The following piece is an op-ed.
Jennifer Lopez and Shakira took the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday – and it caused some controversy. But their spirited performance shouldn't have. Here are eight things some viewers missed from J.Lo and Shakira's outstanding, not outrageous, performance while they were too busy taking to Twitter to be outraged.
1. The opportunity to learn a new language
All of the "I could’ve sworn this is America, why is halftime in Spanish?" folks don’t seem to realize that being bilingual makes us smarter. Strengthen those cognitive muscles. Some people haven't realized that two Latinas who have long-spanning careers singing in both Spanish and English might possibly sing some of those Spanish language songs? Or is it that these Latinas didn’t Americanize themselves enough? Well, we all should consider that they didn’t need to sing in English and that maybe these folks who have a problem with it should be proactive and use their infinite resources to learn Spanish rather than posting their hateful and unwanted comments on social media. Desgraciados.
2. Undulations and chest circles, Shakira style
Since the halftime show aired, I’ve been witness to North Shore Nancies nationwide, who seem to be in an uproar about Shakira "gyrating across the stage" and supposedly taking their children to the dark side. What she was actually doing during her performance (which true Shakira fans are already privy to) was belly dancing, which dates back hundreds of years.
Shakira has been open and proud of her Lebanese roots. I was thrilled to hear Arab music and see the dance on a national platform because culture is a beautiful thing when one's mind is open to it. Furthermore, undulations and chest circles? Extremely difficult to do. We should all try it in a mirror and then let’s chat.
3. Amazing costumes and killer choreography
Red sequins. Bedazzled bodysuits. One-legged dance leotards. All-white dance sweats with the American flag. I mean, come on! The hypocrites surfaced last night in all of their full, ignorant glory.
The history of the Super Bowl and its halftime shows have all been about the marketing, growing bigger and bolder each year. Let’s not pretend that we never had a history of scantily clad cheerleaders moving about the field, posing in calendars and such. Or the infamous alcohol commercials full of sexual innuendo. We’ve even seen male celebrities perform, shirtless and sweaty while prancing around the stage showing their (gasp) nipples! How dare such a thing happen during a family show full of alcohol, physical violence and nearly naked cheerleaders.
No, J.Lo and Shakira were not too sexy. They were just too Latina for racist, middle America to absorb. Both women have strong backgrounds in dance – so yes, they will be seen in performance dance costumes with sequins and sazon. The Super Bowl has never been marketed as a family show. People love salsa and bachata lessons at Delaware House; they love shaking to a little samba or sweating to some Zumba – but America comes unglued when it sees strong Brown women leading the way.
4. Bad Bunny and J.Balvin cameos
Reggaeton is an increasingly popular and newly mainstream genre that has been underground in places like Puerto Rico, Colombia and Panama for decades. While people took to social media in order to complain about what J.Lo and Shakira wore or how they moved, America missed two of the genre's rising stars. More than that, on a display was a beautiful solidarity in Latinx culture and music as two powerhouse women helped two Latino artists reach an even wider audience. The pop music world has been in a frenzy to get "El Conejo Malo" and J.Balvin on their singles because "perreo" is life. Yes, I said what I said. Everyone wants to have these reggaetoneros help them reach a perriando Latinx audience. We should get used to it because it’s here to stay.
5. A powerful political statement and Emme’s performance
Yes, yes, yes. America often doesn't like its football served with a side of reality, humanity or common sense, but guess what? It happened. It’ll keep happening as long as there are injustices in the world like Latinx children being placed inside of cages in U.S. concentration camps.
J.Lo and her daughter, Emme, made a statement by way of visual representation when young children appeared on stage in glowing spheres, remiscent of cages, while other children stood hand-in-hand behind them. Some viewed this formation as a representation of a wall or it could be seen as a linking in solidarity while Emme belted out "Let’s Get Loud." Then here comes J.Lo in all her Boricua glory wearing a cape with the flag of Puerto Rico. All that was missing from that moment was the opportunity to sing "Que Bonita Bandera."
Too much? Never.
6. Shakira being the iconic performer that she is
She transitioned flawlessly between bellydancing, head-banging metal, salsa, reggaeton, more salsa, Afro-Caribbean beats and more – all while singing, dancing, being a hype man, playing guitar and even the drums. Obviously, there is no need to even further expand on that. She’s 100% dope. That’s it. That’s all!
7. Introduction to Champeta and Mapale
If the sound of the African drums does not move your soul, what kind of person are you, really? I felt the spirit of my ancestors, and I squealed hearing the African percussion and again at seeing the rainbow of Brown women dancing the dance of our ancestors in their gold costumes.
Champeta comes from the African descendants living in Colombia. Champeta became a dance and music that grew out of the barrios that elites frowned upon because the culture was associated with "poverty and blackness." Likewise, Mapale was brought to Colombia during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Today, the dance and music represents freedom, happiness and perseverance.
Shakira’s music and conscious choice to introduce the masses to Afro-Latino culture was intentional – especially during Black History Month. But no, let's allow outrage instead of the cultural importance of understanding – or just enjoying the show and being enlightened.
8. Literally, everything
Xenophobia and sexism are literally blinding America. That has to be an awful way to live. Two dope Latinas sang in Spanish, and some felt left out because they couldn’t understand the words. American entitlement is to only be exposed to English. That’s not even the original language of this land, but that history lesson can be for another day because today, I’m exhausted.
So what that J.Lo started her set on a stripper pole. Well, I’ve been to a strip club and believe me, what she was doing up there was very PG. And let’s not act like Groupon doesn't run deals on pole fitness classes in the area. Frankly, anyone who can get to the top are the real athletes and the real MVPs, but I digress.
Let’s not pretend that this backlash against the performers is about family values and the sanctity of football. The message on stage was that J.Lo, Shakira, Emme, Bad Bunny and J.Balvin are all unapologetically Latinx and proud – and America was simply not ready.
Krystal is a Milwaukee native, Marquette University alum (Go Marquette!) and has been a freelance writer for over ten years. With KDH_Creative, she continues to focus on being a multi-disciplinary creative in the areas of journalism, literature, film, marketing and public relations.
In her free time, she likes to explore the city as if she is a new transplant, to fall in love with Milwaukee all over again. She loves all things artistic such as theatrical productions, art galleries, film festivals and more. Her hobbies include playing in makeup, gardening, blogging, endlessly scrolling on Pinterest, taking romantic strolls through our public libraries and trying to learn guitar.
She's a #MamaBee of one, #MPSproud, #MontessoriAdvocate and thinks teachers are the real superheroes of the world.
Krystal is currently working on self-publishing her first book.