By Elia Esparza
The international superstar Jenni Rivera was given a goodbye fiesta just the way she would have wanted. There were Mariachi bands, her favorite Bandas, her famous friends sang (Olga Tanon, Ana Gabriel, Joan Sebastian) and Rivera’s daughters, sons and brothers, sang and paid tribute to the woman they all love.
Among the more than 6,000 mourners that came together at the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal City walk for the two-hour “Celestial Celebration” to pay tribute included stars like Joan Sebastian, Kate del Castillo, Edward James Olmos, Marco Antonio Solis, Larry Hernandez (banda star), Jessica Maldonado (Rivera’s best friend and a journalist for El Gordo y la Flaca on Univision), among many others. There was not a dry eye in the theater when Rivera’s 11 year old son, Johnny Angel spoke with a maturity of a much older boy.
Jenni Rivera was killed in a plane crash on December 9th in Mexico. At her Wednesday memorial service, the singer-actress’ tragic short life was celebrated and hailed as “the eternal diva,” “la señora,” “mariposa de barrio” (butterfly of the barrio) and other terms of deep affection and respect.
The emotional service was done languages which included tearful eulogies and joyously defiant musical numbers by superstar Joan Sebastian, Olga Tañon and Ana Gabriel.
Actor-director Edward James Olmos who cast Rivera in the indie film Filly Brown, sat solemn, sad. Buki fame singer, Marco Antonio Solis looked devastated. Kate del Castillo, the Mexican star of Telemundo’s hit drama La Reina del Sur, shed tears throughout the service.
The memorial service was staged in a similar way that Michael Jackson’s ceremony was. Rivera’s cherry-red coffin engraved with white butterflies, rested in the middle of the stage and it radiated from it’s lacquered polish like the star she was. It was perfect… a fitting final vessel for a woman who sold more than 15 million total copies worldwide of her 20-odd studio albums (including a just-released CD) and earning several Latin Grammy nominations. More recently she’d starred in the mun2 reality television series I Love Jenni, which was into it’s third season of production.
Rivera’s family wore white and red, just the way the superstar would have wanted. Rosa Rivera, her mother, sparkled in red and spoke eloquently of her daughter. “My daughter asked me once, if it was true that she was not a planned pregnancy, nor desired. I told her that life was rough back them and another baby was going to make it harder. But that later she found out that a child coming when not planned is a blessing. And, she was.”
“Your joy, your smile, your affection for the public, will never be forgotten,” her father, Pedro Rivera declared.
As famous and loved that Rivera is, she was far from perfect and no saint, as was noted throughout her ceremony. “She was a passionate, flawed woman who battled to hold her personal life together and once doused a drunken concertgoer with beer while confronting him,” was mentioned.
She had a fighting spirit and combined with her talent is what made Rivera who she was and her fans, especially the women, loved her. As one speaker said, “She was the most perfect imperfect woman.”
Rivera was a smart and savvy business woman building her brand at accelerated speed. Everything she touched turned to gold. She wanted to earn another title and that was to be: the Latin American Oprah Winfrey.
She related to Winfrey, coming from humble beginnings and gaining success when the naysayers were telling her “you’re too fat,” “you too fat,” and many other negatives. Like Winfrey, Rivera broke the stereotype that fat girls cannot succeed among the skinny “typical” movie stars and singers.
As an entrepreneur, Rivera had an instinct of recognizing a niche market opportunity. When she couldn’t find jeans to fit, she designed her own. She would say, “There are no decent plus-size jeans, so I created them.” One of the businesses she was next working on with her fashion designer was to design a line of Quinceañera gowns and no doubt the dresses would have been unique and like no other debutante formal dress ever created. It is unclear if the family will continue with this venture but all indication is that it will be another brand coming soon.
Jenni Rivera was a giant of a woman. She defied stereotypes, age, ethnicity and had an over-the-top personality and never backed away from any controversy. She faced adversity without fear. That is who Rivera the woman was.
She was a beloved, hit-maker in the genre of norteña and banda. Her songs inspired women living in bad situations with their men. Her songs talked about men having balls, well women have ovaries. Rivera broke through a man dominated music industry and she did it within a few years.
At 43 years old, the thrice-divorced mother of five, talked about her life experiences openly and proudly. She was proud of her voluptuous figure, and wore short, sexy dresses as confident as she wore her mom jogging suits and baseball caps.
The success that Rivera attained is attributed to her upbringing coming from poor Mexican immigrants who went on to attain a decent middle-class lifestyle. Her parents instilled a hard work ethic and came together as a family through their music and happy home life. Rivera believed that neither her ethnicity or lack of opportunities growing up were going to hold her back in attaining her dreams. She was proud of being a Mexican American and wore her pride on her sleeves.
Rivera recognized early on how important Mexican-Americans and Latinos were in the U.S. and that it was a demographic she was going to conquer with her own brands and music. And she did.
Jenni Rivera broke many glass ceilings including being the first female banda performer to sell out a concert. Her final fiesta, her memorial service also sold out minutes after being made available. Hundreds if not thousands of additional fans, some who traveled from many miles including Mexico, stood outside holding signs and weeping.
Rest in peace, Jenni Rivera. Your legacy will live on for generations. Godspeed.
Reprinted from Latin Heat Entertainment