Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty
Jennifer Lopez is following in her parents' footsteps and empowering the next generation of Latinas.
Talking to the Today show on Tuesday in an interview PEOPLE exclusively teased Monday night, Lopez, 53, got candid about representing her Latina heritage and the efforts she's taking to help Latina entrepreneurs.
In June, the Grammy Award nominee announced her collaboration with the micro-finance nonprofit Grameen America to deploy $14 billion in loan capital to 600,000 Latina-owned small businesses by 2030, in addition to offering her mentorship to Latina women living below the federal poverty level.
"We're changing lives," she said on the NBC morning show. "We want to take the Latino entrepreneur and empower them, give them opportunity where there wasn't. That opportunity can change your life."
Lopez continued, "For me even in my own business, I was an artist who has making billions of dollars for other people and not really realizing it, just happy to be in the room. And then I started to realize, like, 'Wait a minute, I can make my own perfume, I can do this in my own way. I can own a part of this business.' "
EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Lopez @JLo sat down with @MorganRadford to talk about partnering with @GrameenAmerica to invest $14 billion in Latina-owned businesses by 2030 and touched on the importance of embracing her Latina roots and giving back to her community #HispanicHeritageMonth pic.twitter.com/97xRNtfqAs
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 20, 2022
As for why her latinidad has been so central to her expression as an artist, Lopez says it's "just who I was." She explained, "I think my mother and my family raised me to be proud of who I was and so when I went into these worlds like Hollywood where we were not represented at all, I almost felt like a unicorn."
"I'm Jennifer Lopez from the Bronx and my parents are Puerto Rican and I'm Puerto Rican," she recalled saying saying in the beginning of her career, "I think it made me feel special."
"I have to credit my parents for making me feel like I was worth something and that I didn't have to be anything other than who I was," Lopez said.
New husband Ben Affleck has also been a source of support. Today's Morgan Radford noted that Affleck was in the sidelines of their sit-down, lovingly watching. "[He was] watching her adoringly, cheering her on, wishing her well," the interviewer said. "It was very very cute."
Stefanie Keenan/Getty for Limitless Labs x Grameen
Knowing her worth was just a part of the success Lopez's accomplished. "I don't have any kind of formula for success, what I've learned is if you can follow your heart, you can be true to yourself, and you can work really hard," she said on Today. "The difference between being successful and not being successful is not giving up and I just didn't give up."
In Lopez's June announcement of the multi-billion dollar project, she spoke about her Latina pride. "Being Latino in this country has always been a matter of pride for me. I am humbled and beyond grateful to partner with Grameen America," she said in a statement. "We're building pathways to employment and leadership opportunities.
"There's so much strength in this community and we're harnessing that. This partnership will create equality, inclusivity and opportunity for Latina women in business. This will change the fabric of America!" Lopez added.
Through her own philanthropic effort Limitless Labs, the initiative will also provide 6 million hours of financial training and education.
Lopez kicked off her role as Grameen's national ambassador at the Tribeca Film Festival, where she was accompanied by some of the program's Latina entrepreneurs for the red carpet premiere of her Netflix documentary Halftime.
Andrea Jung, president & CEO of Grameen America, championed their partnership with the Hustlers actress, while emphasizing the organization's commitment to closing gaps in opportunity.
"Jennifer Lopez is a trailblazer, having given visibility and advocacy to ensure Latina women are educated, financially empowered, and healthy," she said. "Grameen America is the only organization with the national scale, reach, and proven model required to deploy $14 billion in loan capital to emerging businesswomen in Latinx communities.
"Together we will shape entrepreneurship as a viable pathway to success for Latina women who have historically lacked access to the formal financial markets and are often marginalized from economic opportunity," Jung added.
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Lopez previously announced her Limitless Labs initiative in September, partnering with Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. The collaboration focused on supporting and empowering Latina businesswomen in her Bronx hometown.