If there was ever an icon who fully embodied the epitome of the American Dream, it would be Jennifer Lopez. The Latina icon has broken economic and racial boundaries by becoming one of the most influential hispanic artists of our times. This past Monday, USAIG had the opportunity to witness all of Jlo’s glory in person when she performed for the Robin Hood Foundation’s benefit gala. The foundation- which is New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization- is well known for their annual benefit. Last year, Beyonce headlined the concert. But this year, in a sea of A-list celebrities including Oprah, Bill Gates, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, it was Jlo whose story perhaps most resonates with our community.
In times of political instability and racial tensions here in the U.S., it can be difficult for many immigrants to remember why they emigrated to this country in the first place. The concept of the American Dream has become difficult to materialize as the nation becomes increasingly more capitalistic. For many people, the American Dream is nothing but a myth. Jlo was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents on July 24, 1969. Growing up, her parents emphasized the importance of hard work and education. Although her parents were native spanish-speakers, they consistently pushed young Jennifer and her sister to only speak English in their latin household. Of course, we know that I personally have mixed feelings about parents being reluctant to teach their children their native language, it’s clear that they only did so to protect their children from suffering the language barriers that they encountered.
Although she was enrolled in singing and dance lessons from a very early age, she was constantly discouraged from pursuing a career in the arts because according to her parents, “no latinos did that”. And they were right- there were very few and far between Latinx musicians who were able to cross over and become successful in the states. Although initially enrolling in Baruch College for a semester to please her parents, she eventually dropped out and began going on dance auditions. Jlo moved her way up from being a college dropout, to becoming a backup dancer, to scoring the lead role in Selena– she is now a household name and her legacy has heavily impacted the latino community especially.
Jlo’s parents moved to the mainland without speaking a lick of English, spent years saving up money to be able to afford a bigger house, and consistently invested in their children’s education and dreams. They quite literally never gave up, and look how that ended up paying off.