Jenni Rivera was known to millions of fans as “la diva de la banda.” Now, she’ll likely be immortalized as a legend.
The Mexican-American singer died early Sunday morning when a small plane carrying her and six others crashed in northern Mexico. There were no survivors. The plane left Monterrrey at 3:15 a.m. and went missing minutes after takeoff. Also onboard were Rivera’s publicist, lawyer and makeup artist.
Rivera's father, Pedro, and two brothers confirmed her death via a statement outside the family home in California. The family will detail arrangements at a later date but plans to bring Rivera back to California for the funeral.
"We're all very down, very sad," said Rivera's brother Juan, whose last text to her was 'Sister, I love you' late Friday night.
"She was a fighter. She met all her goals because she never backed down. That was Jenni."
According to SDPNoticias.com, the same plane had an accident in July 2005 in Amarillo.
Rivera, 43, was one of Latin music’s biggest stars, with a following that rivaled English-language pop artists. She scored 10 top 10 songs on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Airplay chart and seven top 10 albums on the Top Latin Albums chart, including 2011’s “Joyas Prestadas” (“Borrowed Jewels”). She was a judge on “The Voice Mexico” and starred in her own highly rated reality show, “I Love Jenni,” on the mun2 network. (It spun off two projects featuring daughter Chiquis.”
The singer regularly performed in Houston, including a pair of memorable turns at the 2008 Latin Grammys at Toyota Center.
"I remember being backstage with her right before we went on to perform, and her bra was coming out of her low-cut dress," remembers Stephanie Tunchez, a local mariachi singer who performed with Rivera at the 2008 show. "I helped her tuck her bra back down and fixed her cleavage. She was so outgoing and full of life. Super spunky and always laughing.
"We constantly get asked to play and sing her songs at gigs. There are not many women that have come as far as she has in her genre of music."
Most recently, Rivera signed a deal to star in her own sitcom, “Jenni,” on ABC, which pointed to her crossover appeal and an even wider reach. She had more than 1.5 million Twitter followers and 2.4 million Facebook fans. An English-language album was also in the works.
Almost as much as her music, Rivera’s fiery, unpredictable persona made her a superstar. For fans, she was an earthy, accessible icon never afraid to speak her mind. The Long Beach, Calif., native began recording in the early '90s but didn't truly break out until a few years later, making her one of the few females to conquer the male-dominated banda/corrido market. (She's part of a family dynasty that includes corrido star Lupillo Rivera.)
The former real estate agent worked hard to build her brand, which included a perfume and cosmetics line. She called herself “a businesswoman at heart - more than I am an artist" and laid out loftier goals during a 2010 interview.
"I'm going to be the Mexican Oprah Winfrey and the Mexican Howard Stern as well," she said. "I'm going to do radio and TV. I really, really like to talk and get my point across. And I like to listen to my crowd and to my fans.
Houston rapper Chingo Bling stars alongside Rivera in the hip-hop drama “Filly Brown,” which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. The cast includes Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips.
"Jenni did an amazing job in the film. Lots of people at Sundance and different screenings had no idea that Jenni was a singer. She always gave heartfelt performances, and her acting was no different," Chingo said.
"She was generous and genuine. So many people loved Jenni for her personality, her spirit and what she stood for. Her life was an open book. She used her imperfections as armor and embodied the term strong woman."
Rivera had five children and two grandchildren. She married former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza in 2010, her third husband, but filed for divorce earlier this year, citing irreconcilable differences. Her frenzied personal life was often the center of attention, but Rivera remained unfazed throughout her career.
"I ain’t taking nothing from no one,” she tweeted just a few days ago, quoting Eminem’s 2002 hit ‘Cleanin Out My Closet.’ “I'm gonna give ‘em hell while I'm breathing.”