it really actually bothers me that people have such a negative feeling towards it."
"That it is too exotic? Too cultish?"
"Just negative feelings."
"Would you consider schooling Emme and Max in a Scientology school?" I ask.
"Yeah. I wouldn't mind. Not at all. Because I know that the technologies that they have are very helpful… It's all about communication. That's the thing I really don't like about talking about this. I do know so many great people who do do it, who choose it as a lifestyle and really follow it and it is their religion…I just wish that people wouldn't judge it without knowing what it is."
Selling the Twins' Baby Pics
Emme and Max are already contributing to the Lopez empire, estimated at close to half a billion dollars. Earlier this year, Lopez and Anthony sold the rights to the newborns' photos to People magazine for an estimated $6 million. Any internal debate that she was using her babies as a commodity?
"No. No. I think one of the reasons that the price went so high is that we didn't want to do it for so long," says Lopez. "We weren't into it. I was like, no, I don't really want to. No. No way. But then it got to the point that you go, well, now you're being stupid with these offers… I thought I can set them up. I can put this away just for them."
"Did you give any of the money to charity?"
"We gave a little bit and I saved the rest for them."
"Don't their parents make enough money?" I ask. "I mean, according to Forbes you're the 9th richest female working in show business."
"Hmmm …" Lopez says. "I wouldn't believe everything I read."
Lopez's hyphenates include her movie career, her music, her television production company, her two fashion lines, her videos, her choreographic career, her sold-out concert appearances around the world with her husband, and her hugely profitable fragrance lines. "I'm up to seven or eight fragrances now," she says, having lost count.
Her nose for business all started with her selling bootlegged high-end perfume behind a tire store when she was growing up in the Bronx. It is when that tough little teenager still surfaces that can cause confusion to her detractors and the labeling of her as a controlling diva. She can, some claim, border on being a bully to make up for those times in her life when she was perhaps bullied herself.
"I think I've always been a favorite to pick on," she says. "Once you have a lot of success you become a target in many ways…I just think that the whole diva thing is a misrepresentation of who I am. I think some of that is because of where I came from. I came from the Bronx and a certain background. I worked really hard. I kept my focus on the right things. And still even with that they find stuff to pick on."
Lopez has always been driven to reinvent herself by the forces of her past. Indeed, one could claim that her vast business empire has been built on the memories of her days as a fancified bootlegger. Suddenly I realize, sitting here looking at her defend herself against an interloper like me, how wrong I have been about her. Though she is wearing all that orange, she is another of Fitzgerald's characters. The one who dared to wear pink. Whose seductive gaucheness permeated the story. Who had the newer bank account. She is not Buchanan. She's Gatsby.