Jennifer Lopez is set to receive the 2018 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs on August 20. While J.Lo’s 20-year career has had its fair share of hit-or-miss situations, the Puerto Rican singer, dancer, and actress has used music videos as a vehicle to show off her multifaceted talent and create some iconic moments.
Her debut video and single, 1999’s “If You Had My Love,” was one of the first to visually portray the future of livestreams on screen, while her video for “I’m Glad” paid tribute to one of Lopez’s favorite movies Flashdance. Today, she continues to push the envelope when it comes to creating extravagant productions to accompany her music. She’s channeled her inner Cersei Lannister in “El Anillo,” explored feminism with a series of familiar characters in “I Ain’t Your Mama,” and grilled sausage wearing nothing but lingerie in the clip for her Cardi B collab “Dinero.”
Over the years, J.Lo’s videos have become the perfect marker of her musical evolution, capturing her transformation from early aughts R&B singer to pop en español star. She’s created her own lush visual worlds and set fashion trends through expertly styled looks. Her videos have also documented her love life, with cameos from ex-husbands Cris Judd, Marc Anthony, and ex-fiancé Ben Affleck (We’re still waiting for an A-Rod appearance, though). She’s also maintained a roster of longtime collaborators, such as Paul Hunter and Francis Lawrence, who’ve directed multiple videos for her since her early days.
Ever since MTV announced that J.Lo would receive the 2018 Video Vanguard Award, the Internet has debated whether Jenny from the Block deserves the coveted prize. Some people on Twitter argued that J.Lo’s videos are nothing more than a twerking contest, while others recognized her influence as a bilingual performer who’s explored her identities and influences in her videos for years. But her 20-year history of serving complex storylines while simultaneously tapping into her dance background and sporting lavish outfits is proof that Lopez’s music videos are more than just a constant display of ass-shaking. And for that she deserves to be the first Latina recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
Let’s take a look back at some of J.Lo’s best music videos.
"El Anillo" (2018)
J.Lo’s “El Anillo” video is equal parts Game of Thrones and The Tudors. The pop leged sits on a throne waiting for her lover — Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Silvestre — to win her over by fighting a knight. The video is one of J.Lo’s most cinematic, and portrays her as a queen dancing in medieval-inspired armor. For the elaborate costumes, J.Lo tapped a whole new crew of designers, including Lebanese fashion house and Indian couture label Khosla Jani.
"No me ames" (1999)
Way before J.Lo and Marc Anthony married in 2004, the longtime co-parents and collaborators played a married couple in their video for “No Me Ames.” The video is also rumored to be a story about an AIDS patient — played by Anthony — who dies, leaving a grieving Lopez crying on his grave.
"Feelin' So Good" (2000)
The video for “Feelin’ So Good” became a tribute to the late Big Pun, but when you take a step back, it’s truly an homage to J.Lo’s life in her Bronx neighborhood before she became famous. Directed by Paul Hunter, the video has a cameo from Lopez’s mom and was Big Pun’s last music video before his death in 2000.
"I'm Real" (2001)
We can never forget that J.Lo once depicted her Bronx roots alongside Ja Rule. Lopez’s use of the word n*****s in the final verse sparked plenty of controversy, especially since her Hollywood career was exploding. Still, the video is one for the books, as her soon-to-be husband Cris Judd made an appearance in the video and J.Lo’s pink Juicy sweatsuit became the trendiest early aughts outfit for years to come.
"Get Right" (2005)
J.Lo always takes an opportunity to channel her background in acting. In the “Get Right” video, Lopez plays multiple characters, from a struggling DJ that sneaks her little sister into the venue to a nightclub dancer with sick glitter eyeshadow. Directed by longtime collaborator Francis Lawrence, the video explored all the personalities and moments that come together for an epic night at a club. And who could forget those wild wigs?
"Love Don't Cost A Thing" (2001)
With “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” J.Lo reminded us that life in a giant mansion can be quite lonely. Directed by Paul Hunter, the music video showed J.Lo dripping in jewels and even chucking a metallic bag out of her convertible. The video also introduced fans to J.Lo merch, as the singer danced with her entourage of male dancers wearing a logo T-shirt with her name on it.
"Jenny From the Block" (2002)
As J.Lo climbed up the charts with her first album On the 6, the Bronx native needed a moment to look back and tell us all she was still the same Puerto Rican girl who once lost a contest on Sábado Gigante. But J.Lo’s paparazzi-filled life in “Jenny From the Block” couldn’t be more different from her humble roots. Not only is she sunbathing in a giant yacht, but her equally famous ex-boyfriend Ben Affleck makes a cameo, regularly caressing Jenny’s behind as they relax under the sun. (You know, very casual.) Lopez tapped Francis Lawrence again for this one.
"I'm Glad" (2003)
If you don’t know by now, J.Lo can dance – like, professionally. The video for “I’m Glad” — directed by David LaChapelle — cemented her talent for expertly nailing choreography. In this clip, the former In Living Color star recreated the most iconic scenes from the 1983 movie Flashdance — from the auditions to the sweat fest training moment. Though Paramount was not too happy with the recreation of Flashdance — the company sued Lopez for copyright infringement — “I’m Glad” is still one of J.Lo’s most beloved videos.
"If You Had My Love" (1999)
“If You Had My Love” introduced a whole generation to the World Wide Web with its voyeuristic theme. Directed by Paul Hunter, the music video tapped into the oh-so-futuristic idea of livestreams, where people could get the whole J.Lo experience. The looks in “If You Had My Love,” which were styled by Andrea Lieberman, solidified J.Lo as an early aughts trendsetter, thanks to her silver glitter strapless dress, white streetwear-inspired bikini top, and sweatpants combo. Of course, a young Adam Rodriguez stalking J.Lo on the Internet is also a major highlight.
"Waiting For Tonight" (1999)
J.Lo’s “Waiting For Tonight” became the quintessential New Year’s Eve inspo video, giving everyone heightened expectations for noche vieja for years. Directed by Francis Lawrence, the video showed J.Lo giving face in a jungle with only a spaghetti-strap top and panties. Later on in the clip, Lopez switches her look to a nude bodysuit with shiny rhinestones. But “Waiting For Tonight” is best known for the green lasers, which every New Year’s Eve party in New York still tries to recreate.