Jennifer Lopez Isn’t Hispanic Enough

(It was May of this year that I read a quote by Edward James Olmos that still has me seething. It was a Huffington Post article by Carolina Moreno. In that article, Edward James Olmos claims that Jennifer Lopez hasn’t dedicated herself to her culture? His actual quote was, “She’s done a lot of things but she hasn’t dedicated herself to her culture, and that’s very important to me.”)

My jaw dropped at that statement, who in the hell are you to say Jennifer Lopez or any woman for that matter, isn’t dedicated enough? He claims that she hasn’t dedicated herself to her culture? Since when does being a proud Puerto Rican and raising two 100% Latino children not qualify as enough dedication to her culture? He says that her role as Selena is what made her famous. I disagree, it was her hard work, drive, persistence, and performances before and after Selena; that made her famous.

The way I see it, Mr. Olmos is the larger problem with Latino “culture.” It’s Hispanic men like him who think they have a right to tell a woman how to live her life, while attempting to undermine her hard-won successes by belittling her achievements, many of which he never attained himself, that fails to fully represent the culture he claims to be so proud of. Jennifer Lopez reflects her culture in refusing to be held down by the opinion of naysayers telling her that she isn’t living authentically enough or worse yet, that her dreams aren’t possible. His statements made me think of my gay and lesbian friends who are fighting feverishly for their right to live genuinely and the audacity of anybody who would try to tell them they need to live that truth differently. The Latinas of my era are representing their culture by writing dissenting opinions while sitting on the Supreme Court, being cast in movie leads, being openly gay, writing books, remaining in charge of their lives, and running their own empires. Jennifer Lopez broke down barriers, made curves something to be proud of again, doesn’t waste time trying to make relationships work when she knows her self-worth has been assaulted, and doesn’t look back! Only a woman dedicated to her art could hold her own against one of the best jazz artist of our era and a wildly popular country singer on a nationally televised show. Let me tell you something else, anybody who watched the way Marc Anthony belittled her opinions while he was a guest on American Idol knew that marriage was over. Jennifer Lopez keeps progressing and isn’t that what is really necessary for cultural change? Say what you will about “JLo’s” relationships, but I admire the way she never sits around crying and wallowing in pain, she never returns to past loves gone wrong, she only makes a clean-cut and moves on gracefully. If I were to take a page from the play book of Mr. Olmos, and try to tell the opposite sex where they are failing and how they need to improve to satisfy my ego, I would say the following:

“You need to study your Hispanic culture more closely because it’s you that isn’t dedicated enough or you would have noticed feminism evolving all around you. Latina women don’t allow men like you to criticize or dictate to them anymore. They stand on the shoulders of proud trailblazing women like Dolores Huerta, Jennifer Lopez, and Chavela Vargas. They explore their freedoms in the vastitudes of artistic exploration made possible by women like Frida Kahlo. I don’t know what “culture” you’re referring to, but the Hispanic culture I admire and recognize boast proud Latinas with the knowledge to stay as far away as possible from condescending men like you. Mr. Olmos, you are a fabulously talented actor and director, a person whom I’ve admired for years, but it’s you that has a lot to learn about representing your culture, and while I’m mirroring your example of judging the opposite sex and telling them how to live their life more effectively: Do yourself a favor and dedicate yourself to cultural studies going forward by enrolling in a “cultural change” class as soon as possible, before you become completely irrelevant.

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