Yesterday we said our good-byes to a great singer-songwriter, actress, producer, entrepreneur and legend, La Diva de la Banda, La Gran Señora, Dolores Janney Rivera also known as Jenni Rivera.
Jenni wasn’t always a celebrity. Her story is one of struggle and perseverance. Rivera’s parents migrated to the United States from Mexico, just like many parents, looking for a better life. Rivera was born in California to a tight-knit family filled with musical talent. She was a great student and became pregnant at the age of 15. With the push of her counselors, she continued her education while pregnant and received her GED, graduating as valedictorian of her class. Jenni Rivera earned her college degree in business administration, proving many wrong, that young Latina mothers never make it to college. However, that wasn’t the end of it.
Rivera made her first recording in the 1990’s and was signed later on, becoming one of the few women leading in the banda and norteña music genre, usually dominated by men, selling over 15 million albums worldwide and starting many companies which sold cosmetics, perfumes, clothing and much more. While Rivera’s career took off the ground, her personal life was filled with pain.
Rivera suffered domestic violence at the hands of her first husband, but that didn’t stop her. She gathered enough strength to leave this marriage and became a spokesperson for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence in Los Angeles. Rivera’s music was a source of inspiration to many women who like her, were victims of abuse and didn’t always have the strength to leave. Her music and her story motivated many women to come forward and seek help knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel. After another failed marriage, Rivera only became more passionate and determined to provide for herself and her family, now a mother of five and an inspiration to women everywhere. Rivera was unafraid, always spoke her mind and overcame every obstacle while still having a smile on her face.
Her work didn’t just stop at domestic violence, Rivera joined immigrant rights activists in Arizona after the racist show-me-your-papers law known as SB1070 became a reality. Rivera performed at the Billboard Awards dressed in purple on spirit day to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. She was a fierce advocate for equality and justice for all people. She challenged mainstream body images and beauty expectations. Her work and her legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of many.
Rivera’s life is a testament of how poderosas we really are while facing violence, racism, inequality and any other blow life has for us. Her work has shown me why it’s important to speak out when things are wrong and to continue to push for spaces where Latinas are leading. It’s important to have a space to turn to that will accept us with open arms and offer support, while being surrounded by others with shared experiences; I’m glad to have the Latina Institute.
Jenni, ayer soltamos mariposas para ti, just how you asked in one of your songs. Thank you for staying true to your roots, your fans and never forgetting where you came from. Thank you for elevating the voices of women everywhere. Thank you for setting a standard on how we deserve to be treated. You are my personal inspiration and I hope to channel your strength into my every day life. May you rest in power. Que descanses en poder.