A.J. Johnson Claims She’s Responsible For Jennifer Lopez and Rosie Perez Becoming Household Names After Giving Them ‘In Living Color’ Opportunity

“It’s all who you know…” or so the adage goes. The list of careers in entertainment- music, television, film, radio, sports and more – that have been gifted out of the beneficence of friends and family is more extensive than all three Lord of the Rings movies.

Veteran actress, model, and humanitarian causes spokesperson, A.J. Johnson is now telling how she vaulted not one, but two women to super-stardom. 

In case you forgot, Johnson was one of the female love interests in the first installment of rap duo Kid ‘N Play’s cinematic vehicles, House Party, alongside Tisha Campbell. The movie’s titular moment would be anchored by one of the greatest choreographed dance battles committed to film; a spirited back-and-forth that pitted her and Campbell against Chris Reid and Chris Martin of Kid ‘N Play. She was also Juanita, the mother of Tyrese’s ill-fated Jody in hood classic, Baby Boy, a motion picture directed by the late-great John Singleton.

Along with those aforementioned titles, Johnson would make guest-appearances on A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Chicago Hope, Touched By an Angel and The Jamie Foxx Show. 

The early 90s were a burgeoning period for African-Americans in film and television, and A.J. was double-booked. Keenan Ivory Wayans soon-to-be hit sketch comedy show, In Living Color, was in pre-production and he sought Johnson’s talent as a dancer and choreographer, essentially, head of the famed Fly Girls. Johnson, a Spellman college graduate, opted for the role in House Party, which had an overlapping shooting schedule with Wayans’ project. 

As she tells it in an interview with Page Six“The schedules conflicted between ‘Living Color’ and ‘House Party,’ so [Keenan,] was like, ‘You have to choose.’ And I said, ‘OK. I’ll play the lead in a movie.’ And I said, ‘I’ll do you one even greater — I’ll find you my replacement so you’re not missing anything.’”

That led to an introduction for the future White Man Can’t Jump and Birds of Prey co-star Rosie Perez to come on board. (Writer’s sidenote: We’ve all seen those old Soul Train clips of Rosie breakin’ it down, right?) Johnson was familiar with Perez “from dancing in the city” and had a role in Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed, Do the Right Thing.

But that wasn’t all Keenan needed, as Johnson recalled, “But then Keenan said, ‘And I want you to replace yourself as a dancer as well,’” which prompted Adrienne Joy Johnson to reach out to Perez again. 

“’Rosie, bring the heavy chick – the Puerto Rican girl’ – and that was Jennifer,” Johnson stated.

Thus far, no response has been made by either Rosie Perez or Jennifer Lopez to refute or substantiate Johnson’s claims. Others have noted similar accounts from Perez in her memoir, “Handbook For An Unpredictable Life” in which she states that Keenan considered J.Lo to be “corny and chubby” and suggested that she lose weight for the role. 

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