Jennifer Lopez may not be the all-powerful cultural juggernaut she once was, but as she turns 46 tomorrow, allow us to consider her legacy. Sure, her movies are mostly utter dreck—The Boy Next Door is just the latest example of a painfully lame J. Lo vehicle—but think back to her underrated run as the smoldering ingenue in a string of ‘90s flicks before—and immediately after—her breakout role in Selena. Lopez, in rising starlet mode, memorably beguiled George Clooney in the Elmore Leonard adaptation Out of Sight, transfixed Jack Nicholson in Blood and Wine, and tempted Sean Penn in Oliver Stone’s noirish U-Turn before ascending to megastardom and falling into her now-familiar rut of tired rom-coms and cheesy thrillers. But hey, DeNiro used to be in way better movies, too!
J. Lo’s outsized influence was always more than the combined might of her popcorn flicks and blandly successful dance-pop albums. She embraced her uber-celebrity destiny, expertly flaunting both bodacious curves (remember that infamous green Grammys dress?) and an irrepressible diva 'tude that would later influence such lovable narcissists as Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj. Her high-profile romances with Sean “Puffy” Combs, Ben Affleck, and Marc Anthony served up tasty chum for the tabloids, showing that the hunger for anything J. Lo was insatiable. (The fact that South Park depicted her as a maniacal hand puppet who drove Affleck crazy with lust was a wickedly satirical blowback to her inescapable, proto-Kardashian popularity).
While we may have understandably had our fill of all things J. Lo at this point, her star once shined brighter than all others. So let's take a moment to wish her a Happy 46th, and while we're at it, let us bask in the beauty of ten classic J. Lo photos.