Like many of the thousands of celebrities he has interviewed during his career, the actor and two-time Emmy-winning host Mario Lopez does not lack for things to do.
His latest endeavor was last Tuesday’s release of a signature collection of sneakers and the debut of a lifestyle and brand site. The rollout is the latest addition through his deal with SCL Footwear Group. A multitasker to the nth degree with three major media jobs, Lopez talked about his career, the ever evolving spectacle of celebrities, Taylor Swift’s business power and more while en transit in his home state of California.
Lopez, who just turned 50 and is a self-proclaimed “big sneakerhead and lover of shoes,” started wearing sneakers with his suits for red-carpet appearances years before it became trendy. Having a line of his own kicks was a dream of Lopez’s and having “a super cool site to sell them” was another upside, he said. Stylishness, versatility and affordability were musts — the line retails from $50 to $80.
“I’m a former inner-city kid myself. I never forget where I came from. I always thought it was important that you don’t necessarily need a ton of dough to look stylish and great. You can always find some good deals if you look,” he said. “I just wanted to stick to my blue-collar roots and make it for my peeps. At the end of the day, I’m just this Mexican kid from Chula Vista, [Calif.] who is now in L.A.”
Lopez said that between his entertainment talk show jobs at Access Daily and Access Hollywood, he’s immersed in celebrity culture, and has seen it shift.
“Because of social media, a lot of celebrities have become more guarded, reserved and careful with their words, which I think is a little unfortunate. We used to be able to see them coming out of restaurants, or parties and what have you, and get candid moments. Even in sit-down interviews, they were a lot more relaxed,” Lopez said. “With me, fortunately, they seem to feel relaxed. I don’t know if that’s because I’m an actor myself or because I have been in the business for 40 years. They may have grown up with me. I’ve been doing it a long time.”
Being “a huge fan of TV, radio and film” is something that resonates with celebrities, as well as his well-preparedness, he said. That combination makes stars feel “very comfortable,” and “then we just have a conversation and they end up divulging more than they probably wanted to,” Lopez said, adding that he does respect if something if off-limits.
“If there’s something off-limits, they’ll point it out, and I always respect that. But I’m not trying to get any salacious soundbite or anything. I’m just trying to have some conversation. Talk about their work, family life and stuff and see where the conversation goes. I try to be a good listener and respond directly,” he said.
While some believe that celebrity fandom has risen to parasocial relationships — where people think of celebrities as actual friends — Lopez said social media has allowed them to feel even more connected than before “and to play out that fantasy a little.”
Asked if he thinks that’s healthy, Lopez said with a laugh, “Well, I’m not a psychologist. That’s not for me to determine.” (Research by Thriveworks released last summer estimated that 51 percent of Americans have likely been in parasocial relationships, but only 16 percent admit to it.)
“Celebrities definitely control their narratives more, because of social media. You can go straight from your phone to say what you want to say. One of the benefits is that you can create a big business for yourself if you’re clever, work hard and to figure out ways to market and brand yourself to do all of this ancillary business. There are a lot of negatives. But there are a lot of positives too. It’s lucrative if you’re smart enough.”
Well aware of the financial impact of the Taylor Swift economy, so to speak, with the Grammy winner substantially fueling sales via her “Eras” concert appearances, fashion preferences and just-released movie, Lopez said, “That’s awesome to see and what a great positive economic impact it is. Obviously, the whole community wins. Taylor is incredibly smart, talented and a sweetheart of a person. I’ve gotten to interview her a bunch of times. She’s like our Princess Diana out here in America. It’s like she’s got the Midas touch with everything that she does. And good for her. She’s incredibly generous with her team and crew.”
So much so that just 20 domestic stops of Swift’s tour exceeded $10 billion, according to the U.S. Travel Association. In Los Angeles alone, Swift’s six nights of concerts added 3,300 jobs and earned the city $29 million in sales and hotel room taxes, the organization reported. Beyoncé also revved up local economies globally with her “Renaissance” tour.
As for his own business ventures, Lopez already has a battalion: including dog toys, men’s grooming products, tequila and more. Vitamin and nutritional supplements, kitchen gadgets, barbecue accessories, boys’ and infant apparel, men’s underwear, sleepwear, loungewear collection and a signature fragrance are also in the mix. “There are always categories that I want to get into, but I feel very blessed to have as many as I do right now,” Lopez said.
All in all, Lopez said, “As a former child actor, going into my 40th year [in the entertainment industry], next year I’m going to get this star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on my birthday, which is awesome,” he said. On top of the television programs, Lopez has a radio show called “On With Mario,” and still stars in holiday movies and produces animated projects, he said. “If there’s anything, in a general sense, I’d like to produce more and be able to tell more stories about people like me and like my background,” he said.
While the entertainment industry overall has “come a long way,” in terms of improving diversity, Lopez said, “We’ve still got a long way to go.
“You just see more faces that look a lot more like the communities that they represent. That’s a good thing, because representation is important. We can probably use a little improvement in all of those areas,” he said.
As for how Lopez, a father of three children, manages all of that, he said, “I have a great, great wife, who has quarterbacked the team. She is super supportive and understanding. She helps me obviously with the kids and everything else in my life. And there is just a good team around me and is supportive of the family unit. Good teams work out. I’ve always been an ambitious guy.”
His own schedule consists of an early wake-up time, workout and then work. “I just squeeze a lot in. Usually, I’m home in time for dinner, as well,” he said.
Lopez has a solid fan base to draw from, from his “Saved Bb the Bell” days and modern television audience, and is considering developing apparel, including workout clothes.
Lopez said his personal style leans toward “a little more conservative with a bit of flavor and hipness,” without being “too out there.” Inclined to wear a variety of brands as opposed to sticking with one or two, he likes John Varvatos, Hugo Boss and TravisMathew. He said for celebrities, talent and timing play into success, but, “In general, a person’s style and how they present themselves has a huge impact especially in terms of first impressions.”
Lopez wasn’t sold on the suggestion that celebrity coverage doesn’t elicit the eye rolls that it may have years ago, given how some celebrities have established major business ventures and how select celebrity exchanges have become part of the political discussion. “Business and politics are completely different. I don’t ever voice anything politically, because it’s too divisive. I’m in the people business and I don’t want to alienate anyone. I never get into that,” he said.
“People have always been fascinated by celebrities and they’ve always had a great deal of influence,” he said. “People might feel that they have a stronger, closer connection, due to social media. But I also think that celebrity itself has been diluted. Back in the day, when you only had three [major network] channels, whether you were watching ‘Three’s Company,’ ‘The Jeffersons’ or whatever, you knew them. Now you have hundreds of channels,” he said.
“There could be a show that has been on the air for 10 years and you’ve never heard of that actor, because everything is so diluted right now,” he added. “At the same time, while a mega celebrity like a Taylor Swift is able to break through the pack, the ‘average celebrity’ doesn’t have the cachet or the power and the influence that many of them had just yesterday.”