When actors assume the roles of real people, part of their job is to seamlessly take on the character’s sartorial style. Most of the time, the looks are decades, or even centuries, old. So contemporaries they usually are not. That means the chances of getting to play someone whose sense of style you clearly had a hand in shaping is unheard of.
But that’s exactly Jennifer Lopez’s chinchilla-draped situation in the box office hit “Hustlers.”
In the movie, Lopez plays Ramona, the ringleader of a devious group of strippers. Set in the early aughts, these women made serious bank by drugging filthy rich Wall Street types and maxing out their credit cards. With the ill-gotten gains, the ladies lavished themselves with luxury cars and Louboutin shoes.
Audiences responded: The movie made a whopping $33.2 million its first weekend, making it the biggest debut ever for a movie starring women of color, and made a respectable $17 million in its second weekend.
Ramona’s life is based on the real-life Samantha Barbash. The former exotic dancer, now 45, is reportedly salty about Lopez’s portrayal. She told Vanity Fair that J. Lo’s version of her personality was not the real deal.
One aspect of the movie that Barbash did not quibble about? The fashion. The Juicy Couture-style sweats, overpowering furs, sky-high heels and Aviator glasses —worn during the day, or course —that Lopez and costars Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart used to mimic the blinged-out style of the era.
And who was one of the central architects of that aesthetic? Jenny from the Block.
Years before Kim Kardashian and Beyonce, it was Lopez who made the bodacious booty aspirational. The former In Living Color Fly Girl launched her acting and singing career in the late 1990s (we just forget how old Lopez is because she looks phenomenal at 50). Lopez quickly became a sex symbol because of her curves, not despite them. And by 2000, when she wore that unforgettable green Versace to the Grammys, she was a bona fide star.
Talk about coincidences: Lopez closed the Versace show during Milan Fashion Week wearing a new version of none other than that green Versace.
But it wasn’t just the way Lopez’s backside fit into her body-skimming clothes that turned her into an icon. Her entire look set more than a decade of trends. Her long, highlighted layers sparked copycats. Numerous makeup brands added many a tinted bronzer to their collections so Lopez’s dewy, tanned-all-year complexion could be ours for the primping.
We draped fur and faux coats around our shoulders for J. Lo luxe appeal. We teeter-tottered in sparkly six-inch heels so much so that our ankles are still paying for it today.
Were the real-life hustlers channeling their inner J. Lo back in the day? Look at them: the swing of the high ponytail, the mini-clutches, it’s all there. J. Lo constructed and Kardashian copied.
In Hustlers, Lopez is playing a woman whom she inspired, and that’s why this performance feels so authentic. No one can strut in a fur coat like J. Lo can. Maybe that’s why the Oscar buzz around Lopez’s performance is getting so loud? Their lives imitated her art. Of course, she would knock this performance out of the box.