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Obsessions: Jennifer Lopez is back in a big, big way

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
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Has 'Idol' saved J.Lo?
  • Jennifer Lopez seems to be everywhere these days
  • "American Idol" has helped to reshape her public persona
  • "Idol" producer says she's the "heart of the show"
  • Lopez tells PEOPLE she doesn't mind being called a diva anymore

(CNN) -- When it comes to her career, Jennifer Lopez is more like Jenny who has been around the block.

From Fly Girl on "In Living Color" to judge on "American Idol," she has taken her talent beyond the triple threat of being a dancer, singer and actress and now helms an empire that includes fragrances, a production company, lucrative endorsements and a place once again atop the charts, having sold tens of millions of records over the years.

Along the way she's managed to shed the diva label, put the failures behind her (remember Bennifer and "Gigli"?) and emerge as "The World's Most Beautiful Woman" for 2011 as named by PEOPLE magazine.

How did Lopez, 41, go from homegirl to the girl you wouldn't mind hanging out with?

It wasn't easy.

'You can't have big ups without big downs," Lopez said last year in her VH1 "Behind the Music" special.

The odds were certainly against her when she left her working-class Bronx neighborhood in the 1980s, turning her back on college to pursue a career in dance.

A gig as one of the Fly Girls dance troupe on the hit Fox sketch comedy show "In Living Color" led to the opportunity to appear as a dancer in the Janet Jackson music video "That's The Way Love Goes." Jackson was one of Lopez's personal idols.

"When I saw (the music video for) 'Pleasure Principle' it inspired me to get into this business," Lopez said. "I was a little girl and I was trying to do every move she does."

After roles on the short-lived television show "South Central" and the film "Money Train," she made cinema history in 1997 when she became the highest paid Latina actress by earning a $1 million paycheck for her critically acclaimed starring role in "Selena."

Lopez followed that with star turns opposite George Clooney in "Out of Sight" and several other movies while also launching a music career with her debut album "On the Six."

Since then she has released six more albums, including the Spanish language "Como ama una Mujer;" been the first actress and singer to have a movie and album hold the No. 1 spots in the same week ("The Wedding Planner" and "J.Lo"); become the highest paid Latina actress in Hollywood (she commanded $15 million for the 2005 film "Monster-In-Law"); and launched a clothing and fragrance line.

"I think at the very core of what it is that makes Jennifer an international global superstar is that she is talented, she's gorgeous and she is inspirational, aspirational and glamorous," her long-time manager Benny Medina told "Entertainment Tonight" in March. "She gives the world a lot of what they want to have in their lives, and at the same time she moves through the ups and the downs with the same sense of integrity that she has exuded now for 15 years."

There certainly have been some troubles, including two ill-fated marriages and legal issues after a nightclub shooting in 1999 when Lopez was present with then-boyfriend Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Lopez told The Daily Beast that in 2002, her heavy workload caused her to have a nervous breakdown while filming the movie "Enough."

"There was a time when I was very overworked and I was doing music and movies and so many things," she said. "I was suffering from a lack of sleep. And I did have a kind of nervous breakdown."

But the star suffered her most public heartbreak in 2004 after a high-profile broken engagement to actor Ben Affleck. The pair had been dubbed "Bennifer" by the press, which covered their relationship relentlessly.

Now happily married to singer Marc Anthony and the mother of twins, Lopez told Latina magazine that she has no regrets about the past and values what she has with her husband.

"Everything is great about my marriage," Lopez said. "First and foremost, we love each other, truly love each other in a way that's very deep and meaningful, not in a superficial sort of way. There's a deep respect, admiration and love for each other."

Anthony can constantly be seen in the "Idol" audience looking on proudly as his wife judges. It's a role that has helped revitalize her career and also recast her. She has gone from a star with a reputation as a diva -- whose backstage demands at concerts reportedly included a white room with white candles, white sheets, white couches, white drapes and white flowers -- to a caring and loving mentor for the "Idol" contestants.

"She looks amazing, she's the heart of the show, she's sincere," Fox reality chief Mike Darnell told USA Today. "It's clear she cares about the kids. She's just doing wonderfully. She's the most emotionally connected judge I've ever seen."

It was Lopez who broke down when she had to deliver the news to an aspiring contestant that he didn't make the show, and every week she takes to the stage to hug and console those who are eliminated, often with tears in her eyes.

Lopez's presence is also felt during commercial breaks on the top-rated show. That's when she can be seen hawking products like Gillette razors and L'Oreal makeup. She also used the show to debut her new single, "On the Floor," which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Lopez also recently snagged an ad campaign for her and her twins as the faces of Gucci's new children's collection. TruTV recently announced that it had picked up a new reality show, "South Beach Tow," from Lopez's company Nuyorican Productions.

It would seem the singer/actress/entrepreneur is at a good place in her life as a wife, mother, artist and weekly visitor into the homes of millions of "Idol" viewers. She doesn't even mind being called a "diva" anymore.

"I kind of like it," Lopez told PEOPLE. "We've kind of owned it now. But I certainly don't like and I've never been a person who has what they call 'diva behavior,' which is something they tried to pin on me for a long time."

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