Jennifer Lopez is opening up about a scary encounter in her past.
During The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Actress Roundtable, the 50-year-old performer joins Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Awkwafina, Laura Dern and Renee Zellweger to discuss their careers and the industry in general. The topic of #MeToo comes up in the conversation, which leads Lopez to get candid about one particular incident that she herself experienced.
“A director at a fitting asked me to take my top off… because I was supposed to do nudity in the movie. He wanted to see my boobs,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘We’re not on set.'”
Lopez goes on to call the unnamed director “crazy,” before describing how she shut down the request in the moment.
“I said no, I stood up for myself. But it was so funny because I remember being so panicked in the moment,” she says. “And by the way, there was a costume designer in the room with me. So there was another woman in the room and he says this and I said no.”
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“Luckily a little bit of the Bronx came out, and I was like, ‘I don’t have to show you my [breasts]. No. On the set, you see them,'” she adds.
Being able to stop that advance was an important accomplishment for Lopez because “if you give in, in that moment, all of a sudden that person is off and running, thinking they can do whatever they want.”
“Because I put up a little boundary right there and said no, he laid off and then later on apologized,” she says. “But the minute he walked out of the room the costume designer was like, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry that just happened.'”
While things certainly aren’t perfect in Hollywood these days, Lopez does point out the changes on sets over the last couple of years. One of those changes — which was implemented on her latest film, Hustlers — is a comfort coach for scenes that involve nudity.
“It was basically somebody who understood that world and said, ‘These things are OK,’ and, ‘These things are not OK,'” she explains. “[The coach] made everybody on the set comfortable with what they were doing, because we had a lot of women who were half-dressed or naked, topless.”
One of the other ways the cast of Hustlers — which includes Lili Reinhart, Constance Wu and Cardi B — was made to feel comfortable on set was through its female director, Lorene Scafaria. During an Actors on Actors discussion with Robert Pattinson for Variety, Lopez says that the movie “would be so different if it was directed by a man.”
“I think what Hustlers exposes is that men have a very secret life, and they have a way that they think about and look at women that is very objectified a lot of the time,” she says in Variety. “Lorene Scafaria, the director, was really great. It was a nonjudgmental lens. Whereas I think from a man, these women would have been judged, because men put women in categories.”
Despite all those efforts, Lopez was initially uncertain if she should agree to star in the film.
“The actress in me looks at it on the page and goes, ‘Oh, this is going to be so much to sink my teeth into.’ And then there’s Jennifer the mom, and Jennifer the public person. I go through all those silos and I think about it,” she explains in Variety. “But in the end, the artist always wins out, because that’s what I love to do.”
Though Lopez’s artist instincts led her to accept the Hustlers role, she tells the THR roundtable that the movie “was the first time in a long time that I was actually terrified, really scared” of a part, largely because the opening pole dancing number, which she was the one to suggest.
“It was my fault that I was there to begin with. It wasn’t written in the script,” she shares. “And I was like, no, she’s the big money-maker at the club — she has to show why. We can’t say it, we have to do it. I have to dance on the pole, I have to show them, I have to go there.”
“Then when I was there and I had the dental floss on, I’m out there in a way I’ve never been. It was so scary, I was so terrified. I have my robe on and there’s 300 extras, all men,” Lopez continues. “I think that was putting myself out there, in a way, deeper than I had ever done physically and emotionally, and playing a character that was that unapologetic in so many ways. It was so different from who I was.”
“I’ve been really picked out and plagued with that,” she says of tabloid interest. “Lots of stories, lots of lies, lots of things where you’re trying to figure out, ‘How did this happen? How did I become that person?'”
Over the years, though, Lopez says she’s learned that “none of it matters” to the point where “it doesn’t really bother” her anymore.
“I’ve learned that I know who I am, I know what I do, I know I’m a good person, I know I’m just out here working my a** off and trying to fulfill myself creatively,” she says. “There was a time in my life when it was such a big part and it was so hurtful and so hard that you think, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to be the person on the cover of the magazine every week for two and a half years, I don’t. This is crazy. Why me?'”
However, Lopez says that her stint judging on American Idol — which she did on and off from 2011 to 2015 — helped the public change its perception of her.
“I think honestly American Idol helped with that a lot. Of all the things that I’ve done in my career, people actually just seeing me talk about how much I love music and how much I love people and how much of a girl’s girl I am and how much of a crier I am — things shifted,” she says.
“We’re both excited to have been given the opportunity to do that, as two Latin women, in Miami,” Lopez tells Variety. “I think it’s important in this day and age for two Latin women to be standing on that stage — when Latinos are being treated a certain way in this country, or looked at a certain way — to show that we have a really specific and beautiful culture and worth and value, and we bring something to this country that’s necessary.”
“I think that’s going to be an amazing moment,” she continues. “That night, I want it to be a celebration of who we are. All of us, because we’re in this together. That’s how I feel. I want to bring everybody together in that moment.”