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Mario
Lopez

Written by admin, 2 years ago, 0 Comments

By Zoe Stagg

Mario Lopez grew up on the edge. Perched between the U.S. and Mexico, L.A. child stardom and blue-collar public school, teenage rebellion and strict Catholic faith, his life has been constantly split in two. “I’m a border kid. I literally grew up three miles from the Tijuana border with Mexico and I grew up sort of like in the middle of both worlds.” It’s that vantage point, view on each side of the line, that kept him grounded — no easy task when fame knocks early. “I’m the child of immigrants, my parents came here to provide a better opportunity for my sister and myself, and they’re very hard-working people.” Now on the other side of 40, with most of those years in front of the camera, Lopez is on course to pack two lifetimes of work into one.

Heartthrob status is usually fleeting. A school year or two pinned up in lockers across the country is a pretty good run for a teen idol — but Lopez found a way to take his “hunk” into syndication. Chalk it up to the water-fountain of youth, more than 20 years after flipping his tassel at Bayside, Lopez looks exactly the same. “First of all, I can’t even believe it’s been that long. It feels like a couple of years ago, not 25. That blows me away when I stop and think about it.” Thanks to the internet nostalgia machine, Slater, Zack, and Kelly are still roaming those halls, and introducing primitive cell technology to a whole new group of fans. Tween girls mobbed “Slater” in the 1990s — and are still doing it today. Lopez admits it’s surprising to field squeals for a part he played at the beginning of his packed career, but, “I mean I’m flattered because they can still recognize me!”

While he’s still popular with the younger set, he faces a tougher crowd at home. His five-year-old daughter isn’t as into Daddy as “Slater.” “She’s seen it a little bit, she just sort of laughs. It’s not her thing, at least not yet.” What is her thing is his growing body of animated voice work, Saving Christmas and Summer as Zeus the Dog and recurring as Social Smurf in the Smurfs movie franchise. It’s all part of the territory for the type-defying Lopez. “I just like to be diverse, whether it’s hosting my television show, or on the radio, or dancing on Broadway, or doing some voiceover work, I just like to have a diverse portfolio. It’s fun! I’ve been doing a lot more of it, mainly for my kids because they get a big kick out of it.” A dive into his recent memoir, Just Between Us, reveals the inspiration behind busting out of the “triple threat” box to slay at every medium and every opportunity. Lopez got this advice from the original “Oldest Living Teenager,” Dick Clark. The forever-young similarities are uncanny.

Clark encouraged Lopez to embrace opportunities where he got to play himself — and thanks to his winning personality and disarming dimples, it’s a “part” where he excels. “I like people. I like hosting. Whether it’s barbecues at my house or game night or a national TV show, it doesn’t matter, I’m the same guy.” And that guy isn’t shy about sharing pieces of his life, often on social media. “The great thing about Twitter, it’s kind of like Google, but with feedback. You can kind of get a little bit of news and share how you’re feeling. Sometimes you just want to put what you’re feeling out there and there’s no one to talk to about it.” While he aims for a humorous take on current events, sometimes his candor backfires, like in a recently tweeted and deleted pic. “I think I was smoking a cigar recently, and my child was next to me. We were outside by the beach and it was breezy but people didn’t really like that pic too much. In retrospect, I took it down because it wasn’t really a good look. I had a few cocktails in me, so I wasn’t thinking, but yeah. Maybe it wasn’t something that I should have put up in the first place.”

While he can control his own stream, even the incessant paparazzi machine doesn’t bother him — anymore. He’s admitted he’s glad he got to live his wilder teenage years out of reach of digital media, but “Now I’m boring. They’ll get me with my kids or something like that, I’m not worried about it.” When it’s his kids’ turn to do the posting, it’s a little different story. “I can’t even imagine what’s going to be available to them. I mean I’m not worried, I want to hammer into their heads that they’re going to grow up in a generation that all their mistakes could potentially be documented, I mean everybody has a camera out, and to be very smart about what you do in public and what you post, because that could come back to haunt you.” He took to Twitter recently in the wake of Donald Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants, a subject close to his experience growing up in a border town. “I was sort of shocked. It almost sounded like it was a parody on SNL.”

The accusations from Trump that instead of hard-working immigrants, the border was a sieve for violent criminals, don’t sit well with Lopez. “Just in the points he was trying to make for tighter border security, it’s a valid point — by my God. He couldn’t have gone a more offensive, ridiculous way. Just a blanket, ignorant statement. I was very disappointed in the way he expressed himself.” Ever savvy in the spotlight, he acknowledges there’s probably another reason for Trump’s comments. “He’s a smart guy. He likes the attention, he’s #2 in the polls at the moment for a reason, though he’s never gone above 12 percent, and I don’t really see him having a solid chance of getting the GOP nomination — but at the same time, he’s making a lot of people talk.” That’s a conversation Lopez welcomes. “I will say that he’s made the rest of the Republican party have to address this issue, one way or another, so that’s important.” And Trump’s comments don’t describe the family and community Lopez grew up in. “I think that for the majority, a lot of the people that do want to come here, want to come here for the right reasons. I think that they’re a great example of what this country’s all about — having the opportunity and contributing in a positive way. And then you have folks that aren’t so positive.” Political showmanship aside, politics is a serious topic, and Lopez acknowledges the topic needs a serious approach. “You do need to be a little smarter, and a little selective, because you know, we are the greatest country in the world and you shouldn’t just allow anyone.”

Lopez isn’t running for office himself — yet — but he serves his community all the same. He’s won awards for his volunteerism, a role he adds to his resumé gladly. “I’m the Ambassador for Health and Fitness to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, I want to help with a lot of the health and fitness issues that we have with the youth today. That’s a responsibility that I welcome.” It’s a cause he’d champion even if he didn’t have a spotlight shining on him. “I don’t feel any pressure, other than to build spiritual muscle and to be a good father and set a good example to my kids and to inspire other kids like me who came from a neighborhood like mine. It’s just something I like to do and it makes me feel good.” He remembers his time as a tiny and tireless dynamo from a working-class family who prioritized getting him the chance to dance and wrestle. He hopes to show kids coming up what’s possible. “I don’t think there’s too many other young and visible — I mean, I’m not that young anymore, but-“ He chuckles, “There aren’t many Latin guys out there that little kids who came from neighborhoods like mine can say, ‘Hey, if he can do it, than I can too.’”

And it goes to show there’s nothing Lopez can’t do, either. What could seem polarizing  — growing up in a traditionally conservative faith, and becoming an LGTB advocate — isn’t a leap at all. He solidly explains how his Catholic advocacy squares with taking honors like serving as the Grand Marshal for the Miami Pride Parade earlier this year. “I come from a large family, so I have lots of cousins and lots of relatives, and everybody grew up within a few miles of each other, and everybody’s pretty close. With such a large family, it so happens to have a few cousins that happen to be gay.” In his memoir, Lopez reveals a beloved relative chose to end his life rather than come out of the closet. “The one I was really close to that’s no longer with me, yeah. I wish he would have maybe talked to me about it sooner. I would have tried to have helped him with the family, made it easier to have come out to the family. Still sometimes in a really Latin, Catholic, old-school family, I can see why he was reluctant.”

He doesn’t see any such dichotomy. In fact, his Catholic faith is what drives his acceptance. “At the end of the day, I think that no one should judge anyone. If you judge anyone, then that means that you’re putting yourself above someone else, and no one’s above anyone else, except for God — and God wanted us to love each other and respect each other and be good to our fellow man and that’s what I try to do.” He’s incredibly fluent, knocking down the barriers between two seemingly disparate interest groups. “I think that’s the most important thing, to love and respect our fellow man and appreciate them as an individual, and I think if you come from that place, you can’t go wrong.” His argument is convincing. “I don’t think God meant, ‘Except for these people,’ or ‘Except for this.’ I don’t remember seeing too many ‘excepts’ in Catholic school.”

His progressive interpretation of the traditional doesn’t stop there. If Lopez has a weakness, it’s women — and trouble he found himself in when he was a teenager, could have been prevented with some solid and early sex education. It’s subject not usually associated with Catholicism, but he explains that swiftly and surely. “The reality is, people are going to make mistakes and we’re all sinners and when you come from a neighborhood like I did, you’re exposed to stuff a little sooner, and kids will mess up. You will make choices that later on, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences. It’s just better to educate them. In case they do find themselves in a certain situation, they’ll know how to handle it better. I don’t think it’s too wise to be ignorant.”

With the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, it looks like the country agrees with him. “I wasn’t surprised by it at all. I have people in my Catholic faith sort of question it, and I tell them, ‘Listen, Jesus wanted us to do what he did, love others as he loved us and care for ‘em, don’t judge ‘em — he didn’t stutter. He didn’t say, ‘What if they’re gay, or what if they worship other gods, or whether they worship any god,’ so that’s the way I choose to live my life.” The best part about living on this side of the equality divide, is the opportunity it affords his kids. “I think the next generation, my kids, are going to grow up in an era where they’re not going to have big, monumental decisions by the Supreme Court — I think by the time they’re older, so much will become so socially accepted that a young, gay teenager is gonna have a whole different experience than the generation prior. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it.”

Mario Lopez took every opportunity his parents worked so hard to give him, and now he’s poised again on the border, offering the same to his own kids. For a person who defies definition in his career, in his beliefs, and in his life — on the precipice is the very best place to be. way or another, so that’s important.” And Trump’s comments don’t describe the family and community Lopez grew up in. “I think that for the majority, a lot of the people that do want to come here, want to come here for the right reasons. I think that they’re a great example of what this country’s all about — having the opportunity and contributing in a positive way. And then you have folks that aren’t so positive.” Political showmanship aside, politics is a serious topic, and Lopez acknowledges the topic needs a serious approach. “You do need to be a little smarter, and a little selective, because you know, we are the greatest country in the world and you shouldn’t just allow anyone.”

Lopez isn’t running for office himself — yet — but he serves his community all the same. He’s won awards for his volunteerism, a role he adds to his resumé gladly. “I’m the Ambassador for Health and Fitness to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, I want to help with a lot of the health and fitness issues that we have with the youth today. That’s a responsibility that I welcome.” It’s a cause he’d champion even if he didn’t have a spotlight shining on him. “I don’t feel any pressure, other than to build spiritual muscle and to be a good father and set a good example to my kids and to inspire other kids like me who came from a neighborhood like mine. It’s just something I like to do and it makes me feel good.” He remembers his time as a tiny and tireless dynamo from a working-class family who prioritized getting him the chance to dance and wrestle. He hopes to show kids coming up what’s possible. “I don’t think there’s too many other young and visible — I mean, I’m not that young anymore, but-“ He chuckles, “There aren’t many Latin guys out there that little kids who came from neighborhoods like mine can say, ‘Hey, if he can do it, than I can too.’”

And it goes to show there’s nothing Lopez can’t do, either. What could seem polarizing  — growing up in a traditionally conservative faith, and becoming an LGTB advocate — isn’t a leap at all. He solidly explains how his Catholic advocacy squares with taking honors like serving as the Grand Marshal for the Miami Pride Parade earlier this year. “I come from a large family, so I have lots of cousins and lots of relatives, and everybody grew up within a few miles of each other, and everybody’s pretty close. With such a large family, it so happens to have a few cousins that happen to be gay.” In his memoir, Lopez reveals a beloved relative chose to end his life rather than come out of the closet. “The one I was really close to that’s no longer with me, yeah. I wish he would have maybe talked to me about it sooner. I would have tried to have helped him with the family, made it easier to have come out to the family. Still sometimes in a really Latin, Catholic, old-school family, I can see why he was reluctant.”

His progressive interpretation of the traditional doesn’t stop there. If Lopez has a weakness, it’s women — and trouble he found himself in when he was a teenager, could have been prevented with some solid and early sex education. It’s subject not usually associated with Catholicism, but he explains that swiftly and surely. “The reality is, people are going to make mistakes and we’re all sinners and when you come from a neighborhood like I did, you’re exposed to stuff a little sooner, and kids will mess up. You will make choices that later on, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences. It’s just better to educate them. In case they do find themselves in a certain situation, they’ll know how to handle it better. I don’t think it’s too wise to be ignorant.”

With the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, it looks like the country agrees with him. “I wasn’t surprised by it at all. The best part about living on this side of the equality divide, is the opportunity it affords his kids. “I think the next generation, my kids, are going to grow up in an era where they’re not going to have big, monumental decisions by the Supreme Court — I think by the time they’re older, so much will become so socially accepted that a young, gay teenager is gonna have a whole different experience than the generation prior. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it.”

Mario Lopez took every opportunity his parents worked so hard to give him, and now he’s poised again on the border, offering the same to his own kids. For a person who defies definition in his career, in his beliefs, and in his life — on the precipice is the very best place to be.