I got busy and had to put writing the story aside for a bit. I didn’t want to rush writing it because, though Jenni Rivera would have been the first to admit that she wasn’t perfect, she overcame a lot in her rise to stardom and went on to help millions of people. She lead an amazing life.
Her story is an important one because she made a point of standing up for what she believed in and worked to help others, even if it made things harder for herself (and it often did).
I have the time to tell her story now, and I think a good place to start is at the first major decision she had to make…
When Jenni Rivera was 15 years old she faced a problem: she was pregnant.
This was her sophmore year of high school and up till then she had worked hard to get straight A’s in her classes. Ever since she was a little girl she had loved school and she dreamed of going to college and becoming a business woman, but now things seemed to all be changing.
She had an important decision to make about her pregnancy. Her own mother had taken home remedies while pregnant with her to try and stop the pregnancy. Back then the family was going through hard times and having another child was seen as too much of a risk to take while the family was trying to survive.
But the home remedies didn’t work and Jenni was born anyway. The situation around her birth became a story that she would tell to show that she was a fighter even from the very beginning. She felt that this ‘never give up’ attitude was a very important part of who she was as a person, that no matter what obstacles life threw at her she would keep going.
So at 15 years old Jenni chose to keep her child… even though her parents had kicked her out, even though it would make staying in school very difficult or even impossible. The baby turned out to be a beautiful girl, Janney ‘Chiquis’ Marín Rivera.
A DARK CLOUD OVER THE MARRIAGE
Money was tight and she not only had to juggle being a mother and going to school, but she also had to make money to support the family. She sold CD’s at flea markets to help make ends meet and through her dedication to studying she even graduated at the top of the class in her new high school.
Things were looking okay and she started college to work on getting a degree in business administration. But there was a dark cloud that hung over her life. José Trinidad Marín was the father of her baby and now her husband, he was also a violent person that abused her both physically and mentally.
He didn’t like the idea of her going for her dreams and getting more of an education. He thought that she should only be at home cooking and cleaning, and he did everything he could to try and keep her there.
Despite this she kept going to college (often having to study in secret) but the abuse was terrible and Jenni sank into a deep depression, even to the point of attempting suicide. It wasn’t in her character to give up but the abuse by José was one of the few things in her life that pushed her to the breaking point.
She had to force herself to rediscover the ‘never give up’ attitude that she was so proud of, she was a mother and her now 3 children needed her. It wasn’t easy but bit by bit she was able to build up the courage to leave him, she filed for divorce and started over as a single mother.
Believe it or not it was out of this dark time in her life that came the thing that sparked her music career.
THE TURNING POINT
To try and lift her spirits some of her friends decided to take her for a girl’s night out. Here’s the story of what happened as she told Billboard magazine:
My friends dared me to go onstage and sing. I was a little tipsy and sang “Las Nieves de Enero” by Chalino Sanchez, who had passed away close to a year before.
After I was done, all the other drunken people applauded me. I liked it. Since my dad wanted me to be an artist, I figured he already had a record label; maybe I could have access to the musicians and the studio. That’s when I started recording.
This was the turning point for Jenni. She had gotten a college degree in business administration and used those skills to work in real estate for a while, but this experience at the girl’s night out ignited her passion to be a singer.
She set out to build a singing career using her musical talent and business skills. It turned out to be a long road. She faced a lot of prejudice because many of the people who were powerful in the styles of music that she sang believed that women were inferior and shouldn’t sing those types of music.
Day after day, year after year she had to fight many battles with prejudiced people. And when she encountered really bad discrimination she tried to turn things around in her mind and use it to fuel her determination to succeed, it didn’t always work but it was enough to keep her going.
The public, however, loved her. The songs she sang told stories that really spoke to what was happening in their own lives, and the emotions in her songs expressed their own feelings in a way that other singers couldn’t. Her fans were very dedicated and her popularity skyrocketed.
NOT AFRAID TO BE REAL
Yes she became a famous singer but she also put that business degree to good use and started many successful companies: Divina Cosmetics, Jenni Rivera Fragrance, Jenni Jeans, Divine Music, and even a real estate company called Divina Realty.
She built a business empire and moved into doing TV shows and movies…all on top of doing her music. But when you look at all her career one thing shines through all the rest: she cared about people and always worked to help them.
Jenni’s songs dealt with social issues affecting the lives of her fans and she didn’t shy away from singing about topics that other musicians were afraid to mention. Some of these things she had been through herself and other things were experiences that she heard about while talking to her fans. Either way she wanted her music to help heal people of their pain and give them courage to make a better life for themselves.
This philosophy extended beyond her music, as the world seen when she found out that her daughter and sister had been sexually molested by her ex-husband José back when he lived with the family. Many famous people sweep this kind of thing under the rug because they’re afraid it will give them bad publicity, but she didn’t do that.
Well first off she went after José with everything she had, he was a fugitive for many years but was finally arrested and sentenced to 30 years in jail for child molestation. But she also spoke openly about what had happened, even though she felt shame and guilt for being the one to bring him into the family. She wanted to show people that this kind of thing is okay to talk about and that it should be talked about, because otherwise the silence will help protect the abuser and does even more harm to the victims.
She was open and honest about many aspects of her life whether they were good or bad, she wasn’t afraid to be real with people and courageously lead the way on social issues through her example.
THE PLANE CRASH
The last known picture of Jenni Rivera was taken on December 9, 2012. The picture shows her sitting on a plane and looking back at the camera, looking tired but still smiling to her fans.
That day she boarded a plane for the last time. She was flying to a city in Mexico for a TV appearance but never made it there, her plane malfunctioned and crashed not long after it took off.
The Jenni Rivera we know is frozen in time. 43 years old, mother of 5, and loved by millions around the world. We can only guess at how much more good she could have done in person if given more time, but what we do know is all the good she did while alive. This lives on through her music and the charities she founded, and this also lives on through the love of her fans who appreciate not only her music but her dedication to helping others.
She was not afraid to be real. And it’s through this fearless honesty that she is still able to help others through their troubles.
In return, her fans love her for who she was…including all the good and even the bad. She knew this and took it to heart, during her very last concert she said:
Thank you to my public. To all of you who are with me, who love me just like I am.