‘Halftime’: 7 Things We Learned From Jennifer Lopez’s Humanizing, Revealing Doc

‘Halftime’: 7 Things We Learned From Jennifer Lopez’s Humanizing, Revealing Doc

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s halftime performance at the 2020 Super Bowl became one of the most memorable shows in modern history — The sixth best on Rolling Stone‘s all-time ranking. Two years later, J.Lo is reflecting on the massive lead-up to that iconic night through her new documentary, Halftime, out on Netflix Tuesday.

The documentary gives an inside look at Lopez’s creative process for more than just her Super Bowl performance but also for producing and starring in Hustlers: “Hollywood is run by men. They have ideas of what’s gonna sell and what’s not gonna sell, we’re trying to change that,” Lopez said in the film, reflecting on her role as Ramona in the drama.

Above all, the documentary humanizes a woman — often overshadowed by tabloid stories about her personal life — who continues to take over the world with her arduous work ethic and ability to command any audience. Halftime gives an inside look at the intricacies, flaws, and processes of a Latina superstar who has long reached icon status.

“I’m proud of that person who’s kept it together all this time. I don’t think i could’ve done the Super Bowl 5 or 10 years ago… I wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand myself. I was finding myself,” she said in the documentary, later adding, “There’s so much more I want to do. So much more I want to say. I’m not done. Not even close.”

Here are seven key things we learned about J.Lo, from her rough upbringing and being a tabloid staple to making a political statement and losing a Golden Globe, in Halftime.

1. “The worst idea in the world”: Having two headliners was way too much to handle

With a focus on Lopez’s half of her halftime show performance, Halftime viewers got to see an inside look at the intense creative process that ensued once Lopez and her team found out they would have to split time with Shakira. “The more we can know what each other’s thinking, the easier it’s going to be and the more at ease it’s going to be,” Lopez said in one scene before the two divas FaceTimed each other about the show. 

“I know that the Super Bowl people want us to be weaved throughout the show,” Shakira tells Lopez before the “I’m Real” singer interrupts: “I got kind of a good confirmation that we could have an extra minute or two so we’re at 13 or 14 minutes. I think, Shakira, we should have half the time.” Later in the call, Lopez tells Shakira, “They should’ve given us 20 minutes if they wanted a double headliner. That’s what they should’ve fucking done!”

Lopez’s frustration about sharing the halftime show continues throughout the documentary. “It was an insult to say that you needed two Latinas to do the job that one artist historically has done,” said Lopez’s manager Benny Medina.

And despite early headlines suggesting her ire was aimed at Shakira and having to share the stage with her, J.Lo’s anger mainly revolves around the reduced time she’d have to give a complete show.

“We have 30 seconds of a song… if we take a minute, that’s it. But there’s got to be certain songs where we sing. It’s not gonna be a dance fucking revue,” Lopez said in a heated discussion with her music director Kim Burse. “This is the worst idea in the world to have two people do the Super Bowl.”

Lopez also had fierce discussions with NFL executives over getting additional time to have a noteworthy finale with the two musicians on stage at once. “The finale can’t just be just one minute. It’s a song. It has a build. I’m trying to give you something with substance not just us out there shaking our fucking asses and fucking belly-dancing,” Lopez said during a phone call. “I want something real, that’s a fucking statement. That’s gonna say we belong here and that we have something to offer. That’s what I want to do… I can’t do it if you guys keep pressing us for seconds and minutes. And we’re fighting. I don’t want to fight.”

2. ‘This is about human rights’: J.Lo’s onstage cages was a non-negotiable

Lopez’s performance came at a heated time in politics as Donald Trump was entering his final year as president and beginning his campaign for the 2020 election. It also happened as discussions intensified over children being separated from their undocumented, refugee families at the border. And not to mention, the NFL was also facing backlash over their lack of support for players like Colin Kaepernick who had been kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

“I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Lopez said about seeing images of the children locked up in cages at the border. “You don’t rip a child from their parents. There’s just certain things as a human being you don’t do… it made me realize I had a responsibility to not be quiet, to not leave the politics to anyone else.”

Lopez discussed how she was typically “not into politics” but she felt the need to use her platform to make a statement. “What you want is the feeling of these Latinos in cages and you won’t keep us there. We won’t have that,” Lopez explained while exploring how to approach the message during her show. “The concept is this next generation is not gonna be suppressed in the way we were. That’s the idea… It’s a dark subject matter, but if we can get the message across in a beautiful way where it’s soft and can be received, then more people can get the message.”

Lopez ended up tapping into a young, Latina dance troupe to sing and dance from inside the cages that were scattered on the NFL field during a performance of “Let’s Get Loud” and Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the USA.” The moment also featured a solo from her daughter Emme.

“I wanted Emme to sit in the cage… [I told her], ‘You look right down the camera and tell every little girl in the world to get loud and never ever back down to giving light to injustice,’ ” Lopez recalled while tearing up. “That was a big part of it for me. And it was important. And I wanted to come out after she did that draped in an American flag because I’m proud to be an American… and I wanted the flip side of that to be a Puerto Rican flag.”

During a final rehearsal, the night before their performance, higher-ups at NFL called J.Lo’s team to tell them they had to pull the kids-in-cages statement from their performance. “NFL had a real concern about making a political statement about immigration,” Medina said. “They looked at the plans and the message was absolute: they did not want those cages in the show. That came down from the highest authority.”

But Lopez was not having it. “For me this isn’t about politics. This is about human rights. I’m facing the biggest crossroads of my life,” Lopez said. “To be able to perform on the world’s biggest stage… but to take out the cages and sacrifice what I believe in. [It] would be like never being there at all.”

3. J.Lo had a rough upbringing in the Bronx

The documentary provides an inside look at the superstar’s childhood in the Bronx and how things weren’t always picture-perfect for “Jenny from the Block.” “She beat the shit out of us,” Lopez said about her mother Lupe during a Thanksgiving scene where her parents, who divorced in 1999, came together for family celebration with her siblings and tías. “Everything I did, I did with their best interests at heart,” Lupe said. “I’m glad she’s tough because you need to with this business.”

Lopez also spoke about the fact that she was usually made to seem as the one who couldn’t sing in her family, but how watching the likes of Rita Moreno (“I’ve always looked up to her”) in West Side Story inspired the performer to do it all: dance, act, and sing all at once. It became her driving force early on. “When I was a little girl, it was always ingrained in my head that I wasn’t the singer. My sister’s the singer and my other sister is the smart one,” she said. “I was always the athlete or the dancer… whenever anyone asked me, “Can you sing?” I’d go “No.”

4. Lopez really thought she had a chance at a Golden Globe or Oscar: “I let everyone down”

One of the most humanizing aspects of Halftime occurred as viewers got to watch Lopez take in the reception and early headlines suggesting that she was going to be nominated for an Oscar and win a Golden Globe for her role as Ramona in Hustlers, but later be let down with neither.

Lopez reflected on losing the Golden Globe after her breakout role in Selena and how she wanted to redeem herself now but instead was met with disappointment after losing the award to Marriage Story‘s Laura Dern. “I don’t know what I’m going to say if I win,” Lopez said before heading to the Golden Globes ceremony. Once Dern was announced as the winner, the camera panned to the frowns and tears from her team members inside her dressing room.

After the loss, she returned to her team and hugged everyone in it as her team reminded her that she was still a winner to them. “I really thought I had a chance. I feel like I let everyone down. They wanted it so bad for me, for them. It’s a validation of all the work they do too,” Lopez said. “Most of them have been with me for 20 years since Selena. It’s like, ‘Oh finally!’ and then it’s like pfff,” Lopez said pointing her thumbs down.

Post-Golden Globes, loads of anticipation started to mount as the Super Bowl approached, especially since Oscars weekend and the Super Bowl were back-to-back. The night before finding out she hadn’t been nominated for the Academy Award, she had had a dream she had been but instead was awoken by a text from a friend letting her know she had not made the cut.

“I really started to think I was gonna get nominated. I got my hopes up because so many people were telling me I would be and then it didn’t happen. And I had to ask myself, ‘What does that mean?'” Lopez said. “I do this not for an award. Or to do my hits up there and seem like I’m the best performer in the world. I do this to tell stories and effect change and connect with people and make them feel things because I wanna feel something… That’s why I do it. I want to make the world a better place in my own little way.”

5. Lopez’s curves weren’t always embraced, but they “affected change”

Lopez reflected on what it was like to come up as an actress during a time when “the beauty ideal was blonde, tall and with a lot of curves” and how she often became the target of a joke because of her body. In one late-night interview she shared how, while on In Living Color, another one of the dancers told her the show had postponed a shoot until she “lost weight.” She also reflected on the adult cartoons that minimized her artistry to the “slut with a large ass.”

“I grew up around women with curves but it was never anything I was ashamed of,” Lopez said, later adding, “I wound up affecting things in ways I never intended to.”

The documentary showcased footage of Lopez’s iconic Versace green dress that led to the creation of Google Images. Halftime also followed Lopez as she re-wore the dress on the Versace runway in 2019 after meeting with Donatella Versace.

“Your body is better now,” the fashion mogul told Lopez. “It’s insane.” The documentary also highlighted a sweet moment when Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour congratulates Lopez for her runway look. “At fashion shows, she’s known to just sit with the glasses… when I came around the corner she was like,” Lopez said making clapping sounds.

6. Tabloid staple: J.Lo endured racism and sexism that almost led her to quit altogether

The early 2000s were a cesspool of tabloid headlines for celebrities like Lopez. The film discusses the singer’s bouts with bottom-feeding press and how the focus on her career was always about who she was dating and not what she accomplished.

“No matter what I achieved, their appetite to cover my personal life overshadowed everything that was happening in my career,” Lopez explained. “I just had a very low self-esteem. I really believed what they said: that I wasn’t very good.”

Lopez described her relationship with the outlets as an “abusive dysfunctional relationship” where she felt like she had “no worth or value.” The documentary highlighted a racist South Park scene that described her as talentless and reduced the singer to her curves and her Latinidad.

Much of the media buzz surrounded her public relationships, including Ben Affleck in the early 2000s. “I said to her once, ‘Doesn’t this bother you?’ ” Affleck shared in his small documentary cameo. “And she said, ‘I’m Latina. I’m a woman. I expected this. You [meaning Affleck] just don’t expect it. You expect to be treated fairly.'”

But by now, the singer has changed her approach to negative attention. “I’m not gonna get into what my relationships were like but how it relates to me and the journey I’ve been on,” Lopez said. “I had to learn that the key was not about other people but yourself. It’s about being your own keeper and not looking for someone to give you home but making your own home.”

7. American Idol became a catalyst for Lopez finding her self-worth

As she entered her Forties, Lopez was having trouble understanding her purpose as an artist.

“I lost a little bit of who I was by trying to build a perfect family life,” Lopez said, reflecting on her marriage and divorce from Marc Anthony. “I was a single mom with two little kids. At 42, movie roles were not knocking down my door. As I was getting back to work, I really felt like I didn’t know what my value was anymore.”

But then, American Idol came through and that “was good for me.” “People could see me for who I was and that changed everything,” Lopez said. “I really learned a lot about myself. I had a purpose and I felt like ‘I’ve got to work on my acting more, singing more e everything. I need to be better in every way.'”

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