The singer, actress and dancer shared her story of starting out and struggling as a dancer.
Jennifer Lopez is known as a triple threat. She acts, signs and dances. And after five seasons as a judge on American Idol, Lopez is adding judging back to her list of professions for her new show World of Dance, which she also executive produces.
Out of all of her many hats, though, Lopez wears one the proudest. “I always consider myself as a dancer first. I became a singer and actress after dancing. For me, it’s so part of who I am,” Lopez told reporters Monday at NBC’s summer press day.
The reality series, premiering May 8, will see dancers of all ages, genres and backgrounds compete against one another — with the ultimate winner nabbing a $1 million prize.
Lopez will judge the dancers alongside Ne-Yo and Derek Hough, with Step Up alum Jenna Dewan-Tatum serving as host and mentor to the dancers.
“We’re not only giving the respect dancers deserve, we’re giving them the compensation,” says Dewan-Tatum. “Dancers don’t make a million dollars.” She then joked, “Well, maybe Derek does.”
On why Lopez wanted to add the project to her resume, she said, “To create an opportunity for dancers was the best thing I could have ever done. It just reminded me of all the reasons why I love dance.”
Lopez also cited her time on American Idol as a crucial experience to help her on World of Dance. “When I did American Idol, I learned so many people can sing, but not everyone can make you get up and dance or make you cry,” she said. “That makes you an artist.”
(However, when asked about a possible American Idol return on the same network as World of Dance, she remained tight-lipped. “I know nothing about that,” she said firmly.)
World of Dance wouldn’t be hitting the small screen if Lopez wasn’t involved. Executive producer Benny Medina retold the story of how the show came to fruition. “We approached NBC to do something with Jennifer and dance. The first thing [NBC’s president of alternative & reality group] Paul [Telegdy] said was, ‘I don’t like it. What I like is Jennifer Lopez being a part of what we [will] know to be the best dance show ever created.'”
As Medina put it, they all hope the show is “going to do to dance what The Voice has done for singing.”
Lopez talked explained that most dancers don’t make any money at all. The former Fly Girl recounted her not-so-glamorous days when she struggled to afford to live as a dancer when she first started. “I remember only getting to have one piece of pizza every day when I was a dancer. That’s how I lived. I did that for a couple of years before I got my first big job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. For me, coming from that struggle this is a dream come true for me. I don’t say that lightly.”
With the panel expressing their love for dance, there was one question one everyone’s mind. Will Lopez, Hough, Ne-Yo and Dewan-Tatum also be dancing? “It doesn’t happen this season,” Lopez said, citing scheduling.
Although fans won’t see the cast of stars dance together onscreen, Lopez predicted viewers at home will feel motivated to bust a few moves. Lopez said, “You’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry and you’re going to dance.”
NBC’s World of Dance premieres May 8.