ET fondly recalls Rivera’s inspiring life in celebration of what would have been her 50th birthday on July 2.
Jenni Rivera was born on July 2, 1969 in Long Beach, California to Rosa Saavedra and Pedro Rivera, who immigrated from Mexico when Rosa was pregnant with Jenni. Her father, an entrepreneur at heart, created the record label Cintas Acuario in 1986. The label focused on traditional Mexican music like banda, norteña, and ranchera. It launched the career of Regional Mexican singer Chalino Sanchez, and eventually Jenni’s
Jenni grew up in a musical household alongside her four brothers and sister. As they grew up and worked at their father’s record label and studio, Jenni and her brothers became interested in the music industry and eventually became recording artists. Most notably, her younger brother, Lupillo Rivera, experienced a meteoric rise to fame in the late ‘90s.
In an interview with Parade, she said, “I decided to be a full-time real estate agent and I was doing well. I was licensed and in the top ten percent of agents at Century 21 across the country. After a divorce, I decided to go out with some friends to a club and have a couple of shots of tequila. They dared me to go up and sing. I figured at that point I would give my father what he always wanted and become a recording artist.”
Jenni had a total of five children -- Chiquis Rivera, Jacqie Campos, Jenicka Lopez, Michael Marin and Johnny Lopez.
Jenni’s rise to stardom was rocky. Her debut album, Si Quieres Verme Llorar, was released in 1999, but was not considered a commercial success. She struggled to infiltrate a male-dominated music industry, and booking gigs as a female banda performer proved to be a challenge in California. Yet, there were no obstacles that could keep Jenni from achieving her dreams.
Jenni loved writing songs that empowered women like “Malandrinas” and “XXX.” She won her first Premio Lo Nuestro Award in 2007 for Best Regional Mexican Female Artist, which she continued to win for the next nine years.
In 2008, her 10th studio album, Jenni, reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart in the U.S. The following year, she won the Premio Lo Nuestro Award for Banda Artist of the Year, making her the only female artist, to date, to have received the honor.
In 2011, she executive produced a reality show based on her life called I Love Jenni, which followed her family’s rambunctious life for a few seasons. After Jenni’s tragic death on Dec. 9, 2012, the show aired its third and final season, which featured Jenni’s life a month before the accident and how her family coped with the loss following her death.
She married former baseball player Esteban Loaiza in 2010. Their stunning wedding had 800 guests that included singers Gloria Trevi, Joan Sebastian and Tito El Bambino. Loaiza was featured on I Love Jenni. Their marriage was short-lived and in October 2012 they filed for divorce amid wild rumors of an affair that have since been put to rest. Her failed relationships throughout her life, however, inspired some of her best songs like “La Misma Gran Señora,” “Basta Ya,” and “Ya Lo Se.”
Filly Brown (2012) was Jenni’s acting debut. She starred alongside Gina Rodriguez (her first feature film), Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where she joined her co-stars at the screening. In 2013, her children attended the U.S premiere of Filly Brown after her death.
Over the course of her career, Jenni became a big advocate against domestic violence. She was a spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Los Angeles, and also founded her own charity, the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation, which offers support for single mothers and victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The L.A. City Council honored Jenni’s philanthropic work and officially named Aug. 6 as “Jenni Rivera Day.”
Jenni’s autobiography, Unbreakable: My Story, My Way, was published posthumously in 2013 in both English and Spanish, and it became a best-seller in both markets. Mariposa de Barrio, an American biographical telenovela based on the book, started airing on Telemundo in 2017. It was a fitting adaptation of the book since many compared her real-life trials and tribulations to a telenovela.
Jenni’s oldest daughter, Chiquis, is following in her mother’s footsteps. She had her own reality TV series, Chiquis ‘n Control, which showed her journey as a blossoming entrepreneur and singer, and is currently on The Riveras, which premiered in 2016 on UNIVERSO. A spinoff of I Love Jenni, the show follows Chiquis, Jacqie, Michael, Jenicka and Johnny as they pursue their passions and manage their late mother’s empire.
In June 2019, it was announced that a film about Jenni’s life will be produced by Mucho Mas Media and De Line Pictures. Kate Lanier, who wrote one of Jenni’s favorite movies, What’s Love Got to Do With It, is reportedly set to pen the biopic.