Jennifer Lopez Always Deserved Her VMA Vanguard Award & Here’s The Proof

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage.
Not to sound 103 years old, but kids these days have it easy. Not because they’re born with an iPad in their hands and know what Fortnite is, but, because of their pop stars. The voices blasting over the radios — or iPhones or, whatever — come from Latinx ladies like Demi Lovato, Camila Cabello, and Selena Gomez or proudly biracial women like Halsey. While the pop scene still isn’t as inclusive as it could be, it’s certainly easier for little girls of color to see themselves in the music they’re singing along to.
In the 1990s, that wasn’t the case for Latinx kids. Then, at the tail end of the decade, we got Jennifer Lopez. The woman who would one day be J-to-the-L-O added some much-needed diversity to a music scene dominated by the likes of Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, and even Christina Aguilera, a singer who identifies as Latinx but easily presents as a white woman. J.Lo vocally repped her boricua heritage and Bronx roots while dancing circles around her pop peers (it's integral to remember Lopez was pure, hot 100 pop — not “urban,” “hip-hop,” “R&B,” or any of the other genres oftentimes used to keep musicians of color away from mainstream airwaves).
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And, she was a consummate show(wo)man.
It’s impossible to shake certain moments from her many, many music videos. That’s why that “R-U-L-E” revelation from her “I’m Real (Remix)” music video with Ja Rule melted brains across the internet in 2016; a full 15 years after that early aughts banger dropped. That’s also why Lopez will take home the 2018 VMA Video Vanguard Award on Monday, August 20, the highest honor of MTV’s Video Music Awards.
Since this decade began, the aforementioned Spears took home that much-coveted golden moon person, as did Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, and Pink. While the prolific and hardworking Lopez has put out consistent work to match those performers — and sometimes rival it — parts of the internet still rioted over Lopez’s upcoming award.
Well, considering the just-under two decades of tireless creativity Jennifer Lopez and her team have poured into the performer's videos, those people are wrong. If you don’t believe that, let’s take a walk down Jennifer Lopez music video lane. After all, that’s what the Vanguard Award is all about: music video excellence.
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“If You Had My Love” (1999)

What makes it special: Jennifer Lopez, at that point best known for starring in the titular role of 1997 biopic Selena in 1999, capitalized on her film success to drop one of the late 90s' hottest albums, On The 6. The album proved Latin-flavored tracks weren't just for “urban” stations, they were pop.

The music video for On The 6's debut single, “If You Had My Love,” told viewers everyone couldn't stop looking at Lopez. Club kids, little kids, and horny men are unable to tear their gaze away from Lopez as she dances on a pre-new millennium webcam. It's an announcement that Lopez is an idol for all.

Also, “If You Had My Love” managed to predict how obsessed we would become with celebrities — essentially stalking their every move via the internet — and herald an imminent staple of Lopez's videos: the dance break. (Reminder: Pre-fame, she served as a Fly Girl dancer on FOX's sketch comedy In Living Colour)
2 of 16
“Waiting For Tonight” (1999)

What makes it special: While watching Lopez's video almost 20 years later, it will quickly hit you how prominent Black and brown dancers are in her early work. There absolutely is no whitewashing here.

And, if you want to remember what Y2K era partying looked like, this is the video to watch.
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3 of 16
“Feelin' So Good” (1999)

What makes it special: “Feeling So Good” dropped when Sex And The City madness had fully gripped our national consciousness. Yet, the HBO hit gave viewers a deeply white, rich view of New York City life. “Feeling So Good” offered an alternate look at a New York that's just as fun as the one Carrie Bradshaw enjoyed.

This one was filled with extremely happy, working class people of color, a “Soul Makoosa” dance break, and an unforgetable gold halter top. It's a celebration of the Bronx that Jennifer Lopez loves.

The video also stands as hip-hop icon Big Pun’s final music video appearance. The rapper died in early 2000.
4 of 16
“Love Don’t Cost A Thing” (2000)

What makes it special: "Love Don’t Cost A Thing" dropped amid Lopez' tumultuous relationship with rapper ex-boyfriend P.Diddy. The video premiered in late 2000, while the on-again, off-again pair officially split for good in February 2001.

That's why the video felt so revelatory and special. In the midst of that drama, Lopez came out explaining her precise view on love, which was actual love was far more important than pricey gifts. That's why the image of an uber glam Lopez tossing off her terrible boyfriend's expensive presents is so memorable.

Who needs designer jewels when you can dance alone on a pristine beach in your underwear?

P.S. Yes, this is the video starring Lopez's future second husband, backup dancer Chris Judd.
5 of 16
“I’m Real” (2001)

What makes it special: As previously mentioned, this is a music video that lives in the subconscious of millennials everywhere. Lopez’ baby pink tracksuit short set will live in infamy forever, along with her plethora of gold jewelry.

But, past that, there’s also the loving gaze “I’m Real” points toward Black and brown communities.
6 of 16
“Play” (2001)

What makes it special: The looks! Before the natural hair movement dominated conversations around beauty, Lopez was dancing in a futuristic club with full, unapologetic rizos and multiple bustiers. It was a reminder sporting straight hair wasn't the only way to be beautiful as a Latinx woman.

Also, her opening ensemble, of a full fur coat, bucket hat, and thigh-high white boots, will always stand as a testament of the highest early-aughts fashion.
7 of 16
“Ain’t It Funny” (2001)

What makes it special: Lopez tossing her bad ex-boyfriend out of her apartment and then karate chopping at the camera. It is the perfect GIF, years before GIFs would become a thing.
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8 of 16
“Jenny From The Block” (2002)

What makes it special: This may be one of Lopez’s most iconic videos. It took “If You Had My Love’s” innate understanding of celebrity surveillance and blew it up 1010%. Lopez knew audiences at the time wanted to know everything about her relationship with Ben Affleck — a coupling paparazzi existed to cover back then — and gave it to them. And, it was sexy. In fact, Lopez leaned into her sex appeal by going topless on a yacht, only to pixelate her breasts for the video, as paparazzi photos would.

It was a visual middle finger to anyone who would want to shame Lopez for being as sexually empowered as she was.

But, the most lasting image of “Jenny From The Block” is, of course, Affleck literally kissing Lopez's pink bikini bottom-wearing butt. It was a signal curvy bodies are more than beautiful — they are something to be revered.
9 of 16
“All I Have” (2003)

What makes it special: Kim Kardashian, whose aesthetic has come to define the last decade, often credits Jennifer Lopez as her own beauty icon. Well, if there’s one music video that perfectly predicts the eventual Kardashian look, it’s Lopez’s in “All I Have.” The video features the nude lips (albeit in early-aughts gloss rather than present-day matte liquid lipstick), a clear contour, heavy lashes, and solid, black eyeliner rim we all know with reality TV's most famous family.

Even Lopez’s gorgeous hoops are the precursor to the shoulder-hangers Khloé Kardashian would go on to wear in season 14 of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
10 of 16
"I'm Glad" (2003)

What makes it special:Lopez brings 1983 classic Flashdance to the new millennium with the “I’m Glad” video.

Not only is it a pitch-perfect recreation of the unforgettable ‘80s movie, it’s also simply moving. While watching Lopez, a Latinx woman, walk through a sea of lily white ballerinas, reminding us other perspectives are worthwhile and full of promise, you can’t avoid feeling something.
11 of 16
“Get Right” (2005)

What makes it special: The sheer number of characters Lopez plays, including a blonde-afroed DJ, an office introvert-turned-party girl, a gold-clad table dancer, and, the greatest role of all, Jennifer Lopez.
12 of 16
“On The Floor” (2011)

What makes it special: Jennifer Lopez turned 42 the year the “On The Floor” music video dropped and had given birth to twins. Yet, she arrived from a brief career hibernation to prove she had not lost a single move. In a bralette, wide-leg pants, and wildly tight abs, Lopez showed the entire world that being a married mom-of-two didn’t mean you couldn’t kill it on the floor with a classic dance break.
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13 of 16
“I Luh Ya Papi” (2014)

What makes it special: Lopez wears a replica of that infamous green Versace dress... only this time it's a gorgeous jumpsuit. Because, J.Lo wears the pants in every relationship.
14 of 16
“Ain't Your Mama” (2016)

What makes it special: As with “On The Floor” before it, Lopez is back to playing multiple characters in a relentlessly delightful video. Only this time, she is skewering the 1950s, Mad Men era ideals of what a woman should be.

Welcome to one of Lopez's most obviously feminist statements.
15 of 16
“El Anillo” (2018)

What makes it special: This gold-drenched music video rivals the cinematography of American Gods. It is simply gorgeous.
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“Dinero” (2018)

What makes it special: f you are not inspired by a lingerie-clad Jennifer Lopez barbecuing ribs behind a mansion while holding her infamous Swarovski-laden Starbucks cup as a jet flies by an infinity pool you are lying to yourself. Doubly so if you deny J.Lo and fellow Bronx powerhouse Cardi B wearing massive, feathery fascinators as they read their own respective TIME magazine issues is a forever mood.

End of story.
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