Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez on Love, Beauty, and Redemption


‘It was just one of those things where you feel compelled to do
something you wouldn’t normally do,” says Jennifer Lopez, explaining
how she and retired Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, who made their
red-carpet debut as a couple last spring at the Met Gala, came to be a
modern Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio—that is, if Monroe and DiMaggio
had been happy, highly functional fortysomethings who had apparently
done battle with their demons and emerged the victors.

It was last winter as she was having lunch in Beverly Hills that she saw
Rodriguez walk by. “I almost yelled out ‘Alex,’ but I am the shyest
person when it comes to things like that,” she says. When she went
outside, he was still there, facing away from her. “I could literally
just have walked away,” she says. “But I walk over and tap him on the
shoulder and say ‘Hey.’

“I had just come from a promo for my show, Shades of Blue [in which
she plays N.Y.P.D. detective Harlee Santos], so I’m dressed like my
character, like a boy—Timberlands, jeans, curly short hair. He looks
at me. I say, ‘It’s Jennifer.’ He says, ‘You look so beautiful.’ ”

She and I are sitting on a stone patio at Lopez’s new house in Bel Air, overlooking an infinity pool and a lush green lawn with a double-size swing, which she points out is perfect for her nine-year-old twins, Emme and Max. The house is light-filled, sprawling, and warm, with wood-beamed ceilings, stone walls, plush low-slung sofas, big pillows, bowls filled with cut roses, and artwork by collagist Peter Tunney. “GRATTITUDƎ,” one piece spells out. It’s a portmanteau of “gratitude” and “attitude” that could define Lopez. Wearing a cropped turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans, high Christian Louboutin boots, and impressive diamond earrings, she is as startlingly beautiful at 48 as she was at 28—if not more so. “We walked into this house, and I said, ‘This is where I want my kids to grow up,’ ” she says. “You have to imagine your life, and what you want to be in it, and I imagined we would be very happy here no matter what.”

Happy, naturally, has turned out differently from what she imagined.
Just hours after Rodriguez met her in Beverly Hills, he called her, and
they agreed to have dinner a few nights later. She told him that she
remembered meeting him on a baseball diamond, 12 years earlier. Her then
husband, Marc Anthony, had thrown out the first pitch of a New York Mets
game, but the cameras captured Lopez and Rodriguez shaking hands and
locking eyes. “You don’t have to say you remember if you don’t,” she
told him. “Shea Stadium, during a subway series,” he responded.

Just then, Rodriguez walks out of the house to join us on the patio. “I
was telling her about the tap,” she says to him. “But there were two
taps,” he says. She turns to me. “There was another very significant
tap on the shoulder,” she says.

Before we get to that tap, we talk about their first date, when they met
for dinner at the Hotel Bel Air. “He was sitting there in his white
shirt, very confident and manly, but then he was just so talkative!”
she says. “I think he thought I was going to be this loud person, but
I’m not. I just listen. So he’s talking, talking about his plans, about
how he had just retired from baseball, about how he saw himself getting
married again, all these things you wouldn’t normally talk about on a
first date. I don’t know if he thought it was a date. I thought it was a
date. Then I knew he was nervous because he asked me if I wanted a
drink. I said, ‘No, I don’t drink,’ and he asked if I minded if he had
one. He was nervous, and it was really cute.”

“I didn’t know if it was a date,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe we were
seeing each other at night because of her work schedule. I went in
uneasy, not knowing her situation.”

He continues: “It would be incredibly productive for me to sit with one
of the smartest, greatest women in the world, especially for a guy like
me who is coming through tough times, rehabbing himself, re-establishing
himself to folks out there. I thought it would be a win-win no matter

Then: “She told me around the third or fourth inning that she was
single,” he says. “I had to get up and go re-adjust my thoughts. I
went to the bathroom and got enough courage to send her a text.”

“So I’m sitting there and he’s walking back, and I get a text,” Lopez
continues. “It says . . . ” She looks significantly at Rodriguez.
“You can tell her!” he says. “ ‘You look bady AF,’ ” she tells me.
They both laugh. “And then it took a turn,” Lopez says. “The fire
alarm went off, and we had to evacuate.” I laugh, thinking she’s being
metaphorical. “No, really,” she says. “The fire alarm went off!”

But about that other tap. This one was metaphorical. In August 2016,
when Rodriguez announced his retirement from baseball, with his mother
and his daughters Natasha and Ella in the stands, four runs short of 700
home runs, he said, “Baseball has a funny way of tapping you on the
shoulder when you least expect it and telling you that it’s the end.”
It’s a year later, and now, he says, “I’m thinking about one door
closing and another opening, and if that first door doesn’t close, well,
there isn’t that second tap.”

Rodriguez’s story about the tap is a poignant reminder that this isn’t
just another love story. It’s the story of two people with rich and at times tumultuous pasts, which are part of the reason they have a present as a couple. “We are very much twins,” he says. “We’re both Leos; we’re both from New York; we’re both Latino and about 20 other things.”

“I understand him in a way that I don’t think anyone else could, and he
understands me in a way that no one else could ever,” she says. “In
his 20s, he came into big success with the biggest baseball contract
[at the time]. I had a No. 1 movie and a No. 1 album and made
history. We both had ups and downs and challenges in our 30s, and by our
40s we’d both been through so much. And more importantly than anything,
we had both done a lot of work on ourselves.”

Lopez, whose parents came from Puerto Rico, grew up in the Bronx, where
she shared a bedroom with her two sisters. She famously left home at 18
to make it as a dancer, and burst on the scene in 1991 as one of the Fly
Girls on Fox’s In Living Color, the hit comedy series. She quickly
parlayed her luminous beauty, talent, and sheer workaholism into a
series of starring roles, including Marisa in Maid in Manhattan, which
grossed more than $150 million worldwide.

Of their first date Lopez recalls, “I don’t know if he thought it was
a date. I thought it was a date. . . . He was nervous, and it was
really cute.”

Being a movie star wasn’t enough for Lopez. She also released a string
of hit albums and became a fashion icon. In 2003, she signed a lucrative
endorsement deal with Louis Vuitton. “Now it’s odd if you’re a
celebrity and you don’t serve as the spokesperson for a brand,” says
Benny Medina, her longtime manager, whom Lopez credits with seeing the
potential of celebrities as brands long before it was commonplace. “But
back then there were plenty of snarky comments.”

In 2013, Lopez was granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the
following year she became the first female artist to receive a Billboard
Icon Award; her net worth has been estimated at more than $300 million.
“There are people who put their feet in other people’s footsteps,”
says Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who was once Lopez’s agent and is now a
partner in her production company. “Jennifer had no footsteps in front
of her, so much of the terrain had to be forged.”

There was a cost, Lopez learned. “When you have that type of success at
a young age you have to navigate it, almost survive it,” she says. “I
was the first Latin actress to ever make $1 million from a role, and
you feel, Oh God, I have to do something great all the time.” There
were the inevitable flops (most prominently Gigli, her movie with then
boyfriend Ben Affleck) and three failed marriages, the
last of which
was with Marc Anthony
, the father of her twins.

And so her story isn’t just about astounding achievement but also about
personal growth and resilience. “I was eviscerated,” she recalls about
the press on Gigli. “I lost my sense of self, questioned if I belonged
in this business, thought maybe I did suck at everything. And my
relationship [with Affleck] self-destructed in front of the entire
world. It was a two-year thing for me until I picked myself up again.”

She has also conquered what was once her biggest fear: being alone. Last
August, she broke up with dancer Casper Smart in an effort to learn how.
“She’s a seeker,” says her close friend Leah Remini, the actress and
anti-Scientology activist. “She’s always trying to improve herself, her
relationships, be a better friend, a better daughter, a better mother, a
better person. She’s not closed-minded.”

If self-doubt and self-reflection aren’t what you’d expect from a diva,
it’s striking how little diva there is to Lopez these days.
Goldsmith-Thomas, who, in 2004, was diagnosed with Stage Three bad
cancer, recalls that Lopez would show up for her chemo appointments.
“She made me very popular on the chemo ward!,” Goldsmith says. “She’d
bring clothing for everyone from her Sweetface line and she’d rub my
bald head and talk about dreams. It was really important to talk about
the future because she wanted me to know there was one. That girl saved
my life.”

Rodriguez tells me that Lopez is happiest at home, in pj’s, eating
chocolate-chip cookies with friends. She and Rodriguez like to talk in
terms of “reveals”: the unexpected moments that tell you who someone
else is. An early one for him, he says, was discovering that Lopez was
“the role model for health and wellness. She rarely drinks. She tries
to get at least eight hours of sleep.” He adds, “That helps explain
why she’s so beautiful.”

She’s also been willing to take risks to stay relevant, no easy task in
a world where female stars are widely believed to have an expiration
date. In 2010, she agreed to become a judge on American Idol, which some
people derided as a comedown. But it worked. “Viewers who knew only an
attention-grabbing siren met a hardworking, self-made, empathetic single
mother,” observed Forbes. “No one from my team wanted me to do
American Idol except Benny,” Lopez says. “But I felt I had something
to offer, and in the back of my mind, I thought, Maybe people will get
to know me a little bit better.” She adds, “With reality TV, you can’t
hide who you are. You just can’t. It’s going to come through.”

Rookie Season

As Lopez was becoming J.Lo, so Alex Rodriguez was becoming A-Rod. He was
just 18 and the youngest player in the league when he made his debut
with the Mariners, in July 1994. He turned in a series of impressive
stats that galvanized the baseball world—like becoming the youngest
player to hit 500 home runs. For the 2001 season, he was offered a
record-breaking 10-year $252 million contract by the Texas Rangers. In
2004, Rodriguez was traded to the New York Yankees, and in 2007 he
negotiated another 10-year deal.

Like Lopez, Rodriguez is not a child of privilege. He too was born in
New York City. When Alex was eight, his parents, immigrants from the
Dominican Republic, moved the family to Miami, where his mother became a
secretary in an immigration office and waited tables at night. When he
was 10, his dad moved out of the house.

As with Lopez, success made him feel not comfort and security but a
near-desperate drive to succeed even more. (And you can see how
would foster that attitude in a young athlete.) “My No. 1 goal was to
give R.O.I. [return on investment] to owners who believed in me,”
he recalls. In 2008, his marriage to Cynthia Scurtis, with whom he had
daughters Natasha and Ella, broke up, due to his relationship with
Madonna, and his dates with stars from Kate Hudson to Cameron Diaz
became tabloid fodder. Plus, there were the injuries: two major hip
surgeries, two knee surgeries.

“We’re both like this,” Lopez says. “We put so much pressure on
ourselves to be great, to be the best all the time. We understood that
about each other. When we came together it was ‘Oh my God, I was the
same way.’ ”

Rodriguez’s career was ultimately sidelined by the steroid scandal,
which rocked Major League Baseball in the mid-2000s. Rodriguez had
earlier admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during his time with
the Rangers, but adamantly denied he’d continued the practice while with
the Yankees. After a protracted fight with both the Yankees and the
M.L.B., Rodriguez was suspended for an entire season—one of the
largest penalties in baseball history—in early 2014. “I was hoping
the suspension would be shorter,” he says today. “I remember when Tony
Clark, the head of our union, called me and said, ‘It’s a full
season—it’s 162 [games],’ it was a knife to my ribs.” Rodriguez
says he didn’t leave his house for seven days. “I thought I’d played my
last game. I grew a beard—as much as I can grow it—and didn’t want
to see anyone, including my kids.”

I ask him what he learned during that year. “Do you have enough time?”
he asks.

As he talks, Lopez nestles into him. “I started brushing myself off,
thinking, How do I come back into the world?” he says.

The year off, he realized, could give him the chance to heal not just
his body but also his mind. “I felt I could work on myself, understand
why I kept making mistakes. . . . In a weird way, 2014 will be the
best thing that ever happened to me. It forced a paradigm shift.” He
continues: “I remember thinking one night . . . Don’t know if I told
you this, babe [he says to Lopez] . . . In the middle of this
craziness, I remember it’s three A.M., four A.M., and like many nights,
I couldn’t sleep. I’m not a crier, but I’m bawling. . . . My pillows
are now soaking wet, and it’s the middle of the night, and I’m thinking
I’m the only bading badhole that gets pocket aces and figures out a way
to lose the hand. I was so angry at myself, so pissed off, that it was
hard to breathe.”

“How did you get through?” I ask. “Help,” he says. “The work I did,
that was one of the most painful and most rewarding experiences of my
life, and it continues to this day. I tell myself, ‘I’m rounding first
base and going to second base. It’s a process.’ ”

He says he decided to do like Rocky Balboa, to try to make the team “as
a broken-down 40-year-old that didn’t have a lot of allies.” And he
succeeded, finishing the season with 33 home runs. “I did that at 40
and 100 percent clean, and no one can take that away from me,” he says.
“It told me everything about who I was.” When he retired, he agreed to
stay on as an adviser to Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner and as a mentor
to younger players. “From where I came from, that honor is like hitting
800,” he says.

This, to Lopez, was a reveal. “The most impressive thing to me was how
he did pick himself up and take that opportunity to make himself a
better person,” she says. “The hardest times prove who you are. That’s
what I love and admire the most about Alex. He doesn’t let anything beat
him. He just comes back stronger.”

Each believes that if they had been single when they met, 12 years ago,
the relationship wouldn’t have worked. “We had to grow and discover
ourselves first,” she says. But it also works for another reason. As
Goldsmith-Thomas says, “They weren’t afraid to dream, and they are
still dreaming, both of them.”

The next night, Lopez is performing her smash show All I Have in Las
Vegas. Onstage, she moves seamlessly from the best kind of bady—with a
sense of humor—to a festive Latin-inspired segment, to an utterly
moving testimonial to her children, in which she sings Lee Ann Womack’s
“I Hope You Dance.” She’s an incandescent performer, partly because,
as Remini says, “there is nothing Jennifer does that she does
half-baded. When she is in a project, she is in it, devouring it.”

“A-Rod’s in the house,” someone from the audience yells. She laughs.
Yes, A-Rod is in the house. Although he’s seen the show many times, he’s
still watching every detail. He nudges me, pointing out a middle-aged
woman in a pink pantsuit dancing ecstatically to “Jenny from the
Block.” Then he points out a gay couple in the front row practically
swooning after one gets to touch Lopez’s feet. During a segment that’s
all New York, with Lopez in a sequined baseball jersey, he nudges me
again. “If you look closely, you’ll see what number she’s wearing on
her jersey,” he says. It’s 13, his Yankee number.

He says, “We are very much twins.” She says, “I understand him in a
way that I don’t think anyone else could.”

Earlier that day, she and Rodriguez were in Los Angeles at the premiere
event for this season’s Shark Tank, in which Rodriguez will be the first
Latino shark. At a panel where the sharks discussed the show, the
investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says, “A lot of us were
pleasantly surprised that when Alex came in, he knew his stuff cold.”

During the red-carpet interviews, Lopez, who is impossibly glamorous in
a floor-length tweed coat and aviator sunglbades, hangs at the back of
the crowd. “Does it feel weird to be in the background?” I ask.
“Noooo,” she says. “I like it. Because I’m out there enough. Some
people, it wouldn’t work—they can’t stand not being the one in the
spotlight. But not us.”

Back in Business

Their story is also a merger of business empires. Lopez, who back in
2002—way before everyone else was becoming an entrepreneur—launched
her fragrance Glow by J.Lo, now has a big portfolio of business
interests, which range from her production company to sprawling property
holdings. Rodriguez seems to slot right into her world.

From a young age, he sought out mentors who could help him build a
business that would one day replace his baseball income. During his
suspension year, he took investing clbades at Columbia and marketing
clbades at the University of Miami. Today, A-Rod Corp is an investment
firm focused on a broad array of industries, including real estate,
sports and wellness, media, and entertainment. “I don’t have your
traditional formal education,” he says. “Mine comes through reading
and pbadion and grit and collecting a lot of information from my
mentors. I’ve never been afraid to say, ‘I don’t know. Can you explain
that to me?’

That’s echoed by hedge-fund billionaire Marc Lasry, who has invested
with Rodriguez for the last decade. “What’s interesting about Alex is
that he’s a sponge,” Lasry says. “He really wants to learn.” Another
mentor of sorts is Mary Callahan Erdoes, the C.E.O. of J.P. Morgan Asset
& Wealth Management, who met Rodriguez around the time that Lasry did.
“You might be expecting something different,” she says. “But from the
first day, he had his notebook out. He’s incredibly curious and serious.
There’s no nonsense and no pomp and circumstance.” That’s true to this
day, Erdoes says, whether he’s attending a JPMorgan-hosted conference on
Brexit or a meeting with a hedge-fund manager. “He sits in the front of
the room with his notebook out and his hand up, asking questions,” she

Rodriguez’s innate curiosity—about business, about other people, about
fresh concepts—makes him stand out in a world where many people lack
that trait. “The real reason people do deals with Alex is that they
like him and he’s smart,” says Lasry.

Prominent on Rodriguez’s list of mentors is eminent investor Warren
Buffett, whom Rodriguez met when Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway
underwrote disability insurance for his contract with the Rangers.
Rodriguez sent Buffett a thank-you note and asked if he could come
visit, thinking he’d get a quick “No.” But Buffett said yes, and
Rodriguez has counted him as a friend ever since.

Buffett tells me that Rodriguez “has what I call a ‘money mind,’
meaning he instinctively knows many things about dealing with money that
other people never learn and to some extent can’t be taught.” Buffett
adds, “A-Rod would have done very well in business if he had never seen
a baseball.”

What’s the best advice Buffett has ever given him? “On the business
side, it was always non-recourse debt,” Rodriguez says. “Don’t
personally guarantee it. And cash is like oxygen: you need it, but you
don’t need too much of it. You’d rather have your money in great

Rodriguez recalls that one day long ago Buffett gave him a different
kind of advice. “He said, ‘I have two things for you,’ ” Rodriguez
says. “I asked, ‘Do you mind if I take out a notebook?’ Warren said,
‘Go ahead, but you won’t need it. Number one: Be the best baseball
player you can be. Number two: Always be a gentleman. Be the best guy
you can be.’ . . . That was simple, but it was so genius.”

The couple is taking his advice to heart. Days after Hurricane Maria
struck Puerto Rico, Lopez gave $1 million to help its victims there,
and she and Rodriguez asked their contacts in Hollywood and in the
business world to raise $26 million. In mid-October, Lopez, together
with Rodriguez and her ex-husband Marc Anthony, organized a benefit
concert and telethon that brought in an additional $9 million in
pledges for Puerto Rico’s relief efforts.

The day after I saw Lopez’s show in Las Vegas, we meet at one of
Rodriguez’s latest investments, which he discovered when he was looking
for a place to work out in Las Vegas—members of Lopez’s crew had raved
about it. Called TruFusion, it offers more than 65 styles of instruction
and 35 to 40 daily clbades in yoga, Pilates, kettlebell exercises, and
battle-rope workouts in heated rooms.

Last June, Rodriguez purchased a major stake in the company, and now
owns the development rights for all of Florida. President and C.O.O.
Jonathan Fornaci says the clbades can be so hard that he sees some
professional athletes take breaks during them, but “Alex kills it. And
immediately afterward he’s drilling down, asking questions that any
private-equity badyst would be asking.”

I’m warned that the “Down N Dirty Bootcamp” will be hard and sweaty,
and it is precisely as advertised. At one point, confused by the welter
of instructions—Left! Right! Kettlebell! Weight! Sandbag!—I look
over at Lopez and roll my eyes in desperation. “I get confused, too,”
she says. “Just watch everyone else.” During some particularly brutal
leg lifts, I give up. She does not. In fact, she starts singing. At the
end, we’re all sitting on our mats, drenched in sweat and exhausted.
Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”’ is playing.

Living the Dream

It’s clear as day that neither of them is hitting Pause. After Vegas,
she’s off to New York, where her children are in school, and he’s off to
Atlanta, where he’s filming a pilot for a CNBC reality show that will
help retired athletes who are struggling financially. Rodriguez says he
keeps himself grounded with some key words: “Gratitude and
appreciation. When someone offers me a job, I thank the Lord that I have
work, and I beg for more work.”

And he adds, “We’re really good at reminding each other.” They begin
to tell me a story, one in which Lopez is in the bath, and Rodriguez is
sitting by the fire in a robe. Looking at my face, he starts laughing.
“You’re like, ‘Where are you going with this story, and is it going to
get R-rated?’ ” But it’s not R-rated, not at all. He says he got hot
from the fire and went to sit on the patio outside their room, with a
book and his feet up, in the crisp air. Lopez breaks in. “I came out
and said, ‘What are you doing out here?’ He said, ‘Living the
dream.’ ”

It’s clear from the story that he said it in a way that was free of
irony. “I thought, Wow, this person is different,” Lopez says.
“Because a lot of people I’ve met in my life, they don’t appreciate
what they’re doing and how amazing it is . . . not the greatness of
the house, but the moment of sitting there with someone you love, with a
family, with healthy kids.”

All over the house are pictures of their four children as one family;
when I ask Rodriguez which of his businesses he’s most pbadionate about,
he responds, without missing a beat, “My daughters.”

As we drive from TruFusion to a little restaurant in a Vegas strip mall
called Greens and Proteins, they say that early in their relationship
they’d text each other using the hashtag #bloodinbloodout, after the
Mexican gangster film that is in some ways about the unbreakable ties of
family. At the restaurant, a few people turn and stare, but mostly we’re
ignored, probably because no one can quite believe it’s them. He’s in
workout clothes; she’s wearing a cropped pink sweatshirt, no makeup, and
has her hair pulled back in a bun. When we sit down, Rodriguez asks what
surprised me the most about spending time with them. I answer that I was
surprised, even shocked, by their genuine interest in other people. But
when I walked behind them as they left TruFusion, their hands were
touching and they were talking intently. It was normal and natural and
easy. And that’s an even better answer: I’m most surprised to see that,
out of two often surreal lives, they are managing to make one
wonderfully real life.

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