Published December 10, 2012
Jenny Dolores Rivera Saavedra, or Jenni Rivera, was known as "La Diva de la Banda" for her work in banda and norteño music.
Rivera, killed early Sunday in a plane crash in Mexico, was at the peak of her career as perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated regional style influenced by the norteño, cumbia and ranchero styles.
A 43-year-old mother of five children and grandmother of two, her music resonated with Latinos because she sang about her own difficult experiences – her battle with domestic violence, her struggle with weight, being a single mother and her failed marriages.
The singer was born on July 2, 1969, in Los Angeles, Calif. to Pedro and Rosa Rivera, Mexicans immigrants who decided to pursue their American Dream by moving to the U.S.
The Riveras eventually settled in Long Beach, Calif. Little did Don Pedro Rivera, a musician, know that all of his children would make a living in the music business, particularly his daughter Jenni, who rose to become one of the leading female singers in her musical genre.
Initially, Jenni Rivera had no interest in following her father's and brothers footsteps in the music industry. She had her first child while still in high school and married the father, José Trinidad Marin, and had two more children with him.
In an interview with Telemundo, Rivera spoke about how Marin physically abused her because while she wanted to attend college, he wanted her to quit school and be at home "cooking and cleaning." She said she grew up with four brothers so she knew how to fight back.
The rocky relationship, however, went from bad to worse when Rivera found out that Marin had sexually abused her younger sister and one of her daughters. For years, Marin ran from authorities, but was later caught in April of 2006 and was convicted on various sexual assault and rape counts.
Soon after, Rivera was on welfare, struggling to support her three children, Janney "Chiquis" Marin Rivera, Jacqueline Marin Rivera, and Michael Marin Rivera. She dabbled in real estate then took a second job in her father's record label, Cintas Acuario, which led to discovering her voice and path in the world of Regional/Banda/Norteño music.
In 1995, Rivera decided to change career paths and signed with Capitol/EMI's Latin division. That same year she released her breakthrough album "Chacalosa," which sold over a million copies. Rivera later switched to the Latin division at Sony records. In 1999, Rivera signed with Fonovosa's the leading regional music record label.
In the meantime, she married a second time, to Juan López, whom she was with for eight years, (from 1997-2003). She ended up leaving López, who died in 2009, after she caught him cheating on her. The couple had two children, Jenicka López Rivera and Johnny López Rivera.
Rivera put all of her emotions after the divorce into her 2007 album "Mi Vida Loca," which has unique Banda renditions of classics like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and earned her both a gold and platinum. Other memorable songs from the record include "Dejame Vivir,""Inolvidable" and "Dama Divina."
Rivera's 2008 album "Jenni" rose to the charts becoming the No. 1 record in the Billboard charts, selling out major arenas such as the Staples Center and Nokia theaters in L.A.
Rivera sold 15 million records, and recently won two Billboard Mexican Music Awards: Female Artist of the Year and Banda Album of the Year for "Joyas prestadas: Banda." She was nominated for Latin Grammys in 2002, 2008 and 2011.
In 2008, Mun 2, a division of Telelmundo, launched Rivera's reality show "I Love Jenni" which was an instant success and showed the singer in her day-to-day life with her five children.
The spinoff reality show for her daughter Chiquis, called "Jenni Rivera Presents Chiquis & Raq-C" was also a major hit on Mun2, followed by the third spinoff "Chiquis N' Control," about Chiquis getting her own place.
ABC network was reportedly in talks with Rivera to begin a sitcom about her life titled "Jenni."
In 2010 Rivera joined the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence organization and was named their spokeswoman. The Los Angeles City Council named Aug. 6 "Jenni Rivera Day" for her philanthropic work.
That same year she married baseball player Esteban Loaiza. She filed for divorce this year after she reportedly caught him stealing large amounts of money from her.
It wasn't just in marriage that she had bad luck.
Rivera was detained at a Mexico City airport in 2010 after she was caught carrying tens of thousands of dollars in cash. She publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan whom verbally attacked her in 2011.
"I am the same as the public," she told The Associated Press in an interview last March. "As my fans."
Contains material from the Associated Press.