ORIGINAL POST, 11:36 A.M.: Tragic news is emerging from Mexico this morning as authorities have confirmed that an airplane carrying Mexican regional music superstar and Long Beach native Jenni Rivera and her family is missing.
I had the honor of interviewing Rivera on her career and life twice–a couple of years back for Latina, and back in 2003 for a cover story I did on her. Hers was a remarkable rags-to-riches story–not just the traditional narrative of an Mexican immigrant family becoming millionaires (father Pedro was the original producer of narcocorrido legend Chalino Sanchez, while brother Lupillo became a megastar singer in his own right), but of a woman breaking out of the shackles of Mexican machismo to not only emerge as a mujer who could party as hearty as the boys, but who could bust out of the Madonna-whore complex that Mexican regional music relegates its women to and become a person on her own.
Rivera grew up in Long Beach, attending Long Beach Poly but having to finish her GED in continuation school because she became pregnant as a teenager. Nevertheless, she found massive success in Mexican regional music, and has spent the past five years creating a second career as a media and business mogul–the latter through wise investments in real estate, beauty salons, and makeup lines, the former with two reality shows based on the lives of her and her daughters.
And she was just about to make her mark on the rest of America; last week, it was announced that Rivera had signed on with ABC to star in a comedy that, as Deadline.com put it, would have “Rivera as a strong, middle-class, single Latina woman working to raise a
family using unique parenting skills, while struggling to run a family
business and navigate her extended, co-dependent relatives — all while
fighting the cultural perception that she needs a man to do it.”
In other words, the story of her magnificent, inspiring life.
UPDATE, 7:18 P.M.: Authorities have confirmed that the plane Rivera was riding on crashed south of Monterrey, Mexico, where Jenni had just done a concert. Seven people were on board, with no survivors, but no other members of Rivera's immediate family.
Both La Raza 97.9 and Que Buena 105.5 are playing wall-to-wall Rivera songs at their stations. Our pal and mentor Tony Ortega posted a story he did for the defunct New Times LA back in 2002.
As I wrote earlier, I had the chance to interview Jenni twice–once, in 2003, when I was starting my reporting career in earnest, and in 2009 for Latina Magazine (interview not online, alas). She remembered my original interview, saying it was one of her favorites, and I remember her telling me during our interview at the Fonovisa offices in Woodland Hills that she was thrilled to be interviewed by Latina, which was a magazine she loved but which she felt didn't cover enough mexicanas like her.
Later on, Latina would place her and her daughter on their cover in 2011–the magazine, like me, realized what a force of nature she was, a force now up in heaven. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rivera's family–and another musician is taken too soon from us.