The Puerto Rican beauty struck a kinder tone than her predecessor in the opening of the 10th season of the hit show.
Looking stunning as ever, J.Lo, who is judging with Aerosmith's front man Steven Tyler and AI veteran Randy Jackson, accentuated the positive, an indication that producers are setting a different tone.
Past audition shows, with Cowell as the lead judge, seemed a procession of train wrecks. But on Wednesday, the first three contestants all made it through to Hollywood.
López in particular even hugged a contestant who cried when upon meeting her. But she seemed in agony the first time she rejected a contestant.
"Oh, my God, I hate this!" she complained. "Why did I sign up for this? I want to go home."
When a theatrical Ashley Sullivan, of Springfield, Mass., auditioned, López overlooked Jackson's reservations and kept her in the competition.
The New Jersey auditions ended with two emotional stories: the daughter of a cancer survivor from Staten Island and a boy from the Bronx who kept to his dreams despite time spent living with his family in a homeless shelter. Both are only 16, and both were given go-aheads by the judges.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.