Jennifer Lopez is standing on the terrace of the Ciragan Palace hotel in Istanbul, shooting the cover of Bazaar. It's an incredibly grand palace, and she's in an incredibly grand Versace. But she's goofing around, doing the robot and various girl-on-the-go catalog poses. "We're losing the moment!" laments the photographer. But then, boom: Lopez shakes her shoulders and fixes her with a sexy laser stare. J. Lo™ has arrived. "Oh, honey," she says soothingly, "I've been doing this for 20 years."
The next night, Lopez is on a yacht on the Bosporous, on her way to the 32nd concert date of her world tour (which overlapped a 24-date American tour with Enrique Iglesias). She's trying to remember the shoulder thing, but with her four-year-old twins, Max and Emme, running around and an entourage that includes her boyfriend, Casper Smart, and her mother, Guadalupe, it's not happening. Instead, in stage makeup, sweats, and an epic cashmere scarf, she's absorbed with a studded Hermès cuff in a magazine. Rocks Jenny's got? "No," she says, giggling. "Rocks I wanna get."
Even when she's swaddled in sweats, you can't take the glamour out of this girl. And while she's in the middle of an absolutely brutal tour schedule, Lopez, 43, is the soul of calm, which the family unit traveling with her has everything to do with. Her mom, a former schoolteacher and general firecracker who tutors Max and Emme on the road, lands on the boat. "These people were like, 'You know J. Lo?' ??" she cackles. "I made J. Lo!"
Guadalupe keeps her daughter going. "Last night I was so tired, and having to do a concert was daunting, you know?" Lopez says. "But Mom just said, 'Close your eyes,' and she held my hand the entire way over." As for Max and Emme, "they are used to being around a lot of people. They're open, happy, curious, smart, loving, affectionate. They're"—Emme tumbles over the couch—"rambunctious."
When it comes to Smart, her personable dancer-choreographer beau, who is balancing Max on his lap, she says, "He's fantastic; he's like my best friend. I can tell him everything, when I'm feeling down, when I'm feeling good. He gives moral support, endless love and support."
That said, you have to wonder why Lopez does this—pulling 16-hour days and flying to a new country every day or two. She could have cruised through a third season on American Idol (she reportedly made more than $35 million for the first two seasons) or lain around at her home "spa" until the end of her days. "But I'm not a judge for a living," she explains. "I'm a singer. I'm a dancer. I'm a performer. I'm an actress. That's what I'm supposed to be doing. It makes me a better parent, a better person." As for the demented schedule, "I think I can just handle more than the average bear, you know?"
When Lopez gets her J. Lo on, it's as if she has an inbuilt wind machine. The machine around her is massive too: Along with her family and her longtime manager, Benny Medina, she has assistants, hair and makeup, security, a trainer, tour managers, and on and on. "I like the whole idea of traveling, of looking good, and doing it well," she says. "I make it as simple and as beautiful as I can because my life is kind of big. So I pack my luggage, or dress myself, or comb my kids' hair, pick up their clothes—that makes our life beautiful, you know? There's something very elegant in that." Lopez is also very disciplined: She doesn't drink or smoke ("I'm on a natural high, baby"), avoids sugar and salt (apart from sour-cream-and-onion chips), and tries to get eight hours of sleep a night.
Still, Lopez's legendary tour-and-shoot rider remains an eye-popper. Among other requests, there's one for a "white love seat." But this list does Lopez a diva-like disservice. She doesn't care if there's a love seat or not—in fact, she bursts out laughing when you bring it up. "Oh, was there a love seat?" Nope. "I didn't notice!" As for minions carting tons of white candles around the world? "No, never. That's an old myth."
Lopez describes herself as "philosophical, you know, now that I'm 25." Wry chuckle. "When I turned 40, I was like, huh. I accept myself more now. It was much more comforting." She characterizes her mental age as "16 to 18. That's when I became the person that I am. Even though I didn't realize the whole journey I would go on, I still feel all that youthfulness."
But now that she's a grown-up, she recognizes the best and worst of herself. "The worst is when I'm tired. It's the overworking, which I've learned to say no to. I'm not my best self. I'm at my best, I think, when I'm giving love. I feel my best, I am my best, I need my best."
After the tour ends, there will be more time for all of it—home to Los Angeles ("watching TV at 8 P.M., bed at 9!"), and soon after, the premiere of her new film, Parker, a Taylor Hackford—directed action flick in which she stars alongside Jason Statham. "It's one of those action movies that's kind of cooler, you know? It recalls Out of Sight a little bit."
Lopez is pondering what to wear on her next red-carpet outings, particularly the Golden Globes. Her most successful looks—'60s-style mint-green Valentino, ivory Zuhair Murad, a peachy Marchesa mini—have in common a sensational but graceful glamour. Over the past two decades, she has evolved from a "boyish, hip-hoppy sensibility: big hoops, sneakers, tank tops, and my big curly hair. When I got into the business, I developed a love of monochromatic looks." But then she "added that sexy element to it. Then it was classic things, movie stars, Jackie O. And now," she says, exhaling, "all of these things mixed together, that's my style."
J. Lo fashion talk inevitably turns to the notoriously racy palm-print Versace she wore to the Grammy Awards in 2000. "I have that at home," she says. "The other day, my housekeeper put it on a mannequin in my spa, where I get my hair and makeup done. She sent me a picture. She was like, 'You like this dress?' Um, yeah, but I don't know if I like it out in the house!" Smart, who has been diligently on kid watch, pipes in. "But it's famous! It's the most famous dress you've ever worn." (Joke that Emme can wear it in a few years and he looks horrified: "Oh, God, no!")
Of course, there is no one who could have worn that Versace but Jennifer Lopez. Because when J. Lo™ walks into the room, it's boom.