Chapter 16: “I’m Real” (Black) when I Wanna Be: Examining J. Lo’s Racial ASSets

This essay argues that Jennifer Lopez is one of the premiere contemporary symbols of racial ventriloquism and cross-racial appropriation. Its guiding premise is that although Lopez is Puerto Rican and not African American, the manner in which she is represented is structured and framed by narratives about Whiteness and Blackness. The essay tracks Lopez’s changing racial affiliations as expressed through her body, relationship choices, and musical style. It argues that Lopez’s racial ventriloquism bears a relationship not only to America’s desire to manage racial anxiety, but America’s fears and fantasies about class mobility.