So, on its own merits, this is a lovely shot of Jennifer Lopez. Unusually so for Annie Leibovitz’s latest Vogue work, in fact. Then I read the press release from Vogue, which specified that Leibovitz did this as an homage “to photographer Gordon Parks’s iconic photo essay of the singer and actress Eartha Kitt for LIFE in 1952.” My first uncharitable thought was, “Ah, of COURSE I like it; it’s because the original concept wasn’t hers.” My second thought is that Jennifer’s cover suffers somewhat once you actually see the original. Eartha Kitt is buoyant and beaming in that picture, and while J.Lo has the ethereal skirt fluttering behind her beautifully, she can’t quite match that seemingly weightless joy.

Having said that… as I’ve noted before in stories about J.Lo, she’s engaging. She’s likable. Whether it’s real or a put-on or a wishful-thinking combination of both, there is just something endearing to me about the shades of romanticism and optimism and grit with which she paints herself. Every quote in this story, I truly can HEAR her saying, I can close my eyes and picture this conversation and the absurdly decked out “tent” on a soundstage that somehow has a living room in it and practically smell whatever candle is burning in there. I know she can be excessive, I know she’s OTT and dramatic and probably a master of PR, but I just LIKE her, and I root for her. The profile covers a whole lot, including a quick tidbit in which she praises Jennifer Garner’s co-parenting. There’s a nice compliment from Ben in there. (By the way, to hear her tell it… Ben effectively slid into her DMs the moment they were both single, so her lingering lust clearly was not one-sided.) Tons of stuff about her mother. Much of it feels like the product of a lot of therapy, which she alludes to if not directly mentions:

“I just didn’t understand what it was to care for myself, to not put somebody else’s feelings and needs—and your need for them to love you—in front of taking care of yourself. You turn yourself into a pretzel for people and think that that’s a noble thing, to put yourself second. And it’s not. Those patterns become deep patterns that you carry with you, and then at a certain point you go, Wait, this doesn’t feel good. Why am I never happy? I really felt that way for a long time. And finally I was just like, Ugh! It’s time to figure me out because I need to be good for these babies. And even from there, with all the willingness I had, it took years and years to really put the pieces together, like, Oh, this thing I do because of this, that thing I do because that happened to me at this age.”

Mostly, I came away from this thinking it’s sweet that Jennifer absolutely still seems to believe in happily ever after. People say she’s addicted to monogamy, and marriage, and maybe that’s true, but I also buy that she’s largely driven by the desire for a Great Love. But is it the Great Love, or the Great Love Story? Is she trying to fit a square peg into a round hole here, because of what a sweeping story hers and Ben’s currently is? I don’t know. I hope not, and I try not to worry about it on her behalf because HOO BOY am I ever not on that committee, and it is none of my business. But somehow, J.Lo, one of the biggest celebrities in the world, has gotten me to cheer for her like she is just Jenny from the Block trying to make good. That’s quite a trick.

[Photos: Annie Leibovitz for Vogue; Vogue’s December 2022 issue is available on newsstands nationwide on November 15]