The 2019 The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable featured an elite group of talented actresses whose silver screen performances have made them the centre of Oscar buzz. The conversation, which included Laura Dern, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Awkwafina, Renee Zellweger, and Jennifer Lopez, covered everything from their first roles to sexual harassment, with one especially harrowing story from the Hustlers actress reminding us how essential the #MeToo movement is to women (and everyone, really) in Hollywood.
Lopez’s career looks a bit different from that of the other actresses seated at the table. The 50-year-old’s professional career began with a stint as a Fly Girl dancer on the sketch comedy series In Living Colour, and she pivoted in 1993 to start acting. After playing smaller roles in a few films, Lopez played the lead role in the 1997 biopic Selena, bringing audiences to tears with her emotional embodiment of the fallen Tejano legend.
Golden Globe nomination in hand, Lopez continued to book starring roles in films like Out of Sight and Anaconda in the following years. In 1990, she set her sights on using music to become a household name, and the plan went without a hitch. Today, Lopez is one of the most popular singers on the planet. Her discography is as impressive as her filmography, and the pop star plans to continue killing it on the stage and screen indefinitely.
Her success didn't come without its hard moments, though. As a fledgling Hollywood hopeful, Lopez says she was asked by an unnamed director to take off her shirt and show him her breasts. Though she was just starting in the industry and was understandably terrified of the potential consequences, she refused. "If you give in, in that moment, all of a sudden that person is off and running, thinking they can do whatever they want," Lopez told the group. "And because I put up a little boundary right there and said no, he laid off and then later on apologised."
The anecdote is one that, unfortunately, is familiar to many in the entertainment industry. The public takedown of film Harvey Weinstein may have pushed the #MeToo movement into the mainstream, but sexual harassment and assault have both long been common in Hollywood. Actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Uma Thurman started speaking up about Weinstein's abuse, inspiring others to come forward to share their stories using Tarana Burke's hashtag.
This a clear example of the necessity of creating space to have these conversations. The more room we allow for dialogue about rape culture and abuse, the less stigmatised talking about it becomes.