The catalog of celebrities my parents and I can appreciate together is tiny. They’re Spanish-speaking immigrants from Nicaragua, so while they know of globally-recognized Americans like Madonna and Michael Jackson, they don’t wholly understand the characteristics and personality traits that make these icons just that. To them, Beyoncé is a famous Black woman that people love, but they can’t relate to the Beyoncé effect, that tingly sensation we all experience each time she releases new music or shares another caption-less Instagram post. My folks don’t watch Netflix (or as they’d pronounce it, “Nefli”), so we can’t compare notes about Monica from Cheer, or discuss why Selling Sunset would be nothing without Christine Quinn. Instead, our pop culture discussions center around bilingual crossover stars with Latinx roots: Selena Quintanilla, Shakira, Ricky Martin, Sofia Vergara, you get the picture.
Which explains why Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s relationship wields so much influence in our household. Growing up in the ‘90s, my weekends were spent dancing salsa and singing along to Anthony’s “Te Conozco Bien” or “Nadie Como Ella” as I swept our tile floors and completed my chores in order to watch TV. He was lo máximo, the best. So in 1999, my googly-eyed 8-year-old self was fascinated to see two of my worlds collide. That year, Lopez, who my family recognized from Selena (a classic), released her debut album, On the 6, which not only produced infectious hits like “If You Had My Love” and “Let’s Get Loud,” but also “No Me Ames,” a Spanish-language ballad featuring Anthony, the King of Salsa himself.
For the first time, I discovered a work of art created by New York-born Puerto Ricans that directly mirrored my own bi-cultural upbringing, a song reflective of what it’s like to grow up in the U.S. with parents still deeply connected to the Latin American rituals I was raised to love. My family and I watched the “No Me Ames” video repeatedly on MTV or Spanish-language networks like Telemundo and Univision. And it’s because of that music video’s storyline — they play star-crossed lovers (he dies of illness at the end) — that my childhood self immediately assumed Lopez and Anthony were married in real life, permanently tethered no matter the realities of their very-public and then-separate dating lives. Not only did the video provide something for my family and I to nod our heads to together, it also gave us something to gossip and laugh about (read: it’s pretty cheesy).
Of course, life can often imitate art, and Lopez and Anthony did share a romantic relationship outside of that video. While they briefly dated between 1998 and 1999, they rekindled and got married in 2004, the same year in which Lopez split from ex-fiancé Ben Affleck, and Anthony split from former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres. In 2008, Lopez and Anthony welcomed twins, Emme and Max, and then shared a few more years of what appeared to be happily wedded bliss.
As a couple, they gave us public displays of affection that pointed to a purely organic chemistry, a chemistry that fans like me believed was emblematic of true love. At home in Miami, my family and I also felt deeply connected to this power duo for their close relationship to South Florida; Anthony became a part owner of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, and they were regularly photographed living glamorously about town. Their union was mi cultura, my home, an extension of the limited people, places, and things everyone in my household could relate to.
That they’re meant to be together is quite simply a fact in my mind, a truism equal to noting the sky is blue or that in 2020 you should wear a mask.
Lopez and Anthony tragically announced their amicable separation in 2011 and finalized their divorce in 2014, but the end of their relationship is one I haven’t grown to accept. While Lopez is now happily engaged to Alex Rodriguez (please note the awkward tension in this trio photo from 2005) and Anthony is very much in Emme and Max’s lives, I can’t help but hold on to hope that the exes will eventually return to one other. As a Lopez-Anthony stan, it’s painful to watch this 2012 Dance Again tour performance in which Lopez surprises fans in Puerto Rico by welcoming Anthony on stage to sing “No Me Ames.” During this post-split show, while fans squeal and chant for more, there’s a tearful glimmer in each of their eyes, perhaps a televised example of the grief that follows when the relationship you share with someone you love deeply must evolve.
Lopez has repeatedly discussed how the dissolution of their marriage was heartbreaking (“there’s no pain of failure like going through a divorce”), though necessary for their personal growth and happiness. That’s fine, but there’s one quote Anthony delivered during a 2011 interview with ABC News that explains why saying goodbye to their years spent together still feels premature, and why it still remains a talking point at my family reunions. Revealing that they separated because of “a realization on both of our parts,” he gives the interviewer a dead-eyed expression and says, as if they were his last words, “I’ll always love Jennifer. I’ll always love Jennifer. She knows that.” With that, how am I expected to move on?
Breakups That Broke Us is a weekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.
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