Skip to main content

America missed out on getting to know Jenni Rivera

By Damarys Ocaña, Special to CNN
December 11, 2012 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT