Jennifer Lopez learned firsthand why seeing yourself represented on screen is so important. Ahead of the release of her latest big screen vehicle, the New York-set Second Act, the Bronx-born singer and actress shared the movie that first inspired her to get involved in this business. Promoting her film during an event at The Wing, JLo talked about the need to see films like hers featuring Latina leads. Growing up, she reminisced, she didn’t have that many cinematic role models. In fact, she only had one film: West Side Story.

“The reason [it inspired me] was because there was Puerto Ricans in it,” she shared. “And I thought, ‘I’m Puerto Rican!’ That’s all I needed! It doesn’t matter that they were gang members. It just mattered that they were singing and dancing and they were beautiful and in love. That was all I had. But that was enough for a girl from the Bronx to go for all that I’ve done and to continue trying to to evolve into a bigger, better person, artist, philanthropist, human being mother, all of it. That was enough.”

As a producer she’s taken on that kind of responsibility for girls nowadays seriously. Second Act, for example, follows Maya, a woman whose age and lack of a fancy degree shut her out from a position she knows she’s more than qualified for. When a turn of events pushes her to take on a high-power job at a large corporation, Maya learns to trust her street smarts. At its heart, the film is refreshing for portraying a Latina over forty embracing a change of career.

The film’s message is one of empowerment, which the actress agrees feels very much of the moment. It’s why she wanted to make Second Act, which is written by her former agent Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. She loves putting out a film whose message is all about trusting yourself and realizing that, as the film’s dialogue states, “The only thing stopping you is you.”

“No matter what people say there’s gonna be ageism,” she told the audience at The Wing. “There’s gonna be racism. There’s gonna be sexism. There’s gonna be classism. It’s all gonna exist. And you still have to know that with all that you’re still doing this! I’m still gonna get it done! I’m gonna defy all those odds.” That’s also the message of her latest single, “Limitless.” Written by Sia for the film, the uplifting song is getting a music video directed by Lopez herself (a first for the actress!) and starring her daughter.

Second Act opens in theaters December 21, 2018