Jenni Rivera was born here in the U.S., but she emerged a musical hero among Mexicans and Latinos worldwide. And she appeared to be on the verge of becoming a household name back in her home country when a plane crash took her life Saturday night.
Now people across the globe are mourning the death of the 43-year-old Mexican-American singer who made her name in banda, a typically male-dominated brass-band genre.
Born and raised in Long Beach, California, “La Diva de la Banda,” as she was respectfully known, got her start in 1995 when she released her debut album, La Chacalosa, on Capitol/EMI. Later that year, she recorded Adios a Selena as a tribute to Selena, the Mexican-American pop icon who was tragically murdered and later played by Jennifer Lopez in the 1997 biopic.
That connection to Selena is especially eerie, given that Rivera also appeared to be on the verge of crossover success in the U.S., just like the late pop star was before her untimely passing. At the time of Rivera’s death, she was filming season three of “I Love Jenni,” her Spanish-language reality show on mun2, which also aired in America on the Style Network. And just last week, Rivera reportedly signed a deal with ABC to develop her own sitcom. Fans are left to wonder what might have been if Rivera continued to make strides in U.S. pop culture.
With her last album, 2011′s Joyas Prestadas, La Gran Señora delivered an LP full of powerful and well-received ballads like “Basta Ya” (“Enough Is Enough”), but her star far surpassed the studio. Yes, Rivera sold an estimated 15 million LPs, but she just as easily transitioned from music to television with “I Love Jenni” and as a judge on “La Voz,” the Mexican version of the popular singing competition show “The Voice.”
Through her music, Rivera sang of heartbreak, domestic violence and raising her children as a single mother. Her personal life played out in the media as well: Rivera was famously married to Esteban Loaiza, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. They divorced earlier this year.
There was no real blueprint for Rivera’s success. As a woman playing banda, she faced many roadblocks in a male-heavy field, but in her death, Rivera leaves a long-lasting legacy full of triumph and accomplishment — and thoughts of what might have been.