Thursday 19 September 2019

Sophie Donaldson: 'Jenny gives the Lo-down on how to survive such nakedly ambitious times'

Jennifer Lopez posed nearly nude at nearly 50 and no one was laughing, writes Sophie Donaldson

Jennifer Lopez posing for 'Instyle'
Jennifer Lopez posing for 'Instyle'
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

The world can be a cruel place to women of a certain age who wear clothing that has been daubed with that ambiguous but damning moniker: age-inappropriate.

Even more absurd than the notion that any clothing, beyond size 000 smock dresses and child-sized dungarees, are suitable for only a certain period of a woman's life, is that this ageist, sexist, misogynistic 'rule' of dressing has no rules at all. There exists no definitive set of items that are barred after menopause - depending on which dullard you ask, it could range from skinny jeans to chiffon blouses, knee-high boots and Doc Martens. Chances are, form-fitting polo necks are fine, leather leggings are not. And bodycon dresses? Don't even think about it.

Which is why a photograph of 49-year-old Jennifer Lopez, naked save for a shimmering Valentino cape draped over half her sculpted modesty, published last week as part of her cover story for the December issue of Instyle, was poised for a savage trolling. I waited with bated breath for the Piers Morgans of the world to snippily pass a remark on her age, her motherhood, her sheer audacity to think that her nearly 50-year-old body is worthy of a nude photoshoot. All I found was breathless admiration; half-naked JLo "wows" and "stuns", looks "incredible", "amazing at 49", "stunning", and "better than ever!"

Actually, what garnered more attention was not her incredible physique but her musings on dating in the public eye. She believes that being in the public eye before the age of Insta-fame was much harder.

"Back then you just believed anything you read on the cover of a tabloid. Many times it wasn't true, or it was like a third of the truth," she says.

That may be true, but compared to some of her peers she has managed to dodge so many of the tiresome tropes that dog women in the public eye.

For instance, unlike the other Jennifer, she isn't the target of ongoing speculation that she may-or-may-not marry (again). Nor is she on the receiving end of piteous murmurings when it turns out it won't be this time, as yet another relationship fails. JLo will never be a 'poor Jen'.

She isn't judged for being an unmarried mother, nor does she attract inane cougar jokes for her proclivity to date younger men - her current boyfriend, baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, is six years her junior, while her partner before that, Casper Smart, was 18 years younger.

Unlike Nicole Kidman, Lopez's unlined face isn't the subject of has-she-or-hasn't-she plastic surgery debates. Her freakish agelessness is celebrated, and put down to good genes, hard work and obscene wealth.

Her blatant sexuality isn't reviled or objectified, in the same way that Kim Kardashian's is. Despite her red-carpet wardrobe being a sartorial harbinger to the naked dress trend that has swept Hollywood, nobody has ever muttered that she should 'put it away' or ventured that a woman of her age should really cover up a bit more.

She has never really been body-shamed, or parent-shamed, or shamed at all, really. Lopez has always been unapologetically ambitious, at times bordering on arrogant. But even during her most cocksure period, when rumours abounded that she was the ultimate showbiz diva, she still didn't attract the scorn that other women have weathered for much less. Indeed, she packaged herself with the same swagger, arrogance, entitlement and vulgarity as your average male hip-hop artist and emerged relatively unscathed; no mean feat for a woman.

During her Instyle interview, she reflects on this public perception. She believes that appearing on reality show American Idol allowed her the opportunity to show people her true self.

"That show was live - everything was in the moment, not edited," she recalls. "So finally people got to see that I was actually a person, someone with a heart. I got to speak for myself for the first time, and that changed everything."

The truth is, JLo has managed to circumvent much of the pernicious treatment women in the public eye usually face. She doesn't attract the same scorn as so many other beautiful successful females - and some success it is. In September, she wrapped up a three-year residency in Vegas which reportedly grossed $100m in ticket sales. Last year, Forbes listed her as the world's fifth highest-earning female musician, pocketing in the region of $38m in 2017.

So how has she done it, then? She is wealthy, beautifully, impossibly youthful and successful after 30 years in a business that thrives on new talent. My guess is that now she has the ability to speak her own mind via social media, she has decided to just not. Sure, she has spoken about her #MeToo moment, but she doesn't do celebrity spats, nor does she get very political. She doesn't take on Trump via Twitter like Chrissy Teigen, or declare herself a pesky feminist like Emily Ratajkowski or bring up inflammatory issues such as race, like Beyonce. In fact, her Instyle interview is almost entirely devoid of anything that might merit controversy. Despite the waves of change currently rippling through her industry, and the plight of famous females in general, her chat is regrettably vanilla.

And maybe that's what she's learnt from her tabloid days - best to let the photographs do the talking. That green cape worked a treat.

Sunday Independent

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