Skip to main content

America missed out on getting to know Jenni Rivera

By Damarys Ocaña, Special to CNN
updated 12:09 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Damarys Ocaña: We mourn the death of rising Mexican-American star Jenni Rivera
  • Ocaña: She overcame strife to reach the top of a Latin music genre dominated by men
  • She was talented, down to earth and inspiring, Ocaña writes
  • Ocaña: We mourn the lost opportunity to have Latina tell her story

Editor's note: Damarys Ocaña is the executive editor at Latina magazine.

(CNN) -- Mainstream America was supposed to get to know Jenni Rivera in the coming months, but not like this. Not because of her tragic death in a plane crash at just 43 years old.

The Mexican-American singer, who died in Mexico on Sunday, had recently signed a deal with ABC to star in a sitcom about a single mom with quirky parenting skills who juggles family and business: a reflection of her real life. It would have been a chance for the country to get to know a remarkable superstar and woman who was talented, refreshingly down to earth and even inspiring.

Rivera had a big voice, a big personality and an undeniably big presence, whether she was onstage, belting out songs about heartache in traditional Mexican dress or a sexy leather outfit, or off it, talking openly about her personal struggles and success.

She was a luchadora, or fighter, who had overcome considerable personal strife, and she drew on her strength to climb to the top of a Latin music genre dominated by men.

Singer Jenni Rivera performs during the 11th annual Latin Grammy Awards in November 2010 in Las Vegas. Rivera, 43, died December 9, 2012, when the small plane she was traveling in crashed in the mountains of northern Mexico. Singer Jenni Rivera performs during the 11th annual Latin Grammy Awards in November 2010 in Las Vegas. Rivera, 43, died December 9, 2012, when the small plane she was traveling in crashed in the mountains of northern Mexico.
Singer Jenni Rivera
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
Photos: Singer Jenni Rivera Photos: Singer Jenni Rivera
Remembering singer Jenni Rivera
Jenni Rivera's family and fans mourn
Jenni Rivera en CNN

She started out in music as a young mother and eventually became a mogul who sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, including 1.2 million albums and nearly 350,000 digital tracks stateside; sold out venues like the Staples Center in Los Angeles and had a bilingual TV show, a radio program, several businesses, a foundation for battered women and millions of followers online.

Fans and our readers -- Latina magazine first put her on the cover in May 2011 -- connected not just to her background as the daughter of immigrants who made something of herself, but her openness: She was neither perfect nor pretended to be so.

She once brawled with a fan, but later made amends and invited the fan to an all-expenses paid trip. She had run-ins with the law and rocky relationships: She was married three times and was divorcing former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza at the time of her death.

"I'm not faking it in any way," she told us last year about her life as reflected in her show, "I Love Jenni," which aired on the Latino-aimed bilingual cable network mun2, adding that she wanted fans to "see the human being behind the celebrity name, the lights and sold-out concerts."

Instead, Latino journalists like me are left to introduce her to a larger audience by writing about her in the past tense. Hearing the news of her death on Sunday, I couldn't help but think of another star, Tejano singer Selena, who was poised to make an impact on American culture when she was killed 17 years ago. In both cases, we not only mourn the artist, but the moment, the lost opportunity to have one of us tell his or her own story beyond songs. But at least we'll always have those.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Damarys Ocaña

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT