The description “diamond in the rough” isn’t one that instantly conjures up an image of Jennifer Lopez; on the contrary, the sultry performer is more likely to evoke a vision of finely spun silk. In the hundreds of photographs we’ve seen of JLo strutting on the red carpet, onscreen or onstage, the word “rough” doesn’t exactly typify. Yet that was the exact phrase used by Catherine Walsh, senior vice-president of American fragrances at Coty Prestige, to describe how Lopez looked one night when they met to discuss her new fragrance, Deseo (from $46, at department stores). Upon hearing herself thus described, Lopez is said to have envisioned the flacon for the scent. Set to hit store shelves in March, Lopez’s eighth fragrance is her most sophisticated so far.
Lopez is reclining in the corner of a banquette in a penthouse at Manhattan’s Royalton hotel. Her soft grey dress hangs loosely, but it is still obvious that she is several months into her first pregnancy. Her energy is upbeat and she’s excited as she discusses Deseo—which means “desire” in Spanish. The creation of the fragrance didn’t come as easily to her as her earlier ones, like Glow. In fact, it was only after several meetings with Coty’s creative minds but not nailing “it” that it just occurred to Lopez to take Walsh on a tour of the garden at her new L.A. home. “I’m lucky enough to have a really beautiful English rose garden,” explains Lopez. “We have, I don’t know, 30 types of roses, and there’s lavender and rosemary and lemon trees. And when the people from Coty came to talk about doing our next fragrance, I thought to myself, you have to walk through the garden with me. There’s this one area where the stairs are, and when it rains the wood gets wet, and with the combination of all the other smells of the garden, it’s just so amazing.”
The finished scent takes in all of these floral and herbal elements with top notes of watery bamboo leaves, Sicilian bergamot and freesias. The middle notes offer up star jasmine, orange blossoms and French mimosa. The base of the scent, with warm amber, oak moss, sandalwood, atlas cedarwood and patchouli, is where it gets its lingering sex appeal.
“I look at Deseo and I look at the other things we’ve done, and I’m very proud of all of them, but they feel a little girlish to me, and this one feels more like a woman,” Lopez explains. “You can’t keep trying to act like you’re something you’re not anymore. You mature, you evolve, you grow, and that’s what makes people respond to you—they can grow with you. The girls who were buying Glow are not in the same place they were then. They’re different now.”
Personal evolution is something Lopez embraces. It is, after all, the key to remaining at the top of a fickle entertainment biz. Having gone from Fly Girl to romantic comedy heroine and back to her roots with the Spanish-language album Como Ama una Mujer and the film El Cantante with her husband, Marc Anthony, Lopez understands how to navigate the system, so she doesn’t get lumped into a category where less talented stars languish. Reinvention and aging gracefully are things Lopez, at 38, manages to make look easy.
But does aging bring her any anxiety about her career and her beauty? “I still feel very new as an artist, just because I haven’t accomplished all I want to accomplish, and in that sense I don’t think of it in terms of age,” she explains. “So long as you look like you should be singing that song and it’s truthful, or you fit that role, then it’s OK. But as far as beauty, just like any other woman, I start thinking, oh, wow, what do I do when this starts happening? How do I feel about this? You worry about it. You remember when you were 18 and how easy everything was, and things aren’t as easy anymore, and you don’t look exactly the same. But it’s really about who you are on the inside, and what you bring to people around you.”
Given the immense success Lopez has had professionally, the question remains, what is it she personally desires the most now? “Oh, gosh, when you’re somebody like me…there’s always desire. I think I’ll be 80 years old and trying to think of something else to do. There will be something else I want to accomplish. There will be something else I want to create. Honestly, I believe that’s just how God made me.”