Superstar Jennifer Lopez is head over heels for her new husband, Ben Affleck. After their surprise Las Vegas wedding on July 17, the former “American Idol” judge told fans he’s the one she’ll “spend forever with.” But the first man she walked down the aisle with isn’t so sure.
Ojani Noa, Lopez’s first husband, just dropped some bombshells about their relationship, his thoughts on her fourth marriage, and new details about her initial courtship with Affleck. In a July 30 interview with the British tabloid Daily Mail, Noa said he wishes the new couple the best, but isn’t convinced it will last.
“Jen loves being in love but she’s been engaged six times,” he said. “Ben is husband number four. I was husband number one and she told me I was the love of her life. When we lay in bed on our wedding night, she said we would be together forever.”
Noa said he granted the interview because he got tired of media outlets portraying him as a “penniless waiter” whom Lopez left when she got famous.
Noa Shares Details of How His Relationship With Lopez Unfolded
Noa told Daily Mail that at age 15, he fled Cuba in a small inflatable dinghy with six friends, calling it a miracle that they survived the 90-mile journey. Now 48 and living in south Miami, Noa’s Instagram account profile says he’s an “Actor/Model, Presenter, Entrepreneur, Writer, Producer, Personal Trainer” with nearly 48,000 followers and an OnlyFans account.
At 22, he met Lopez when she visited Gloria Estefan’s Cuban restaurant in Miami, called Lario’s On The Beach, where he started as a dishwasher but worked his way up to being a waiter. Noa insisted he didn’t know who Lopez was, though her career was beginning to take off; she was a TV dancer on “In Living Color” and had just starred with Woody Harrelson in the movie “Money Train.” He said she walked into the restaurant with a friend and assistant, and the duo locked eyes.
“I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen,” he said. Noa said the rising star returned to the restaurant the next night, and later invited him to a wrap party for the movie she’d been filming. She then returned to Los Angeles, he said, and they talked on the phone for weeks — with him using the restaurant’s pay phone.
In the interview, Noa went on to share intimate details of their relationship, from their first kiss to the first night they slept together. They moved in together in L.A. as her career was taking off, and Noa said he proposed at the wrap party for “Selena,” her breakout film, with a $15,000 ring she picked out at the mall.
According to old clippings in The Miami Herald, the couple married on Feb. 22, 1997, at a friend’s Miami home, with guests including director Oliver Stone and actor Edward Olmos. Wedded bliss didn’t last long, though, as the couple split in less than a year.
Noa Says Ben Affleck Was Clearly Smitten With Lopez
After Noa and Lopez split, they remained friends. She began dating P.Diddy quickly after their divorce was finalized, and after that breakup, she met and married backup dancer Cris Judd in Sept. 2001.
By that December, Lopez was filming the movie “Gigli” with Ben Affleck; though the movie would wind up bombing, the duo became fast friends. On April 3, 2002, Affleck paid for half-page ads in Hollywood trade publications; the ads were heartfelt tributes to Lopez, with Affleck describing how delightful and impressive she was to work with. He later said the expensive ads were an attempt to counteract rumors of her being an on-set diva, but many wondered if he was trying to steal her heart.
Around the same time, Lopez hired her first husband, Noa, to manage her new restaurant, Madre’s, in Pasadena; the eatery opened a little over a week after the ads appeared, on April 12. Noa told the Daily Mail he remembers talking to Affleck at the restaurant’s grand opening, and that the actor was clearly smitten with his ex-wife.
“Madre’s had a grand opening,” Noa recalled. “She walked the red carpet with Cris but Ben was waiting ’round the back with a bunch of red roses. Cris and Ben are both good guys. That night I sat on the patio with Ben and he told me what an amazing woman Jen is. I said, ‘I know.'”
Three months later, Lopez and Judd announced they were splitting and, soon after, Lopez and Affleck started dating; they were engaged by the end of the year, but split in 2003 — only to reunite and marry in 2022.
In 2003, Affleck insisted to Variety that the two were never romantically involved when she was married.
“When I met her we became really, really, really good friends,” Affleck told the publication. “But at first, because she was married, there was no thought of a romantic relationship, so that created the opportunity to get to know each other without any of the falseness that goes with courtship because you’re trying to make a good impression.”
Looking back on her relationships, including her 2008 wedding to singer Marc Anthony, Lopez told the Today Show in 2019 that she didn’t “really count” her first two marriages, both of which were under a year in length.
She and Noa eventually had a falling out and he was fired from Madre’s in 2005. He told the Daily Mail that if fame had not come between them, they might still be married today.
“For many years I felt burned, bruised,” he said. “I think if she hadn’t had all those people around her then we might still be together. But I have my life and I am happy. I still believe in love and I hope Jen has finally found the love she has been looking for.”