Remembering Jenni Rivera, The Music Icon and Mother

By Angie Romero • December 08, 2013

The world lost one of its brightest stars on December 9, 2012. But for all her success, Jenni Rivera was also unapologetically real, vulnerable and accessible. In this exclusive interview, Rivera’s eldest daughter Chiquis reflects on the loss and honors the legacy of banda music's reigning queen.

Becoming a superstar wasn’t even the plan. When Jenni Rivera’s father Pedro launched his own record label, Cintas Acuario, in 1987 in Long Beach, Calif., it was supposed to be a place for his son Lupillo and other male regional Mexican singers to shine. Jenni, then a high school student, answered phones and did clerical work. But everything changed when she gave Pedro a corrido recording of her own as a birthday present in 1994. Men had been singing corridos since the early 1900s, but it wasn't the sort of thing you'd hear a woman tackle, especially given the controversial subject matter. But here came Jenni, backed by banda music’s thunderous brass, telling stories of fugitives and drug lords and their misbehaving daughters. Eventually, she’d sing ballads and pop songs, too.

Was her success surprising? Not if you were paying attention. She was raised by hardworking Mexican immigrants and taught to defy the odds almost from the womb. Pregnant at 15, she didn't drop out of high school. Instead, she got a business degree and started selling real estate. It was one of many jobs she held throughout her life—mother first, but also singer, entrepreneur, radio host, philanthropist, TV personality, producer and actress. Days before her untimely death, she had finalized a deal with ABC to star in her own TV series—yet another milestone in her 43 years.

Her life was nothing short of a telenovela, full of tragedy and triumph, and she confronted scandal head-on, with the type of dignity and courage that would make Olivia Pope proud. She spoke to her fans directly about issues they could relate to—divorce, domestic abuse, betrayal—on national TV, on Twitter, anywhere they would listen. The underlying message was always the same: “If I can do it, you can do it, too.”

Some viewed her as arrogant. But is it really arrogance when you say you're going to do something and then go out and do it? There's no telling how much more she could have done had she not boarded that fateful Learjet out of Monterrey, Mexico, in the early hours of December 9, 2012, along with her publicist Arturo Rivera, makeup artist Jacob Yebale, hairstylist Jorge Armando Sanchez Vasquez and attorney Mario Macias Pacheco.

A year later, we continue to mourn. But one thing inspires: the fact that Jenni Rivera herself was unafraid of pain or death. She sang about it all the time.

Jenni's gone, but she’s not really gone. As you read this, tens of thousands of her diehard fans are gathered at the Monterrey Arena for a tribute concert titled “Jenni Vive 2013” (Jenni Lives 2013), put on by her brother Juan, along with several other family members.

No one takes after her more than her eldest daughter Janney Marin, aka Chiquis. Now 28, she has taken on the role of mother to Jenni’s four children, while helping her aunt Rosie look after the multi-million dollar empire that is Jenni Rivera Enterprises. A new CD/DVD, Jenni Rivera: 1969 - Siempre, En Vivo Desde Monterrey, Parte I, and a future biopic, are just a few ways in which they’re keeping her legacy alive.

Myspace spoke exclusively with Chiquis just days before the one-year anniversary of her mother's passing.

I can’t even imagine how hard this past year has been for you. What or who has helped you heal?

I’ve always been a person of faith. But when this happened on December 9, I remember thinking, “This isn't true. God would never do this to me.” My mom and I weren’t on speaking terms for about two months before the accident and the way things ended, I felt like I never got closure. So my faith was tested a lot. I struggled and was upset with God. But time is the best healer and I’m stronger now. There's this fire within me that says, “I need to make it in this world. I need to do this for the kids, I need to do this for my mother.” If I didn't have that beautiful gift that she left me, my siblings, I don’t think there would be a Chiquis. I would have done something very cowardly, something that I don't believe in. They’ve helped me heal, along with my friends, the close circle of people around me, and my faith.

What has it been like for you to take on the role of mother to your siblings?

When it comes to Johnny [12] and Jenicka [16], and even Jacquie [24], and Michael [22], the older ones, I’ve always been there. My mom and I were like husband and wife—I stayed at home with the kids, took care of the house and held everything down while she was out working. It might sound weird but that’s really how it was. I had moved out of the house in March 2012 and I came back in January 2013 after all this happened. I guess it was different because I never thought I would live my life without my mother, so maybe there is more anxiety, for lack of a better word. I don't just take care of them because they're my brothers and sisters, I do it because I love them so much and I know what my mom wants for them in life. I worry about things, but I know my mom is always there to guide me. There’s something so beautiful about when someone leaves this earth physically, their spirit is infused in you in some way and they can help more from where they’re at than when they’re here. It has changed but it's also something that was so normal for me.

Is there a moment of the day or night when you miss her the most?

It’s always at night. In the morning, if I know that I have to be up at a certain time and I’m on a mission, it’s not that I don’t miss her, it’s just that I’m like, “OK, let’s do this.“ But it’s always at night when everything’s done with and I ask myself, “What did I do today? Is there something that I could have done better?” I have her picture right by my bed and sometimes I have to shake my head, literally do that, and ask, “Is this really happening?” I wish I could talk to her about situations that I’m going through. She wouldn’t always agree but I miss those moments, always at night.

Do you see her in your dreams?

I’ve only dreamt her twice this entire time. Every time that I see her, it hurts me more. The first time I saw her, we were on the phone so I didn’t see her, but I heard her voice. We were talking business, like we always did—I think it was about selling the house. I remember thinking, “She’s still working up there.” When I woke up, I cried so much. So I think she stays away for a reason. It’s difficult for me to watch videos of her or even the show, I Love Jenni—I still can’t do that. The other time I dreamt her, I had picked her up and she was so skinny, her hair was a mess. I said, “Where were you?” And she said, “They kidnapped me all this time.” That was four months after the accident so I woke up feeling like, “Oh my gosh, she's back.”

You’re writing a book now, titled Forgiveness. What do hope readers get out of it?

The book is a love story between a mother and a daughter. It’s everything that I have gone through and how I believe that love is the moving force of the universe. With love, comes pain, and with pain, you have to learn to forgive. A lot of people hold onto resentment and grudges and I personally don't think that's any way to live. If I can tell people the truth of what happened between my mom and I, it can probably help another mother and daughter and stop this from happening again because I would do anything to hug her one last time, to know what it’s like to have a text message from her a day before she left. I don’t have that and I don’t want anyone to have to experience that over a silly argument or over something that someone made up. There’s nothing more toxic than gossip and that’s what happened between my mom and I. It’s not about making anyone look bad because I wasn't the perfect daughter, either. I made mistakes and she made mistakes, but more than anything I want people to learn to forgive, because I truly believe that with forgiveness comes the wings to freedom. When you feel free from all these chains that are holding you back, you can soar as high as you want.

In what ways are you most like your mother?

People always send me pictures on Instagram, side by side, of the two of us. We laugh the same, there are so many things, but I think more than anything, we have the same hunger. I used to live my life for my mom, to help her build her empire, but now I want to build my own empire—always honoring my mother. I feel like I owe that to her. She always said, “You're the one that pushed me to want more out of life because I had you at 15.” I have that same hunger. I want to show the world that I’m not just Jenni Rivera’s daughter. I have my own thoughts and my own feelings and my own talents. When they tell me no, I'm like, “You wait and see. I’m gonna turn that no into yes!” So that’s how I'm most like her.

What do you think is your mother’s greatest gift to the world?

Philanthropy. I love to give back. I learned that from my mother and she also taught that to her fans. It wasn't just about giving money. On Twitter she had this thing where she would ask everyone to pray for one of her fans, for a particular cause. Some of her fans, her J-Unit, they still do that. The Love Foundation, which deals with domestic abuse victims, is also something that I feel can go on forever and I want to continue that.

She had so many great sayings. What’s one of your favorite Jenni-isms?

She always used to say, “Las veces que me he caido, son las veces que me he levantado. [The times that I've fallen are the times that I've gotten up]. That or she would always say, “Mija, God gave us big asses because when we fall, we can bounce right back up.” I always remember that. I know I'm gonna make mistakes but my mom, she went through a lot and she never gave up. With tears in her eyes, she always managed to get right back up and put a smile on her face and on other people’s faces.

What is your favorite memory of her?

I have so many. After about 24, 25, her and I started going out a lot. If anybody taught me to love tequila it’s my mother. She wasn’t a big drinker; she just drank when she was performing, or for special occasions. For her birthday, she would throw a party and call it her New Years and we would have so much fun. I wish I could have a shot and dance with her all night.


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