Jenni Rivera's kids on her death: 'She's always around'
It's been four years since Jenni Rivera was killed in a plane crash, but her children say they still feel her presence regularly. (Dec. 18)
Divorce and death are awfully different experiences. But for Chiquis Rivera – who lost her best friend and her mother, the legendary songstress Jenni Rivera – the two felt intertwined.
In her new memoir “Unstoppable: How I Found My Strength Through Love and Loss” (Atria Books, out Tuesday in English and Spanish), Rivera, who was 27 when her mother died, recalls stepping up to support her four younger siblings: Jenicka and Johnny, who were only teens, and Jacquie and Mikey, also in their 20s at the time.
Ever since, she's gone through life guided by her mother's strength and words, but it's not the same as physically having her by her side.
When Rivera, now 36, called it quits on her marriage with Lorenzo Mendez, a former vocalist of Banda El Limón, she felt the familiar grief that engulfed her when her mother died in a plane crash in 2012. “I already had the void of not having my mom and all the pain just came together,” Rivera says. “I realized I didn’t have my mom to run to to give me a hug and tell me everything is going to be okay.”
But as Rivera always says, “pain is a path to promotion.”
In “Unstoppable,” we follow Rivera’s growth going from a “nerve-rattled” singer to Latin Grammy-winning performer, from first-time business owner to full-blown entrepreneur, to finding a balance between prioritizing her family’s needs and her own, and her journey to wife – then, as she writes, “watching it all crumble before my eyes.”
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“Unstoppable” is a continuation, as she calls it, to her 2015 memoir “Forgiveness,” in which she details the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father – now in prison – during childhood. It’s clear in Rivera’s new memoir that she’s much more comfortable in her skin and burning brightly despite the grief of losing her mother and leaving the man she’d believed was her life partner.
She writes of her struggles with complicated family dynamics, depression, body image and dieting, anxiety and heartache. But woven throughout are empowering mantras and inspiring life advice for Rivera’s readers to walk away feeling affirmed that they too can overcome their traumas.
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Of her separation and “hopefully divorce soon,” Rivera says, “it dropped me to my knees, but during that time that I was on the floor, I used it to pray and get even stronger in my spirituality.”
That unshakeable faith and devotion to God are omnipresent in Rivera’s memoir and has helped her overcome the curveballs thrown at her. When her mother died, she didn’t “think about it twice,” becoming a mother figure to her youngest brother and sister and putting her dreams on the back burner. “My first instinct was, ‘These are my children, I need to take care of them.’ ”
Later, Rivera became their legal guardian. “That’s the best way I can represent my mom’s legacy,” she thought. “I had no other choice but to be strong for them. At night when I was by myself, I would cry and have my moments, but throughout the day, they kept me strong. I kept them alive and they kept me alive.”
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But as a young woman growing up in a Mexican American household with the pressures of setting a good example for her brothers and sisters, Chiquis sometimes resented the amount of responsibility expected of her as the eldest daughter.
“I’ve always had to be that second mother role in their lives,” she says. “I would always complain to my mom, ‘Why do I have to be an example?’ She would always say, ‘I don’t know, you need to talk to God about that because he made you the oldest.’ ”
Then, her perspective shifted. “It was all a blessing in disguise,” Rivera says she realized. “When my mom passed away, I said to myself, ‘I was being prepared for this moment.’ ” She writes she first discovered God when she was 10. She practiced Christianity like much of her family, but later found herself distancing from the structured environment of the church – but never from God.
Like her mother, Rivera has always marched to the beat of her own drum. “Unstoppable” is Rivera’s way of setting the record straight and reclaiming her narrative after years of public scrutiny into her family drama and high-profile breakups.
Rivera met her ex Mendez in 2016, a day after breaking up with longtime boyfriend Ángel del Villar. Their meet-cute during a birthday tribute concert to her mother quickly turned into a whirlwind romance, engagement, marriage and separation – all in the span of about four years. During her relationship with Mendez, Rivera writes that drugs, alcohol, jealousy and insecurity plagued their years together.
Their marital woes was perfect material for the tabloids. “It’s just part of it,” Rivera says of how she deals with being in the public eye. “Love and light to those people.”
With her memoir – and a new album in the works – Rivera is expressing herself as best as she can. “Writing has always been a form of therapy for me,” she says.
Music also brings her solace. Rivera might have followed in her mother’s footsteps sooner, but “we were so focused on her career,” it wasn’t until 2013 that she launched her career as a solo singer.
Like her book's title suggests, Rivera is feeling “Unstoppable” in every aspect of her life: “I’m finally living my life. I feel so good within my skin, I feel like I have stepped into my own and it feels so freaking good.”
Of her album “Abeja Reina (Queen Bee),” expected to release this spring, Rivera says fans can expect songs inspired by recent events in her life, including her separation. Fans can also expect an upcoming tour.
And her recent single “Quiero Amancer Con Alguien (I Want to Wake Up with Someone)” hints at what's next for her.
“(The song) is so special to me, because I am ready to be loved the right way,” Rivera says. “You have to be ready and really love yourself before you can accept that type of love.”
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