Jennifer Lopez relocated recently, leaving the old Hollywood lustre of Bel Air behind and migrating 25 miles west to the comparative seclusion of LA's San Fernando Valley. Considering her self-imposed exile since becoming a mother two years ago, one could be forgiven for thinking the artist formerly known as J-Lo had settled for the quiet life.
In fact, the opposite is true, and as she prepares a two-pronged assault on our cinema screens and music charts, it's appropriate that she, husband Marc Anthony, and their twins, a son called Max and daughter, Emme, should decamp to a brand new $8.5million, 17,000sq ft mansion set within a gated community in a town called Hidden Hills.
Handing in my ID at the security gates, I drive through manicured lawns and pull in to the generous parking area. The place is awash with activity. Gardeners, assistants and decorators abound, and I'm hastily escorted past the open garage, where cardboard boxes marked 'M's Closet' and 'Dancers Boots' are stacked high. We walk through one of the living spaces where the man of the house is consulting with an interior designer, both men quizzically stroking their chins while studying various paint splodges on the wall, and I'm led to a patch of garden between the pool and the combined basketball/tennis court and offered a selection of beverages.
An assistant settles me onto a park-style bench, strategically positioned to take in the stunning views and gleaming mansions of similar proportions. Moments later, my peaceful reverie is broken by the sight of a figure in a pink summer dress, skipping across the lawn towards me. 'Hello, I'm Jennifer,' she says, offering an outstretched hand and, because she fears the gentle breeze is becoming a bit too gusty, suggests we find a cosier corner.
Lopez's life in the fast lane underwent a gear shift when she gave birth to twins two years ago. Until then, she was a multifaceted force of nature, one of the first celebrities to turn her fame into a worldwide brand. Her success as a singer - over 40 million albums sold - and actress was parlayed into Brand Lopez. There was Sweetface, the fashion line, Nuyorican, the production company, JLo the fragrances, and a restaurant, each feeding into the other to create a commercial juggernaut.
She explains how, in the bubble of work, you're not really living. 'It was time to become a real person again,' she says. She talks of being an artist and replenishing her artistic soul; to be able to draw on life's experiences so in turn she can channel them back into her art. First, though, she had to get that famously curvaceous body back into shape. After all, it wasn't so long ago that the media had an almost frenzied fascination with Jennifer Lopez's curves, her derrière in particular, and her refusal to conform to Hollywood's vogue for lollipop leading ladies. So what was her view of all the fuss? 'I was always very comfortable with who I was. Confident. I've never felt negative about myself.'
Nowadays she likes to do weights, and run along the horse trails of her new neighbourhood. Then there's the food. 'Just like anybody, I try to watch what I eat. There's no big science to it, which is what sucks. One good trick is to have a goal - for me it may be getting in shape for a video shoot. Another is portion control. I love to eat everything and you pretty much can - a little piece of something fattening is not going to kill you. It's when you eat the whole box that it's going to kill you. If you can learn to not eat till your stomach feels full and gross, then you can pretty much control your life in that area.'
Now in shape, she's back with both a new album, Love?, and a new movie, The Back-Up Plan, about a single woman who conceives twins through artificial insemination the same day she meets the potential love of her life. Had she not had a husband, would she ever have considered becoming a single mother?
'For me, I always had the fairy tale in my head where you get married, have kids and do all that kind of stuff,' she says. 'But I also think it's a wonderful thing for women who haven't had babies and get to a point in their lives to have that option. As a woman, I think it's the best thing that can ever happen to you.'
The recent Tiger Woods and Sandra Bullock scandals come up, and the subject energises her. 'I feel like our standards have gotten a little bit low with love. There used to be such a structure to love and marriage and people kind of broke away from that. Anything goes, but I think we should have higher standards for ourselves.' I mention that Angelina Jolie recently spoke about how monogamy wasn't important to her.
'I think if you're in a committed relationship, unless you have some sort of an understanding, monogamy is something that should exist. Especially in a marriage. I'm married and I feel like that's part of it because it's just the two of you against the world. When you allow other people into that sacred place it becomes a recipe for mistrust and the deterioration of the bond between you. I think people complicate their lives by doing fucked-up things.'
And with that F-word bombshell, the CEO of Lopez Inc has to go. Someone has to make a decision on the wall colours, and it's likely to be her. Before she leaves, she muses on which achievements she's most proud of. Of course, there are the kids, she says, and tells with pride a story of how her mother thinks she's still the same little girl she always was. 'To just hold onto who you are and still have a bright beautiful outlook on the world in the midst of all this craziness and to still have your dreams intact and a lot of love in your life, that's something to be proud of.'
To read our full interview, pick up the June issue of Marie Claire, on sale now.