Jennifer Lopez is undeniably a megastar - she sings, she dances, she acts and has multiple product lines. But a big part of her story has been her very public love life. The rekindling of her romance with Ben Affleck has been touted as a perfect example of the long awaited ‘happy ever after’. However, not everyone is buying it, especially as this isn’t the first time the self-confessed ‘love addict’ has been what they call ‘loved up’.
This week, as JLo promotes her latest film The Mother at the same time as Affleck promotes Air, we’re looking at the way celebrities and Hollywood itself use the idea of ‘soulmates’ and ‘romantic bliss’ to sell us products. And asking is there such a thing as “the one”? Why are we so keen to buy into it? And do the media love to build up Hollywood love stories just to tear them apart later? Let's go Straight to the Comments.
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Speakers: Sarah and Lisa
On Friday the 12th of May Jennifer Lopez's film, The Mother, was released on Netflix.
And on exactly the same day Ben Affleck's new film Air also debuted on Amazon Prime.
But all anyone is talking about is JLo and Ben's apparent ‘tense’ interactions on the red carpet and the ‘cracks’ in their relationship.
Ever since their reunion two years ago, it feels like self confessed love addict JLo has been capitalising on the ‘one true love reunited’ narrative to promote her multiple brand extensions, with even her mom publicly saying, “I knew that you would always get back together because I prayed for 20 years”.
But is there such a thing as ‘The One? And why are we so keen to buy into it? And do the media love to build up Hollywood love stories, just to tear them apart later?
Let's go straight to the comments.
So Sarah, I would love to be a fly on the wall in the JLo and Ben Affleck’s house this weekend. I mean, I just saw JLo’s film, The Mother, got a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And then Ben's film, got 92%.
I mean, I know. And I also heard that The Mother got a one star rating in The Guardian. I haven't seen it myself, but she has made some quite generic movies over the years.
I know. And my goodness, does she love to promote things. I've done a little bit of an analysis on JLo’s Instagram, and I'll be sharing the results later on. But the interesting thing is I saw she's just done a post as of today, because I think it's Mother's Day in America. And she films herself sitting there with her mom and her mother in law, so Ben's mom, who are all watching her film The Mother while drinking her alcohol brand. So there's so many promotions going on, I don't even know where to begin.
Oh, wow. I mean, I don't think on Mother's day I'd be going - Hi, Mom, could you watch my film?
And let's drink.
So Sarah, are you a fan of JLo?
I am actually. I mean, I actually had her first album when it came out, On the 6. And I have always thought she was just one of the most stunning, flawless women.
And I suppose for the longest time, if you'd said you can have a magic wand and have the body and face of anyone, who would it be? It would absolutely 100% always have been her. She was just stunning. How about you?
Oh, absolutely. She's so stunning. And when she first came out, and she was an actress, I just thought she was really, really brilliant in Out of Sight, and U turn. And then she sort of moved into music, and I didn't know how it was going to be for her. But actually it was pretty decent, the music, and I really loved Play and Waiting for Tonight. And then she just became a whole moment, didn't she? She seemed to take over the whole of the world. Everyone was trying to look like they have that JLo glow. They were having the blonded hair. You know, finally we had permission to have big hums after a decade of hiding them. But then she sort of moved more into rom coms. And over the years, I've not really connected the same with her music and her films, which is a shame because I was a really big fan at one point.
Absolutely. Well, let's just recap the story of JLo and Ben Affleck a bit. So most of us will probably remember that they were the ‘it’ couple in the early 2000s. And they were actually I think one of the first couples that got those hybrid names. So they were called ‘Bennifer’.
Yeah, yeah, I remember that.
Yeah, exactly. And then they met on the set of their film “Gigli". I don't know if I’ve said that right. But that was in 2002. And it was a notorious box office bomb. I don't think anyone saw it.
But their relationship was huge news. And every aspect of their lives became complete tabloid fodder at the time. So Lopez actually told People in 2016, “we didn't try to have a public relationship, we just happen to be together at the birth of the tabloids. And it was like, Oh, my God, it was just a lot of pressure”. So they were engaged by November 2002. But less than a year later, just days before they were supposed to be getting married, they actually postponed their wedding. And by January the following year, it was all done. And they actually blamed the media pressure for the split. But there were other rumours that this wasn't the whole story. And we'll get into that later.
Yeah, we will. But now here we are 20 years later, they're reunited and now married. So just to sum up their reunion, they were reported to be back together in April 2021, just as Lopez ended her four year long relationship with Alex Rodriguez. But with Ben and JLo they sort of went Instagram official a few months later, and they were engaged a year later. And they finally made it all the way down the aisle in July 2022. And as you can imagine, many people really love the idea that this was true lovers reunited. And there was this YouTube comment “Congratulations to this very sweet MFEO (made for each other)” I didn't know that.
No, I didn’t, I had to look it up.
“They have endured a lot and now they can finally be together like it was meant to be. Live it up. Fairy tales do come true”. On Twitter, “I'm so happy for them. I'm 35 so I was emotionally invested in this the first time round as well. I'm delighted It's finally happened.” And then in Hello magazine, the headline ran “Inside soulmates Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's emotional wedding ceremony.”
And I think that really brings us to the crux of this whole JLo on Ben narrative, and why it appeals to so many people, and that's the idea of soulmates. And this is such a pervasive idea. It's one that Hollywood really, really likes to sell. And, you know, it's also called, you know, “the one” is a big part of that.
I mean, what would music films and literature be without the idea of “the one”, your special person, your soulmate? I mean, it feels like the whole entertainment industry is centred around this, especially the rom com.
Oh, absolutely. And I mean, I would say for myself, I grew up and I've read Jane Eyre a few times. And the ultimate couple, romantic couple for me is Jane Eyre and Rochester. And I do think that that might have set me up for some really unrealistic expectations relationship wise.
Well you think you have unrealistic expectations? Try having a soulmate that you think is a vampire. Because that's what I thought when I first saw Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992, I was very obsessed with the story between Dracula and Mina. And you know, when he first sees her, he says, “I have crossed oceans of time to find you”. And that always stayed in my head and in my heart, like that's the level of soulmate connection I wanted. But it makes me think, you know, where does this idea of soulmates come from? And why is it so appealing?
Well, I mean, people have sort of traced it back to the Greek philosopher Plato, and he wrote that humans once had four arms, four legs and two faces. And he went on to explain that Zeus split us in half as a punishment for our pride. And we were destined to walk the earth searching for our other half. So that's where the term ‘other half’ came from, and the idea that we're sort of incomplete without our soulmate. And this concept has also existed in many cultures throughout history. In Hindu traditions, they hold the idea that people have a karmic connection with certain souls. In Yiddish, there's a term for an ideal or predestined marriage partner, and it's your ‘bashert’, but it loosely translates to destiny. But the actual term soulmates was probably only introduced in the 19th century. And its first recorded use is in 1822, in a letter written by a poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and he said, “to be happy in married life, you must have a soulmate”.
Wow, I didn't know that. But, you know, the idea of the soulmate is definitely a popular idea, you know, one that people really believe in, and when we're brought up on really, and it makes me think of Disney and the idea of the happy ever after.
Oh, absolutely. And so Bradley Onishi, who's an associate professor of religion at Skidmore College in the US, I mean, he sums up this appeal by saying, “The soulmate myth promises fulfilment, it says that the isolation and loneliness that are so often part of the human experience are only temporary, that someday there'll be a happily ever after in which we are united with The One who understands us at every level, protects us from harm, and gives our life overwhelming significance”. And there was also an article on Medium, and they talked about the role Hollywood plays specifically in pushing this idea. And it said, “The real lesson these movies teach is that you will never be complete until you find The One. You won’t be happy until you find The One. And then once you do find The (elusive) One all of your problems will be solved forever and everything will be beautiful.” I mean, it is a really appealing idea. And I think it's because it suggests that there is a magic cure for sort of all of our problems. Don't worry that life's hard now, especially for women, but there's a prince that will come along and sweep you off your feet and everything will be perfect. And also, we don't have to take any personal responsibility for changing anything, you know, it's just gonna be like a sort of magic kiss, and we'll wake up, you know.
All I'm thinking about is Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman with Richard Gere right now. And you know, and I watched that when I was about 13 or 14. But you know, the idea of this handsome billionaire will sweep you even if you're down on your luck and a prostitute. You know, someone will rescue you and bring you into this amazing lifestyle. You know what I mean? Not just the lifestyle sorry, they will sweep you off your feet and be your soulmate as well. Sorry.
Yeah, you know, all those things all wrapped up in one and, you know, it is a very popular concept. So in 2021, a YouGov poll of nearly 15,000 US adults, they found that 60% of Americans believe in the idea of soulmates but women 64% are more likely than men at 55% to say they believe in this idea of a perfect romantic match.
So really, it's no surprise that there's so many celebrity power couples, and you know, especially this idea of the perfect celebrity love. I mean, it's big business, right?
I mean, they're essentially selling a fantasy that we all want to believe in.
Absolutely. And I think a rekindled relationship is even more appealing because it's this idea that true love had to overcome obstacles and suffer first only so that it's an even bigger dopamine hit when they do finally get together. And I think there's there's a reason that characters in romantic films only get together at the end of the movie.
That is so true. And they always have to fall out or have this terrible misunderstanding, or alife event to get in the way, you know before they can be truly together.
Absolutely. Mary Jo Rapini, who's a psychotherapist and author, she said, “we want to believe that true love doesn't end. This may prevent us from getting closure, and instead, we seek ambiguity and allow an openness to the possibility of reuniting”. And more more than that Spike WS Lee, who's an assistant marketing professor at the University of Toronto, he conducted a study that seemingly confirmed that this idea of the soulmate might actually be damaging to our long term happiness. And in it participants who believed in The One had significantly more negative thoughts when they reflected on conflicts in their relationship than those who believed more in love-as-a-journey. So the soulmate concept that Hollywood really pushes, it can actually be unhealthy. But despite that, it’s very, very alluring. So for example, there was an article on Psychom that said “For romantics, the J. Lo/Ben Affleck reunion is the ultimate love story. Two soul mates, driven apart by celebrity pressure and nonstop media coverage, find their way back to each other and finally get to live happily ever after.”
And they're in good company. As you mentioned in our first episode, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had been sort of held up as this ultimate soulmate couple who couldn't be together but also couldn't bear to be a part. And as described in an article in the Financial Times by Joe Allison, she said “we've become invested in celebrity couplings perhaps as a substitute for our own romantic failings. We will couples back together, we won't accept that they've moved on. Just look at poor Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, who despite having divorced in 2005, following a five year marriage remain the focus of maniacal fan obsession that still believes wholeheartedly they will one day reunite.”
Exactly. But I mean, the reality is often a long way off from the fantasy. So Pamela Anderson, who's been married six times twice to American poker player, Rick Solomon, she said, “It's like when you put something back in the fridge, that's not good. It's not going to be good the second time.”
Oh, my Lord. I think there are exceptions to that, though. And sometimes, it's I think it's literally timing. And importantly, if people have grown in the meantime, and addressed the issue that first caused the split.
Oh, absolutely. And I don't think there can ever be a single rule for everyone.
Well, what you've described explains why love stories appeal to a lot of people. But not everyone is buying into the Jennifer Lopez/Ben Affleck happy ever after story. There's this comment again, on the ft. “There is slight feel of marketing about the benefits of union, but hopefully not”. And then there was this Mail Online comment, “The same reasons that they broke up the first time, will reappear a second time. He's an alcoholic with 3 kids. Not my first choice in men. She changes men more often than her bathroom towels. Ben should have just given her the first ring again. Saved some money; Both are tacky looking”. And then another comment “With her, it's "lather, rinse, repeat". We'll all just sit back and wait for the next one”. And then finally, this comment, “'I rushed into three different marriages. At this point I want to be sure.' That's what she said when she was with ARod. I'm not trying to be mean but I really do think she has deep issues.”
And as promised, let's go through the JLo love timeline, because I think that's really important to put this relationship in context. So this is her fourth marriage with two other engagements, including the previous one to Affleck that didn't make it to the aisle. And JLo has touched on this herself. In a 2019 interview with Harper's Bazaar she said, “For me, the relationship journey has been very up and down. But it didn’t have to do with anybody else but me—it was about me figuring out me. Until you learn to love yourself, you can’t completely love [someone else] in a way that is pure and true."
So let's just very quickly sum up her relationship timeline. Her first husband Ojani Noa was an aspiring performer and waiter, and they divorced in January 1998 after 11 months of marriage. She then dated Sean Combs who's also known as Puff Daddy or P. Diddy from 1999 to 2001. And that was at the start of her music career and they broke up shortly after getting arrested together because he had a gun in his car. And she then moves straight on to a relationship with Cris Judd who was a dancer and choreographer, and they were married for just nine months from 2001 to 2002, after meeting on the set of her music, video, Love Don't Cost a Thing,
Which is one of my all time favourite JLo songs, can I just say
Yeah, that is a good one. And this brought her up to meeting Ben Affleck the first time while she was still married to Cris Judd. And they were engaged a year later and broke up in 2003 when she started dating Marc Anthony, shortly after she broke off her first engagement with Ben Affleck. So in her memoir, she said, “Marc came back into my life three days after I should have been at the altar saying I do to another man”. And the couple got married in 2004. They had two children and they were together for seven years until they split in 2011. And just as an aside they'd previously met in 1998, and there were some reports that they might have briefly dated back then, and that this was another rekindled romance. So according to Vulture in her 2014 book True Love, Lopez wrote that “at that point, she believed that they were meant to end up together.” And she also said Anthony's first words to her on meeting were, “one day, you're going to be my wife.” So then, after that, in 2011 to 2016, she dated another backing dancer Casper Smart before being briefly linked to Drake in 2017. It was then that she got together with Alex Rodriguez, or A-Rod, who's a well known American baseball athlete. And he's previously dated Cameron Diaz and Madonna and had kids from a previous marriage. And in March 2019, the couple announced their engagement on Instagram with a kind of series of photos of him popping the question on a beach in the Bahamas. But that is something I've never really understood is just, you know, having a full camera crew documenting proposals. I mean, they do it a lot with the Kardashians, and I understand maybe wanting to capture it for later. But you know, like with the Kardashians, it's a whole crew. I mean, how could it actually be a surprise? And how can you just be in the moment? But then again, I've always hated the idea of a public proposal. So maybe that's just me.
Yeah, I mean, I'm not really into that. And I'm dating a Norwegian, who are notoriously shy. So even if I speak quite loudly in public, I can't imagine, he gets embarrassed, let alone proposing in the whole of front of Oslo, Aker Brygge, which is like the front of Oslo. No, no, no, it's not. It's not. It's not something that's appealed to me massively. But you know, I do remember a lot. Let me call him A-Rod. I do remember a lot of the publicity with A-Rod. And I think I said to you in our research that one of the most striking pieces of publicity she did was that sort of really stunning Vanity Fair shoot It was quite saucy, lots of lusty, grabbing each other photos.
I mean, she really plays the game, I have to say,
Well, during their four year relationship, they blended their families together, they even bought a home together. And I know this is something that you sort of want to touch on later, this idea that family is a big part of her brand, because that really showed up a lot in the sort of publicity in the way that she spoke about him being an amazing father and things like that. But in September 2017, JLo said to Hola! USA, she said, “I’m in a good relationship. I feel like I can say that for the first time — I don’t know — maybe ever. And not that I didn’t have great relationships, full of love and adventure, but this is the first relationship I’ve been [in] where I feel like we really make each other better. We complement each other, and that’s really pure, true love. Just wanting to support the other person and make them happy”. However, I do want to point out that seven years earlier in 2010, during an interview with Latina magazine, she did say regarding her marriage to Marc Anthony, “First and foremost, we love each other, truly love each other in a way that's very deep and meaningful, not in a superficial sort of way. There's a deep respect, admiration, and love for each other…We honestly believe that we make each other better people … We force each other to be better, and I think in a relationship, that's how it should be. You shouldn't be with somebody if he makes you feel less than who you are."
Yeah, that seems like a bit of a contradiction.
Yeah, exactly. So I mean, after four years, they broke up. And this was a few months after a scandal where he was linked to ‘Southern Charm’ star, Madison LeCroy. And that blew up on Twitter. And then this brings us back to her reunion with Affleck. So when you hear that relationship history timeline, does anything strike you?
Well, look, to be honest, yeah, I have followed this for a long time. But when now you put it in that condensed timeline and the sort of repetition of what she says, it starts to feel eerily similar. And I don't believe in shaming women for their relationship history. But there does seem like a pattern of jumping from one relationship to another without any gaps by herself.
Yeah, yeah. And I agree, like, I don't think you should shame women for the relationship history, but it is interesting to note certain patterns. And I think it does seem to be what people are alluding to when they're sceptical, when they were sceptical of her latest engagement and marriage to Ben Affleck. So The Things published an article saying “Jennifer Lopez fan so she can't stay single after Ben Affleck romance rumours”. So there were various social media comments, for example, “man, she must not be able to live without a man. It's called codependence”. Another one was “the bedsheets not even cold yet, and they're jumping towards what can only be described as a train wreck waiting to happen”. Another one saying “seriously try and stay single for an hour please”. But some people did actually point out that there was a bit of a double standard and that they're essentially shaming her, particularly as a woman. So for example, there was one comment that said “all this ‘she can't go without man’ is hella sexist and disgusting behaviour. You wouldn't ever say the same about a man in the same position.” And another said “she gets cheated on and people are talking bad about her. She's a woman and her kids aren't babies anymore. If she wants to hook up with someone, then that's her business.” It does feel like there is a little bit of a double standard there to a certain extent.
I agree. And it made me think back to our Alice Evans and Jennifer Aniston episode where we talked about there’s that sort of competitive thing, like who recovers the quickest, who can bounce back the quickest, who can be over it the quickest”.
To your point, Sarah, that, no one really batted an eyelid when George Clooney was a sort of serial monogamist and Jack Nicholson. They were always regarded as sort of like eligible bachelors. Yeah, even with Ben Affleck the focus always been more on her relationship history than his, which I find interesting.
So just to even out and just to give some background, Ben Affleck dated Gwyneth Paltrow ,again who we did another episode on.
And so on and off for three years from 1997 to 2000, before his first coupling with Lopez, and she recently did an interview where she called him “technically excellent in bed.”
Wow, Gwyneth. I mean, TMI? Oversharing?
Yeah, my first thought is is that a bit of a weird compliment, I don't know. And then with JLo, while the official reason behind the end of Bennifer was due to the excessive media attention, the National Enquirer, Good Old National Enquirer! They claimed he cheated on her with at least one woman and that the encounter might be on tape after he visited a strip club in Vancouver, while US Weekly cited Affleck's penchant for gambling as a contributing factor. And you know, many of us know that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner then started dating around 2004. I think they met on the set of Pearl Harbour, and then they started in 2003 in Daredevil. They then married in June 2005, and welcomed three children during their relationship. And then it started again, all the rumours about Affleck’s gambling, and alleged liaisons with other women, including the nanny. And so they then eventually announced their split a day after their 10th wedding anniversary in 2015. He then went on to date a Saturday Night Live producer. He then went back to rehab twice during this time for alcohol addiction. And then he had a rumoured fling with a former Playboy model. He then dated actress Ana de Armas, from 2020 to 2021, after meeting on the set of Deep Water, and that relationship ended after a couple of months before reconciling with JLo. So he's had a bit of a rocky history himself.
Absolutely. JLo has actually been really open before about her issues with not liking being alone. So in 2014, she told SELF magazine, “when you have that much pain, you have to anaesthetise yourself in some ways. People do different things, some go out and party and sleep around. But that's not my way. I found the comfort in someone else. That's called being a love addict.” And in 2019, she told People, “I did get into relationships, sometimes the wrong ones for the wrong reasons, because I didn't like being alone”. And then in the same interview, she also said, “when I really figured out you don't need anybody to complete you, and you can be happy on your own, the shift happened. And all of a sudden, I wasn't alone, you do actually find that person,” but she was referring at the time to Alex Rodriguez.
What's really great about that is she seems to have some self awareness and she, you know, she's admitting to the issues that she struggles with. And not all of us can do that. Right?
Yeah, at the same time, it's not clear how much she's actually changed her behaviour. Because she said that in 2019, in reference to finally finding the one with A-Rod, before breaking up two years later, and immediately reconciling with Ben, who she now describes as the love of her life. So you know, I am a bit confused about it all.
Yeah, there are some mixed messages. Yeah.
Exactly. I mean, I don't know much about love addiction because I personally did look up years ago about, you know when you first meet someone, you have that honeymoon phase and you get to that feeling?
Yeah, the oxytocin.
Yeah, that people can go a bit crazy at the beginning of relationships. I mean, do you know much about love addiction.
Yeah, so I am a bit aware of it. I had a friend who, who had it. But the definition of love addiction is actually quite hard to pin down. So there's one definition that says it's - fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts, endlessly search for that special someone that will make them feel whole. And Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous calls it an extreme dependency on one person, whereby relationships or sexual activities have become increasingly destructive to career, family and sense of self respect. So they've actually done a meta analysis and it looked at 83 studies, it estimated that about 3% of the population has had a serious problem with love addiction over a given year, and that number may be higher than 10% among young adults, it's that whole young love thing, isn't it?
Exactly. I do have some friends that they've never been single, they always have to go from relationship to relationship. And also they cannot bear being single. It's like they feel really deficient.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and that makes sense when I think women are really given the message that our value is in being able to find a partner, in men finding us attractive. So it can feel very vulnerable to be single as if - oh, am I single because something's wrong with me? Which is a really interesting way of looking at it, as opposed to - am I single, because, you know, there's so many other reasons you could be choosing not to be in a relationship. But there's also some controversy around the definition. So for example, Brian D Earp, who's an associate director of the Yale Hastings programme in Ethics, and he's studied love addiction. And he said “love addiction is a contested concept.” And he noted that some of the disagreement comes down to the definition of love itself. So he said “some feminist philosophers argue that if a relationship is toxic or abusive, it shouldn't even be labelled as love, arguing that some prefer the label addiction to toxic relationship behaviours”. And other people talk about codependence. So Positive Psychology said “to sum up codependency is a psychological concept that refers to people who feel extreme amounts of dependence on a certain loved one in their life. And they feel responsible for the feelings and actions of those loved ones”. And Mental Health America said “it's also known as relationship addiction because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one sided, emotionally destructive, and or abusive”. But I just want to point out it's not limited to romantic relationships, codependency. I mean, I would say that I've struggled with aspects of it. It can just be people pleasing, you know, never wanting to say no, in case people don't like you. And I see it much more as a spectrum than you either are or you aren't. It's it's a it's a, you know, it's all about making progress, and the degree to which we all have moments of codependency, I think. It's whether it's severely consistent and preventing you from living effectively, is when it becomes a big problem.
I find that so interesting. I feel like we could just do a whole thing about love addiction and romance addiction.
We say that there's love addiction and not wanting to be alone, but there's another element with JLo that seems to really trigger people when we were looking at the comments. It’s not that she just has to be in a relationship, but that she has to be seen to be in a relationship and desired, and that she's selling this sort of romantic ideal of love. You know, they have to always be seen on the red carpet embracing or kissing, she regularly gushes over her partners in interviews. And one aspect of her brand seems to be really I think about her desirability. And interestingly, when Lopez's previous relationship with A-Rod was coming to an end, after his scandal, before she rekindled things with Ben Affleck, there was this BlindGossip prediction that said, “she gave her team instructions to find her a new man ASAP, like within the month. Preferably not a backup dancer or anyone like that. He has to be successful. Her whole image is built around being hot and sexy and desirable. If she is so desirable, there ALWAYS has to be a man chasing her. Preferably multiple men, all competing for her attention. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or not or if they are just flirting or actually dating. It’s about the perception and a fresh story.”
And they followed up with “her team could not line up a new man fast enough, so one of her old beaus, an actor, is being recycled.”
I mean, that's really interesting, because they actually called the idea that she would rebound quickly ahead of time. But I do want to point out, and I think we definitely should point this out is that these blind gossip sites, they are anonymous gossip sites. And as a result of that, it sort of gives them this like legal freedom…
…where there's no accountability for sources. They haven't specifically named the person they're talking about always. They've sort of hinted enough so that everyone guesses in the comments and and you work it out that way. And there's so much stuff that is actually made up and later it's like absolute nonsense. And they can really claim some outrageous conspiratorial stuff. So I just want to put that caveat in there. But I do think it's a very interesting thing that came up almost before this went public.
Yeah, it did. And it sort of set the tone then when she did announce that people were like, Oh, we told you write
But a lot of commentators seem to believe that this romance is very controlled and possibly a fake narrative. For example, “Ben Jen 2.0 - does she really think her fans are that gullible? It's ridiculous and makes them both look desperate and thirsty. I feel sorry for the children. I think she will roll out new angles of the story up until the release of her new movie. She’ll be papped at every public place possible.” And the reference to coinciding with the movie releases along with other products. That brings me to something I really want to talk about, and I find really fascinating about JLo, it's about her selling and all her brand extensions.
Yeah, I mean, didn't she get into some sort of backlash recently over, was it an alcohol launch? I mean, when she doesn't drink?
Exactly, and I'll just get into that. But first, you know, we all know the story of JLo. You know, she's synonymous with the sort of rags to riches story, a girl make good from the Bronx. She's a self titled hustler. And she loves wealth. You know, in her 2018 Song Dinero. I said that, like Robert De Niro. I better not go to Spain, which is Spanish for money, she sings “me and my man stack it up to the ceiling. Every day I'm alive, I make a killing. I just want the green, want the money, want the cash flow.” And JLo’s net worth currently is $400 million. But what's, like I said, fascinating. She seemed to be one of the first movers into what I recall, building your celebrity brand. I mean, even back in 2001, she launched the JLo brand. And she was saying, “the voluptuous woman is almost ignored. I want to offer clothes that are wonderfully designed and will fit women of all sizes. Everyone gets to be sexy.”
Yeah. I mean, I mainly remember a lot of jeans covered in diamantes.
Exactly. Exactly. And you know, but they were meant to be built for that booty, right?
And then she went on to launch her perfume, Glow and many other fragrances. I think there's like 30, which according to CNBC are worth 2 billion.
I know. Yes, her career may have had its ups and downs. But she has been a money making machine, as someone said on Instagram in response to one of her recent JLo beauty posts. “Oh, my goodness, everything you touch turns to gold”. And an interview with Adweek in 2021, JLo opened up what it was like to build her brand. And she said, “there's only one me,” she said, “I'm a scarce asset, somebody who is a proven creator, artist and entrepreneur who has the ability to really connect with people. I cherish it and try to use it in the best way that I always can.”
But do you think that she actually does always use her connection with her fans in the best way that she can.
So that brings me to my research that I did. So get ready for it. I'm not like a proper trained researcher. But I went through her Instagram for the last two years and just analysed her posts, and what she kind of posts about, so it's all very rough. And I just want to acknowledge that a lot of stars do what she's doing and use their Instagram to sell and promote things. Of course they do. But I did find some interesting insights and curious brand partnerships. Are you ready?
I am. Let's do it.
Yeah, so JLo has 244 million followers on Instagram. And like I said, Let's wind back two years. In this time period, she's promoted two films to do weddings, Marry Me, and Shotgun Wedding. So lots of weddings and love themed content and songs. She goes to absolutely everything. She has been at the Grammys, the Met Gala, and the MTV awards, and many other things.
And you know, what I think's interesting is, we say in the last two years, but she would have filmed that, and signed up to it before, and at the time she was due to be married to A-Rod. So I guess one of the questions is, how would it have affected her promotion if she had been single at the time and hadn't found someone else, you know? You know, I don't know.
We don't know. And it does make you wonder, doesn't it, because you know, like I said, from May 2021 until May 22, she posted a total of 177 times on Instagram, with 145 of those posts directly promoting or selling a product. That means over 80% of her Instagram content is focused on advertising and promoting products. And this was a similar pattern from May 2022 Until May 2023. So right up till today, she's made roughly 140 posts, which again, 80% of her content is selling something. Now remember she split from A-Rod in April 2021. In the last few years, all her best performing posts are to do with Ben and her body. And she always strategically positions, any posts with Ben with a product placement sort of before and after. Whether it's you know, her JLo beauty, her music, her film, and she really knows how to capitalise on the attention.
Yeah, I mean that that is a really interesting pattern.
For example, her most liked post in 2021 was her posting a picture of herself in a bikini for a 52nd birthday. And she's, and sort of going Instagram official with Ben Affleck, which got over 8.8 million likes. And directly before and after these posts, she posts about JLo beauty. Then on April 2022, she mysteriously wants to share news with only her inner circle, which is basically anyone on the internet who wants to sign up to a newsletter. So a pretty business savvy way to build your email list through announcing your engagement. And before this post she posted about her brand partnership with Coach and then after that she posted about her Netflix halftime documentary.
Yeah, so we're definitely seeing a pattern of promotion around Ben.
Then in November, she really ramped this up and the publicity around their love story. And basically she did a reenactment of her This is Me Then album which came out I think 20 years ago, announcing her future upcoming album, This is Me Now. She did lots of interviews, including with Zane Lowe saying about her fairytale love story with Ben. And this sort of culminated with this beautiful cover on the front of Vogue saying, the title was “Love is in the Air”. So the whole theme that month was around her love story with Ben Affleck.
Well, that's really interesting, because in a way, it reminds me of the opposite of what Gwyneth does when she monetizes on the hate towards her, JLo monetizes on the romance and the fairytale.
Big time. And we know JLo loves to promote and make money but some of the stranger endorsements I found were these: First she honours America's Memorial Day with this post. “Happy Memorial Day. Join me today in honouring all the service women and men who served in our country and made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Hashtag Memorial Day then tags her shoe brand DSW.
And then the shoe brand replied, “Love those shoes”. And someone commented, “honouring the men and women who are fighting for our country does not involve a shoe photoshoot”.
Yeah, I mean, yeah.
Then this one was a little bit of a bizarre story, which I actually couldn't find much about on the internet, because I think it's been a bit of a flop. JLo announced with Richard Branson that she was going to launch these Virgin Voyages, kind of limitless cruise. And basically, it's a JLo cruise. And she promoted it a couple of years ago. But in reality, it's like a five day sailing experience from Miami. And someone replied, because she's not going to be on this cruise, she's just sort of titled the lifestyle guru.
So I just imagined she's just sort of, yeah, she's just literally the face of it. And someone said, “Unless JLo sails to Portsmouth. I'm not interested”.
I’m just trying to imagine that. So the whole thing, like I said, was odd. She didn't show up for the launch and when it set sail last month in April. I can't see any traction on social media or any PR around it. A lot of people said, “well, JLo didn't show up. And it's just a lot of JLo, booty burn classes, and entrepreneur talks”.
But she probably took the money and ran right.
But then the most recent backlash was the launch of a new alcohol brand DeLola in April, which has just got some reactions to her Instagram post, sort of launching the brand. “Super disappointed and confused. You're promoting something that you've openly shared that you do not partake in, because of the health effects of alcohol. Also, you're married to a man that struggles with alcohol addiction.” “I love her, but how many endorsements can you make. Now drinks?” And then finally, “Come on you don’t drink that junk! Haven’t you enough money?”
Oh, yeah. I mean, look, she's not the only celebrity who endorses all sorts of stuff. But those are some kind of big red flags that she'd openly talked about not drinking it, but not drinking alcohol because it's it's unhealthy for her. And also having an alcoholic husband. It does seem a little bit too in your face.
But I think a lot of celebrities are jumping on the alcohol wagon at the moment, aren't they? It's a cheap way to make a lot of money.
Yeah, I saw a Snoop Dogg bottle of wine, and I was really confused.
Isn't his brand weed?
Yeah, I know. But it was like red wine with Snoop Dogg on and I was like, well, if I'm buying red wine, I don't think Snoop Dogg's the first thing that comes to mind.
Just try to imagine that. And when you see the volumes of posts, she's sharing, especially on key days, like Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving, it's literally she has a product for every occasion. And it's hard not just to think that she's just cashing in rather than truly connecting with her fans. It also makes me wonder, referring back to that blind item, how much Ben is being used as a promotional tool? Or maybe they're in on it together?
Yeah. I mean, it's a complex thing, isn't it? Because it could be a very real relationship, but they’re monetizing it as well. There is a lot of backlash to that that has come up, because people are having it pushed in their faces. And because it feels like she's selling the romantic ideal. And now after having sort of maybe bought into that people seem to be desperate to actually see the cracks now. So at The Mother premiere recently, it was really interesting, because you sent me a link to the Mail Online. And the headline was, initially, “Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck share a kiss at The Mother premiere”. And I think when I skim through, it said a lot of stuff about them looking loved up and I think they even use the word ‘puppy love’. And then a few hours later, I went back to the same link for the same article, but they had completely changed it and rewritten it and it had a different title. And they had focused on a very different narrative. And this time, the title for that exact article had been changed to “Not again! Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck engage in yet another strained exchange at The Mother premiere, after a slew of tense public moments during two year rekindled romance.” So this time, they had some different shots and a video where they looked like they were arguing, and they really went into it in a lot of forensic detail. So they had, you know, a whole range of spin off articles that specifically hired lip-readers to reveal what they really said, and body language experts to decode what their red carpet body language really means, and you know, suddenly they're even saying the way that he closes a car door behind her is angry, and I saw that video and it was like, I don't know if it is, I mean, you can't really tell. It seems they're making a big thing about everything now, they're really looking for it. And there was a DM comment that says, “it looks like DM has now ushered in the psychics for lip reading, body language, and guess who from the past”. You know, and this comes on the heels of their appearance at the Grammys in February, where Ben had this expression of looking really bored and irritated and it went viral. And there was a moment that was caught on film where it looked like she was telling him off for looking miserable, and then they just clocked the camera was on them. And then they turn and were like - oh, no, everything’s fine!
That was so funny. Her smile was so frozen.
Ah, no! We got caught! Yeah.
But their facial expressions, it's really just brilliant. Because I'm going back to our Baby Bumps episode where we talk about catching celebrities in the wild. We just love it. Don't we?
Yeah, we do.
But just ,just to say that lip reader at the Mail Online is having a blockbuster year. And I just really want to meet them. They are constantly being drawn into the most juicy stories.
I just want to know who they are, and what's a day in the life of that lip reader. What are they doing? But like you said, because one of my in-jokes between me and my partner is this sort of Sad Ben meme,. Because he often sends it to me when he feels really defeated, and like I'm asking him to do something. You know, the one where he’s leaning against the wall with a cigarette - like Oh God! Like when I asked him anything. But like I said, they've been around for quite a long time. And I think the big one was in 2016, there was a photo of while he was listening to a negative critic review the movie during the interview with Yahoo UK. And Paper Magazine has called him “the personification of pure ennui, and almost every paparazzi photo only serves to solidify this projection”. And in fairness, this existed before they long got back together, but it's now being used suggest that he's now miserable with JLo. For example, on Reddit, “Free Ben Affleck! She's got his balls in a vice!” And as others have pointed out, in Twitter, “Ben Affleck is every introvert everywhere, you can see his batteries draining in real time, man is already at 23%”. On Reddit, “He’s a recovering alcoholic at an event where free alcohol is everywhere. The self control needed must be enormous and I am sure he would rather not be there in that situation with cameras analysing his every moment. I’m sure he was complaining to Jlo but she’s got to be there so he suffered through it.”
Yeah, and I mean, that's the thing, and we've said this before, a photo from a single angle in a single moment, I mean, it can be used to tell so many different narratives depending on what your angle is. So it's not really a good barometer of a person's entire character or an entire relationship. And some people just really hate selling stuff or pretending to be happy. I would be terrible on the red carpet, I would be, you know, I wouldn't be able to perform, I'd hate to be photographed all the time, it would be so stressful. I would, it didn't matter if I was with someone who is my favourite person in the world, I would look very strained. You can’t always extrapolate from that.
Exactly. And part of me is like, why are they still in Hollywood doing this all and not just taking their millions and sort of like chilling on a ranch out of sight, you know? And I'm not trying to knock them for wanting attention and success, and they they understand how the publicity machine works, but they don't seem fully content. And part of me is like when you reach the top like you really think when you get to that very top of life, like that zennith, all that fame and all that money, you think that actually you just want to step off for a while.
I mean, I get that. I think it depends on what gives you joy or what you're addicted to. And they're both quite addictive people, I get the sense that she is a bit of a work addict. You know, she's always wanting to climb that next mountain and that she does love the attention. And I think there was someone who summed it up by saying,” he really is looking haggard, they're like chalk and cheese, mismatched. She's all about celebrity and the whole circus involved in always being front and centre. And he's the opposite, hence his resting existential crisis face”. And I think what's interesting about that is this idea that, you know, they did say the media intrusion was why their relationship didn't work last time. But they sort of do everything they can to court it. It just seems to be I think once you open that door, you can't say, I only want the media attention exactly how I want it, but I don't want the stuff that I don't want. It's, It's not how it works with the media, unfortunately. And you just kind of weirdly hope them all the best. Which sounds weird, but I mean, in general, I just kind of want people to be happy. I'm not out there hoping that they're miserable.
Me too. Yeah, I do root for JLo. I do want her to do well. But there is part of me, like I said earlier, when I looked at her Instagram, it’s like I hate to judge, like I said, but it's too thirsty for me.
Yeah. And that's obviously driven by fear, I would say. I mean, people don't behave like that, they don't feel the need to constantly keep building and keep building if they, if they feel enough, if they feel like content. So this is coming from a fear based place, and that's an uncomfortable place to be living. But I mean, but saying that, she's got fabulous life.
And there is something like when you're that stunning, I understand that you want to take photos of yourself and your every image on Instagram. But for me, it's like, oh my God, I've just got loads of pictures of birds and dogs.
I mean, dude, if I looked like JLo, I'd never leave the mirror. I would just be like, wow I look really good. Just, I’d just be going to the gym to keep the body and then coming back to looking in the mirror.
So what are your, what are your final thoughts?
So I think Hollywood and the arts have long promoted the idea of soulmates and ‘the one’. And it's a very addictive concept that many of us really, we really want to believe. And the demand for romcoms really backs this up. And yes, many celebrities use their own love stories and intrigue into who they're dating to promote their work. But it does seem that Jennifer Lopez has taken this to a whole new level as a self proclaimed romantic. And more than that, it seems she actively uses this narrative of the romantic ideal to sell everything from music, to movies, to clothes, to beauty, to perfume, and now alcohol, and apparently also, cruises. And on one hand, I really admire her work ethic. And to point out she's not literally holding a gun to anyone's head and forcing them to buy her products. But I do think there is a danger in using hyper exaggerated versions of romantic bliss as your brand, both because of the pressure it puts on you yourself, and also because the message that's being sold, particularly to young girls, it's this idea that a man will complete you and that true love looks like perfection. And as we described earlier, this can really lead to many negative consequences. And it also seems to be a pattern that the media loves to promote a ‘happy ever after’ only to have the couple looking for or maybe even, you could say, creating cracks later in order to sell more content and a different narrative. Fortunately, there does seem to be a rise in shows and films that also celebrate relationships in their more realistic versions, the sort of warts and all approach. And yes, love is a basic human desire. But it doesn't come only in the romantic form. There are so many types of love. And sometimes taking time out of relationships to be with yourself is the most loving thing you can do.
Oh, that was lovely. And I just want to say I love you, Sarah.
I love you too.
All right, then. So thank you. Oh, I'm gonna leave it with my quote. Sorry. Yes. I love this. Wish I read this years ago. “You can't choose your soulmate, but you can choose your therapist.”
Oh, lovely. Yes!
And thank you for listening.
This has actually been our last full episode of our first season. But don't worry, we'll be back in June. And stay tuned for some bonus episodes that we're going to drop during our break. So we'll see you in June!
Thank you to our lovely producer Emily. If you enjoyed today's episode, please don't forget to leave a review and subscribe. It really does help us in reaching more people.
Also, you can follow us on Instagram at straight to the comments podcast. Our handle is @s2tcpodcast. And join us next time when we'll be diving headfirst straight to the comments. See you there. This podcast has been produced by Emily Crosby media