Last week, it was announced that Jennifer Lopez will receive the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. It’s a big one: Past recipients include Jackson himself, his sister Janet, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. Yet it feels long overdue for Ms. Lopez—as Vogue’s resident J.Lo fan, I’ll say that she should have received it ages ago. I love that she has her own makeup line (with Inglot!). I loved her defunct label, Sweetface (RIP!). And I really love the music video for If You Had My Love. So naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to chat exclusively with Lopez about her monumental award, style evolution, and all things J.Lo.
When I meet her on a cushy couch at MTV Studios, she looks fresh-faced—like she’s just stepped out of 1997’s Anaconda—but way more glam. Jenny sparkles. Maybe it is the hint of highlighter (presumably Inglot), but the glint is most likely coming from her diamond hoops. They are the first thing I notice. She has been wearing hoops since she entered the industry in the early ’90s as a Fly Girl on In Living Color. She continued to wear them—fist-size, simple, and silver—in most of her videos. Today’s hoops are much smaller—more like half-dollars—but carat encrusted. The shape is special to Lopez, who grew up in a modest Puerto Rican home in the Bronx, and she considers them a piece of her culture. “It was hoops, big accessories, and jewelry. Where most women would be like, ‘That’s not chic in the fashion world. Like less is more and all that,’ that is the one place where I express myself and where I am from really comes into play,” she says. “That urban, hip-hop, Latina upbringing. With adornment and the more jewelry we had, we aspired to that glamour, that Hollywood type of glamour, and we associated that with pretty things and jewelry. That is something that is from that time and is a big part of my style now.”
Of course, Lopez now has all that glamour and more than she could have ever imagined. When she finally started to make it, she recalls, her first big purchase was a black Dolce & Gabbana dress. She illustrates the cut, cupping her hand and slicing it across mid-calf. (As she is doing this, my eyes are laser-focused on her hulking diamond rings.) “It was the perfect black pencil-length strappy dress,” she says. “I just used to go to some store in the mall that carried different labels, and some of them are good and one of them was Dolce & Gabbana. I tried on this black dress for this premiere that I had to go to with someone early in my career, before I was even starring in my own movies.” Fun fact: She still has it in her closet.
Since then, Lopez has certainly added more luxury to her wardrobe. She is often spotted with her rotating collection of Birkins, carried ever so casually. Just days earlier, she sported a black version with her athleisure (complete with lime green sneakers!). Sometimes she even uses it as her gym bag. (A Birkin après gym. How J.Lo!) I ask just how many she owns, and she gives me a very humble answer—or humble for someone who has multiple Birkins, including one in crocodile skin. “I have a couple. They aren’t something you can buy every day. Usually, they are gifts,” she says. “People wait for my birthday, and they chip in and they buy me one. I think I have bought one in my life. The rest have been gifts for my birthday or Christmas from really special people.” (Lopez must have some nice friends.)
I imagine her beau, Alex Rodriguez, giving Lopez a Birkin. The two seem to have magnetic chemistry, as if they were made for each other. The high-powered duo even coordinate stylewise—at least I think so, until Lopez corrects me. “It is funny, we don’t coordinate, but we go together well. It matches kind of,” she says. “I hate prom looks. ‘I’m dressed in this and you’re dressed in that.’ We don’t do that.” As it happens, she wooed A-Rod with the most J.Lo look ever on their first date: a simple turtleneck (Lopez loves a turtleneck and wears them often, even on dates). “He actually reminded me of this the other day. He goes, ‘You had on a beige, camel-colored turtleneck and these drawstring kind of slacks up to here,’” says Lopez, motioning to her waist. “‘And drawstring tied, kind of in a business pattern. And some high-heeled boots.’” Did she wear hoops? I don’t bother asking.
A-Rod aside, there is one big thing on Lopez’s mind (or maybe just mine). What is she going to wear to accept the Vanguard at the MTV Video Music Awards on August 20? (She’ll be performing, too, the first time since 2001.) She doesn’t know and tells me that those decisions are typically made last minute. That said, she does note that it will be most likely “something Versace.” Of course! She has a long relationship with the house—think: J.Lo in that naval-skimming Versace dress from the 2000 Grammy Awards. More recently, she attended the Met Gala with Donatella Versace in 2015, and last week, she wore Versace denim boots with little belts. She fondly recollects meeting Donatella back in 1999 at Lopez’s first Met Gala. Lopez went as the date of Sean Combs, who was performing that night. (Instead of Diddy, the moniker he goes by now, Lopez endearingly refers to him as Puffy, his name at the time.) The event fell shortly after Gianni Versace’s tragic death, and Lopez was seated next to Donatella at dinner. “My heart went out to her [Donatella]. I just kept touching her and holding her hand,” Lopez says. “She felt so fragile at the time. And she remembered that and we kind of bonded after that. She was so kind and so sweet to me, and we always kept in touch. She was always sending me dresses for whatever I needed. It was a natural organic relationship that wasn’t forced. It is a friendship that goes back many years.” Like I said, Lopez has some nice friends.
Before I know it, time is up. I had been planning to take a selfie with her since the interview was confirmed the day before (after all, I love Lopez’s selfies). I get the green light, and she takes my iPhone and extends a toned arm. Crouched next to her, I tell her that I haven’t taken a selfie with anyone I’ve interviewed since working at Vogue over the past four years. “Most people are boring!” she jokes. That is one thing that J.Lo certainly is not.
This article first appeared on Vogue.com