Let us once and for all put Jennifer Lopez
's legendary posterior behind us. "I'm tired of talking about it," says the 29-year-old actress, whose Rubenesque derriere is the subject of watercooler admiration and op-ed debates. "I am who I am."
So she is, and with the electricity she generated with George Clooney
in last year's Out of Sight
, the 5'6" Bronx-raised Puerto Rican is powered up. "Jennifer is one of those people who, when they enter a room, change the molecular activity," says Sight director Steven Soderbergh. "It's some kind of spirit, some kind of life force that moves with her." To keep the molecules aligned, Lopez hits the cardio machines in the gym, is never without moisturizer ("I switch brands every few months because I feel my skin gets tired of just one") and visits spas ("I'll do the scrubs, the baths, the massage, the facial—everything"). Men notice the effort. Since the 1998 breakup of her yearlong marriage to model Ojani Noa, Lopez has stepped out with rapper Sean "Puffy" Combs and with Mariah Carey
's ex, Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola, who is overseeing her debut CD, due in June. "She's very sexy and very confident, which comes through in the way she carries herself," says Mark Badgley of Badgley Mischka, who designed her Oscar gown. For that self-assurance, Lopez credits her parents, David, a computer technician, and Lupe, a kindergarten teacher. "Every time I call, my dad says, 'Hi, gorgeous,' " reports Lopez. "That makes me feel beautiful." And despite her protests, she is proud to buck Hollywood's waif mentality. "For so long it was just skinny, skinny, skinny," she says. "I'm glad to contribute to the self-esteem of others."