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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 12:28 GMT
The making of America's hippest couple
The relationship was dogged by rumours
Jennifer Lopez and Sean "Puffy" Combs have split after 17 months together, ending one of the most glamorous relationships in America.

It is notoriously difficult for journalists to find out the truth about Jennifer Lopez's life.

Surrounded by an enormous entourage wherever she goes, British writers were bemused last year to find out they only had five minutes each to speak to her about her film The Cell.

It was barely enough time to talk about the film itself, never mind what many of them really wanted to discuss - her relationship with rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs, and that night when she was caught up in a shooting incident in a New York nightclub.

Even her publicist got lost in the mystique around his client when he discovered Combs had announced their break-up.

Jennifer Lopez
Lopez has a reputation as one of Hollywood's most ambitious stars
"She is on a plane flying for 17 hours - I can't reach my client," Alan Nierob told one news agency, while Lopez was supposedly on an Australian promotional trip.

If the end of their relationship is clouded in mystery, its beginning is only a little clearer.

The pair became friends in 1998, when Combs started to help Lopez out with her music career.

Lopez was in the process of an amicable divorce from Cuban Ojani Noa, whom she met while he was a waiter in Miami.

The marriage lasted little more than a year, but Noa now manages a Los Angeles club co-owned by Lopez, The Conga Room.

Meanwhile, Combs was splitting up from his girlfriend of three years, Kim Porter, the mother of his youngest son.

Combs has his own record company, Bad Boy Entertainment
Their first public appearance was at a party at Combs' home in East Hampton, New York, in September 1999, where they appeared on his balcony dressed in white, waving down to their guests.

The appearance was followed-up by visit to a ball at the city's Metropolitan Museum, confirming their place in the celebrity limelight.

Pundits saw it as a union of two highly ambitious, incredibly successful artists.

Lopez was adding her singing career to her Hollywood success, and Combs was having hits of his own as Puff Daddy, rather than producing other artists.

But while they relished the publicity, rumours quickly built up about the relationship.

Friends were quoted as saying Lopez seemed subordinate to Combs, while her family were reportedly unhappy with the relationship.

After the shooting incident, conflicting reports emerged.

Lopez was detained following the incident, but was released without charge.

Jennifer Lopez and Sean
Lopez was detained for more than 12 hours after the shooting
It was claimed she wanted to dump Combs - but she stuck by her boyfriend, testifying before a grand jury that she neither saw nor felt a gun on him that night.

Others said the stress of the incident had actually brought the couple closer together.

Now the pair's professional fortunes are starting to separate from each other.

If he is found guilty, Combs could face 15 years in prison - bringing his career to a standstill.

Meanwhile, Lopez's second album J.Lo has been a massive hit around the world, and her recent film The Wedding Planner has topped the US box office.

Whatever happens to them both, though, the New York shooting means their names will forever be linked, long after the Sean "Puffy" Combs' trial is over.

See also:

15 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy 'not taught to open car safe'
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy driver 'changed gun story'
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy and Lopez split
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Third witness 'saw Puff Daddy armed'
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Profile: From street to stardom
01 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Lopez topples Fab Four
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