Reconstructing J. Lo

The Style section of The New York Times published a curious article about the second life of Jennifer Lopez. Her career started with the Fly Girls and made it to the media saturation point; she was making music, starring in movies, had a successful perfume, a clothing line, and was one half of the super-couple Bennifer.

After a few misses, like the stink bomb Gigli, and some time out of the spotlight, the article says J. Lo is back. Yippee and hooray. But strangely, the article frames her comeback as a construct; she’s back in a way that’s palatable, but a little tenuous.

For example, she tried to talk up pricey labels with her last flop of a song (the Times reporter called it “recession insensitive”) “Louboutins.” But, the event that she’s hosting in the article focuses on a line for Macy’s — she’s quoted saying, “It doesn’t have to be expensive” — and she’s scheduled to appear with her hubby Marc Anthony to introduce a clothing line for Kohl’s.

And while she has a hit song out now, “On the Floor” with Pitbull, her album isn’t breaking any Billboard records. She is enjoying some renewed celebrity on American Idol and People called her the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman.” But she’s still making bad movies like The Back-Up Plan.

Lopez was working with the PR firm BWR, the story says, but ended that relationship to take up again with her manager Benny Medina, who she once sued.

“Right now, Jennifer is a celebrity of the people, and it’s a strategy that is really, really working for her,” Peter Castro, deputy managing editor of People tells the paper.

“To me, Jennifer defined a glamour and a New York, street-edge, Girl-From-the-Bronx-Gone-to-Hollywood-Done-Well attitude, and that has to come across in how she’s presented,” said Medina.

“The person everyone’s getting to know on ‘Idol’ now is always the person I’ve been,” says Lopez.

So is it a strategy? Is she Hollywood or the “’round the way girl”? Or is this a different side of the Jennifer we all knew but didn’t know it? It all just seems like grasping at celebrity straws, seeing what works with the audience and going with it. But is that a recipe for long-term success?