THE stage was set for Jennifer Lopez's first public appearance in Australia yesterday, just a few hours ahead of her first concert in this country.
A big red velvet chair shaped like a rose was flanked by two posters starring the world's most famous behind (pre-Pippa Middleton anyway) and the perhaps ill-advised words ''prepare to be blown away''.
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She's still Jenny from the block
Jennifer Lopez arrives in Melbourne as part of her world tour and says despite all her success she still lives a down-to-earth lifestyle.
Dry ice hung thickly, and incongruously, in the air. Was this J-Lo's equivalent of Doris Day's old Vaseline-on-the-lens trick? Surely not.
At 43, Jenny from the block has no reason to fear the camera. When she takes the stage she looks spectacular, in pencil-thin six-inch stilettos, white pants and crew-neck top. There's a diamond the size of a golf ball on her ring finger - but who, the glossies will be wondering, put it there? Her flawless olive skin glows, as you'd expect from a woman whose every move is sponsored by some cosmetics company or other.
If we could get close enough I'm sure I'd be able to report that she smells great too, though identifying which one of the 17 scents bearing her name she is wearing might be beyond me. Let's just say she smells like a million bucks - no, make that two billion bucks, how much of the stuff she has shipped, according to her website.
This is, surprisingly, Lopez's first world tour, despite a showbiz career that began with her dancing with New Kids on the Block in 1991, detoured into acting in 1993 and moved into music in 1999. ''Doing movies and music and all the other things I do it was kind of hard to carve out the time that it takes to do a world tour,'' she said of her tardiness. ''That's pretty much it.''
Of course, she's had a business empire to manage - as a well as the many scents of the woman, there are endorsement deals that run the gamut from cars to fashion to handbags and razors and soft drinks. Little wonder, perhaps, that business magazine Forbes named her the most powerful and influential celebrity in the world in 2012.
''You get a title like that and it's kind of surreal and weird and flattering at the same time,'' she says of the gong. ''For me it was an acknowledgment of the fact that I've been working hard for many years and I feel like somebody noticed and that was nice. I don't take things like that too seriously, but it was nice.''
The journey from Jenny from the block - the daughter of working-class Puerto Rican immigrants in the Bronx - to J-Lo, international megastar has been long and deliberate, a classic in the American self-made millionaire tradition. She even has, like that other self-made powerhouse Oprah, a film and TV production entity and a stake in a TV station of her own. But she's still just a regular gal at heart - and, she insists, anyone seeing her concerts will be able to get a glimpse of that tale.
''Everything for me is very conceptual … for me it had to have a story,'' she says of her Dance Again show. ''I guess that's kind of the actress in me as well.
''It starts with all the different representations of who people see me as, kind of like this Hollywood red-carpet person glamorous and then it goes to who I really am, which is a girl from the block who made good. From there it goes into my feelings about love and where I'm at in my life … and then we get into the Latin section, which is a big part of who I am as well.''
She says she tries to stay grounded for her kids but admits ''they don't have a normal life''. They have been on tour with her since June and will be on the move until January, when they go back to the US for a brief stint of normality.