In 1996, the first issue of Latina magazine hit newsstands featuring a then-little-known Jennifer Lopez on the cover.
Fifteen years later, Jennifer Lopez is not only a global superstar, she is also one of the biggest, most bankable brands in show business, with accomplishments that range from being the first woman to have both a film and an album at number one in the same week, to being crowned the "World's Most Beautiful Woman."
To me, however, what's most exciting about looking at the trajectory of Jennifer's remarkable career—as we recently did at Latina magazine for our special, newly-released quinceñeara issue—is how closely her evolution mirrors the evolution of Hispanic women in the U.S., and, by extension, the evolution of Latina magazine.
Just one look at our anniversary cover makes it compellingly clear just how much the Latina population has changed—and just how far we have come—during the last 15 years is. Next to the simple line, "15 Latinas We Love," is a three-panel photograph spotlighting 15 of the most influential celebrities from throughout the magazine's history.
Jennifer Lopez is not one of the 15 women pictured.
Now, before you start sending me hate mail, let me reiterate the overriding theme of this piece: that there is no Latina magazine without Jennifer, no recounting of modern Latina history without Jennifer, and no one who has more consistently represented Latinas than Jennifer. But what was exciting to me and my staff when we started to brainstorm ideas for our 15th anniversary cover, is that—while Jennifer might have kicked in Hollywood's door 15 years ago, and has continued kicking in other doors ever since—there has been, at the same time, an incredible group of Latinas going full speed ahead right there along with her.
When Jennifer first came on the scene, most of mainstream America looked at the growing Hispanic population as being comprised almost entirely of recent immigrants who spoke only Spanish. Jennifer, of course, was born in the U.S., and grew up speaking English as her first language—just as the majority of today's Latinos do. No wonder then that while Latina started out being fully bilingual, meaning every single article appeared in both English and Spanish, today, all of its editorial content—both in the magazine and online—is in English only.
Similarly, 15 years ago, Latinas were stereotyped not only in Hollywood but also in everyday, mainstream perception as "the help": cleaning ladies and nannies, food workers and field hands. Today, of course, Jennifer Lopez is an internationally-respected entrepreneur who has built a multimillion-dollar empire around several fashion and beauty lines. Her business interests reflect that of her fellow Latinas, who are starting businesses at a rate of six times the national average, while in the pages of Latina, our readers have demanded more coverage of career and financial topics, as well as inspiring corporate role models.
But the real story to tell about our 15 years is that Jennifer was not alone. We have the likes of Salma, Eva, and Jessica; of Zoe, Gloria, and Selena. (In fact, we had so many amazing stars to choose from that our final list is already being hotly-debated by bloggers and readers.) These are women who live not only in the worlds of music and movies and TV, but also serve as the faces of big beauty lines and big corporations, who use their power to get us to vote and to give back, who work both in front of and behind the cameras to break down stereotypes and redefine the way non-Latinos see us.
They are women, who, in short, are changing global culture. And I consider it a great moment of personal pride, as well of in Latina history, to be able to showcase these groundbreakers on a cover that proves, once and for all, the ultimate lesson Jennifer Lopez has taught the world: That there is no stopping us.