Jenni Rivera, a daughter of Mexican immigrants who became one of the most successful Latina singers on both sides of the border with her soulful, straight-talking ballads of hard-living, hard-partying and female empowerment, died Sunday in a plane crash in Northern Mexico. She was 43.
The small jet carrying Rivera and six other passengers crashed about 3:30 a.m. in mountainous terrain outside Monterrey, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. There were no survivors.
Rivera was en route from a concert in Monterrey to the city of Toluca, where she was scheduled to appear as a judge on “La Voz" (the Mexican version of the TV vocal competition “The Voice"). Authorities have not determined what caused the crash.
Rivera straddled many worlds in her ground- breaking career, which included sales of more than 15 million records, three nominations for the Latin Grammy Awards and her growing fame on Spanish and English television.
She grew up in Long Beach, Calif., where her father, Pedro Rivera, was a patriarch of banda, a traditional genre of Mexican music heavy on horns and polka-like rhythms.
For generations, banda was dominated by men. Rivera broke into the industry in the mid-1990s with hits such as “Las Malandrinas," an anthem for party girls. She became a conspicuous feminine presence on stage with her rhinestones and leather bustiers.
A mother of five, she developed a repertoire that spoke to the women who made up the core of her fan base. Another of her most popular numbers was “Las Mismas Costumbres," or “Familiar Habits."
Other titles included “No Vas a Jugar," often translated as “Don’t Even Think About Playing Me," and “Ni Tu Esposa, Ni Tu Amante, Ni Tu Amiga," translated as “Not Your Wife, Not Your Lover, Not Even Your Friend."
In recent years, Rivera was the executive producer of three reality television programs on Telemundo’s mun2 television network. They included “Jenni Rivera Presents: Chiquis & Raq-C" (featuring her daughter), “I Love Jenni" (in which she struggles to balance her career while raising children) and “Chiquis ’n’ Control" (also featuring her daughter).
When Rivera died, she was reported to be developing an English-language sitcom with ABC about a strong, single Latina mother. It was a sign of her ever-growing audience.
Rivera was born July 2, 1969, in Long Beach. She said that, as a child, she would rise as early as 5 a.m. to help her father set up his cassette stand at the flea market where he first became a figure in the local music scene.
He later founded an influential record label that promoted the traditional Mexican genres Rivera would dominate years later. Her brothers, most prominently the singer Lupillo Rivera, also worked in the music industry.
Rivera gave birth to her first child as a sophomore in high school. She married the baby’s father, Trinidad Marin, and had two more children with him before divorcing. In 2007, Marin was sentenced to 31 years to life in prison for molesting his daughter and sister-in-law more than a decade earlier.
Rivera said her husband physically abused her and that he opposed her desire to go to college. She nonetheless received a business degree from Long Beach State University.
She sustained herself and her children with the help of welfare, lived in a garage and worked as a real estate agent before launching her music career.