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Jennifer Lopez is very much still "Jenny from the Block" and she’s made it clear that her background is an integral part of her career.
“I've never ever tried to hide the fact that I was a Puerto Rican from the Bronx," Lopez told NBC Latino. "Everybody knew it right off the bat. It's not something I felt would be a detriment, it made me special and who I am."
Though Lopez is an icon herself, many remember her for her portrayal of Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Currently, Lopez is a judge on American Idol: The Farewell Season and executive produces, as well as stars, in NBC’s TV series "Shades of Blue."
Lopez plays Harlee Santos, a single-mother and NYPD detective who is forced to work against her fellow cops in the FBI’s anti-corruption task force -- all while juggling her duties as a mother and detective. NBC Latino spoke with Lopez about her latest TV project and about the recent talk of Hollywood’s diversity issues.
“Shades of Blue was a script that came to me to produce and I loved it immediately. I thought about playing Harlee but initially it was something I would produce. At the end of the day, the character was so strong and good; everybody just thought this would be a great thing for me to do,” Lopez said.
Hollywood is still facing backlash over the fact that there were zero nominations for actors of color at this year's Oscars, prompting the #Oscarsowhite. A recent study released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found only 5.8 percent of speaking characters in film and TV were Hispanic or Latino out of the 11,000 speaking characters surveyed.
Lopez acknowledged the lack of a diverse presence as “something that has been going on for a long time,” and despite her universal fame, has even dealt with this problem herself.
“It's a difficult situation," she said. "I've struggled with it in my career because I am a Latin so there are certain roles that I'm not considered for and my name never even comes up.”
The past year has been a big step forward for showcasing diverse talent in the field of television. Shows like "Shades of Blue," "Fresh off the Boat," "Empire," "Blackish" and "Telenovela" are paving the roads for entertainment that is more representative of the society that we live in.
“Now you’re seeing more diversity on television that reflects society," Lopez said. "Television has always been at the forefront of pushing those boundaries and letting people know, hey this is what the world is and I think that's a step in the right direction.”