So many of us dream of having it all, and then there's Jennifer Lopez.
A plum TV gig as a judge on FOX's American Idol? Check. Recording success, with more than 55 million records sold? Check. Plus a movie career, a clothing line, endorsement deals, a production company, two beautiful children, and a glowing presence that belies any sleep deprivation. It's enough to make the rest of us pull the covers over our heads in the morning and accept defeat.
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Yet Lopez, 42, insists that everyone has the capacity for great achievements. In her new role as the first female spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in its 152-year history, Lopez reminds people that "Jenny From the Block," as she once dubbed herself in song, is from a hardscrabble stretch in New York City's South Bronx. In the halls of her local Boys & Girls Club, Kips Bay, Lopez found a mentor who recognized and encouraged her love of music and dance.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America (bgca.org) aims to put children on the right track and, against the odds, keep them there. "I'm honored to be an alumna from such a wonderful and celebrated organization," says Lopez, who works alongside actor Denzel Washington, a spokesman for the club for two decades. Like him, she aims to inspire the 4 million kids who show up daily at one of the 4,000 national clubhouses, where they play sports, take classes, eat healthy meals, and engage with mentors and peers in a nurturing environment. "I hope I can give back just a small amount of the encouragement and support I experienced in my young adult years at the Boys & Girls Club. It empowered me, and that's a gift I would like to continue giving," Lopez says. "If I encourage one boy or girl to believe, then I have succeeded."
The Boys & Girls Clubs' Mission
The Boys & Girls Clubs boasts other famous alumni in sports and entertainment, including Kerry Washington, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Usher, Ashanti, and Martin Sheen. Even those who don't go on to fame have a head start on success: Ninety percent of club members graduate from high school, compared with the national average of 74%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"We provide a safe place where children can learn and grow with adult mentors who love them and won't let them fail," says the clubs’ president and CEO, Roxanne Spillett. "Our vision is that every child who walks in our doors graduates from high school with a plan for the future. Our motto is 'Great futures start here,' and Jennifer is a beautiful example of that."
As the clubs' new voice, Lopez says she encourages children to embrace "empowerment, determination, and passion. Those are the ingredients to fulfilling your dreams." Even more crucial? Learning to take care of yourself, the earlier the better, she says. "No matter how busy or how demanding your life is, you need to ensure you are both physically and mentally fit," says Lopez, who credits plenty of sleep and taking time "just to breathe and clear my mind" for her own sense of feeling centered. Then, and only then, she says, "can you be the best at what you are doing at the moment, working or even being a mother."