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In 2011, Jennifer Lopez made the surprising but ultimately fruitful decision to become a judge on American Idol. At this stage in her career, she had begun to feel relatively aimless. She didn’t have as many opportunities as she once did and she craved a new challenge. While some warned her that taking the job would be a mistake, she was grateful for what it did for her image.

Jennifer Lopez said joining ‘American Idol’ was good for her

When Simon Cowell exited American Idol, Lopez swept in to replace him. Her career was in a lull and she felt it was a good step for her.

“I had the kids and wasn’t being offered a whole bunch of stuff,” she told Variety in 2019, adding, “I really concentrated on my marriage. I was going around with Marc [Anthony].”

It came as a surprise to her when the show did a great deal to rejuvenate her career and her public image. On a reality program, she was able to be herself on camera.

Jennifer Lopez sits with her arms around Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson. They are under a sign for 'American Idol.'
Steven Tylor, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson | FOX via Getty Images

“It was like, Oh! That’s all I had to do this whole time was be myself? Although it was a competition, it was a reality show and I had never done one,” she told Vogue. “Up until then we only had what the media was telling you about me. I loved meeting the kids because I so identified with their dreams — I just loved it.”

She said that being filmed in this way showed the audience that she wasn’t the diva that media outlets had portrayed her as in previous years. She was grateful for an opportunity to show what she saw as her true self.

“There were a lot of things that people saw through that show, but more than anything I think they saw my heart, that I was a cool, funny person, that I was a nice person,” she said. “No matter how many awards shows you do or late-night talk show couches you sit on, people feel like you’re putting something on. With a reality show, you can’t hide behind a script or a four-minute interview. You’re out there.”

Jennifer Lopez initially received warning that ‘American Idol’ would damage her career

American Idol was a positive experience for Lopez in many ways. Before she accepted the job, though, people warned her it would be a terrible mistake.

“It was a big turning point in my career,” Lopez says. “Everybody was like, ‘Don’t do this. Your career will be over, and they won’t offer you any movies. They’ll think you’re a joke as an artist.’ And I was like, ‘The truth is, I’m not getting offered a whole bunch of movies, so what are they not going to offer me?’”

During her tenure on the show, she began recording new music and appearing in profitable movies, effectively proving her doubters wrong.

Some have speculated that she will return to the show

In 2012, Lopez announced that she was leaving American Idol. This year, some have wondered if she will return to the show. Katy Perry is exiting the show, leaving a judge slot open.

“A return from the past is on the cards,” a source told in February. “J.Lo will be asked to come back. When people come back, things work… people like nostalgia, and people like Jen. It would be a big get to get her back.”

Jennifer Lopez wears a black lace dress and stands in front of signs for 'American Idol.'
Jennifer Lopez | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in May, Lopez said that while she doesn’t see it happening this year, a return to the show is not entirely out of the question.

“Not this year. Maybe next year,” she said. “I don’t know … I really feel like I did it, and it was a great time in my life.”