Remember the summer of Bennifer? Amazingly, it's only been a year since Jennifer Lopez (search) and Ben Affleck (search) were the king and queen of the tabloids.

Ah, the memories: The enormous pink-diamond engagement ring. The last-minute wedding cancellation. Gigli. Those were the days -- at least for celebrity-gossip addicts.

But Lopez herself says she's had enough of the fishbowl life.

"I felt burned by that attention," she told reporters last week. "I thought it wouldn't bother me -- that I could keep my personal life separate.

"But after a while that negative energy has a way of getting under the door and through the cracks into my life.

"I was like, 'What is this thing that has become me?' "

As you may have noticed, Lopez took a step back from the spotlight after splitting with Affleck last fall.

Though she married her third husband, salsa singer Marc Anthony (search), in a surprise June ceremony, the couple are almost never seen in public together. They always arrive separately at events, including a recent party for Coty fragrances at the Hayden Planetarium during New York Fashion Week.

And Lopez refused to even utter the words "Marc" or "Anthony" during a press conference for her new movie, "Shall We Dance," (search) last week.

When it comes to handling the media, Lopez says, "I'm trying new tactics."

That's not a bad idea.

After seeing so many pictures of Ben and J.Lo canoodling, even some of Lopez's most dedicated fans were ready for her to disappear for a while.

Lopez was ready for it too.

"I'm older now," says J.Lo, who's 35.

"I used to go out all the time. Maybe it was the Bronx in me or whatever, but I was just always out there.

"Now I just like to stay at home."

For Lopez, home could mean Anthony's Brookville, N.Y., mansion, where she threw him a birthday party with 80 guests last month.

It could also mean her $9.5 million, 10,000-square-foot Spanish villa on the Biscayne Bay in Miami, or the 10,000-square-foot pad on L.A.'s Mulholland Drive that she bought two years ago with her second husband, Cris Judd (search).

But even though her cribs are a little swankier than most, J.Lo insists that her nights in "aren't that much different from yours.

"We relax, watch TV, have dinner," she says.

"There's nothing too crazy. No swinging from the chandeliers. No rock stars coming over to party. It's very mellow.

"I like hanging out with a friend who cooks really well. We'll stay by the pool and hang out all day."

It almost sounds like Lopez really has become Jenny from the Block an actress "just trying to get the focus back on what I do as an artist," as she says.

Except that she is still using her famous name to market J.Lo tracksuits, Glow perfume and other merchandise through her corporation, Sweetface Fashions.

Indeed, even as Lopez lowers her public profile, her brand continues to grow.

Sweetface is getting ready to release its third perfume, Miami Glow, this fall, and the company just opened a 3,000-square-foot megastore in Crocus City, an upscale mall outside Moscow that's right, Moscow, Russia.

Just last month, Fortune magazine reported that Lopez is personally worth $255 million, making her America's richest woman under 40.

"She's still a big star," says Martin Grove, a columnist for Hollywood Reporter online.

But all the people who wear J.Lo perfume don't necessarily spray it on before heading out to the movie theater.

Her only box-office hit in recent years was "Maid in Manhattan," and after so many flops (including the "Gigli" debacle) many studio execs are gun-shy about letting her carry another "Enough."

"Hollywood is dedicated to the flavor of the month," Grove says, "and when you're no longer up there, it's hard to stay active."

That doesn't mean that Lopez is going away.

The new plan among casting directors seems to be hitching Lopez to well-established (though a little long-in-the-tooth) stars such as Richard Gere, the lead in "Shall We Dance," which opens this Friday.

The film is a remake of a 1997 Japanese movie about a repressed businessman (Gere) who fills a hole in his life with ballroom-dancing lessons.

He gets lured into the dance studio after he catches a glimpse of one of the lovely instructors -- J.Lo -- leaning out of the window.

Though Lopez has a crucial role in the movie, she's only on-screen for about 20 minutes, and her part is actually smaller than that of Susan Sarandon, who plays Gere's wife.

At least one J.Lo scene was cut from "Shall We Dance" after test audiences saw it. According to a Hollywood insider, it was an emotional, dramatic moment featuring J.Lo chewing scenery "like a diva."

But the director of "Shall We Dance" insists that Lopez's character was always meant to be secondary.

"Richard was always going to be the central character," Peter Chelsom says, noting that early posters for "Shall We Dance" featured Gere by himself, dancing alone on a train platform.

Current posters feature all three stars, with Gere in the middle.

"Jennifer is part of the ensemble and doesn't overshadow anything with her celebrity," Chelsom adds.

"I think audiences will be sighing with relief when they see that she slides into the movie and slides out again."

Lopez has more screen time in "The Unfinished Life" (due next May), a movie by Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallstrom that matches her up with Robert Redford. She plays a down-on-her-luck cocktail waitress with a young daughter who moves in with her father-in-law (Redford) and learns to work through their differences.

And she just finished filming "Monster in Law," a romantic comedy that pairs her with Jane Fonda, acting in her first movie in 14 years. J.Lo plays a woman whose relationship with the perfect man (Alias' Michael Vartan) is endangered by a mother (Fonda) bent on breaking them up.

But hanging with 1970s Oscar winners is only part of Lopez's new career strategy.

She's also seems to be shoring up her original Latino fan base.

Lopez will release her first-ever Spanish-language CD in January, and she is currently developing a movie project about the life of Nuyorican salsa sensation Hector Lavoe, in which Anthony will star as the tragic singer.

"It's a smart plan," says msnbc.com gossip columnist Jeannette Walls.

"I always thought she did her best work in 'Selena.'"

Clearly, Lopez isn't ready to listen to Hollywood experts who say she's down for the count.

"I feel like I'm entering Phase 2 of my career," Lopez says.

After three marriages and numerous reinventions - from Fly Girl and Selena to P. Diddy (search) and Bennifer -- it's probably more like Phase 5 or 6.

But it's a good bet that this consummate entertainment businesswoman will find a way to survive.

"Things didn't go exactly the way I wanted last year, so I had to go back and reassess," Lopez says.

"I've grown up a lot, and I think you're going to see that in the choices I make."