If you read one more obituary on the cross-cultural star Jenni Rivera, I suggest it be Gustavo Arellano's personal observation on her life and career in the OC Weekly. This is different from his screed about how the U.S. media missed the Rivera phenomenon. This explains her LA-area roots and why she became so popular, especially among women. Headline: "Los Ovarios of Steel: The ballsy, brash, brilliant, too-short life of Mexican regional music queen and Long Beach girl Jenni Rivera."
It starts when Arellano interviewed Rivera in 2003. Excerpt from the piece:
I really didn't care for her music—being a traditionalist, I found it improper a mujer would sing about getting drunk and flirting around and being proud of it, especially in a genre and culture in which females were expected to be classy damas.
But I also knew a great story when I saw one, so I went forward. Rivera's publicist gave me one hour to interview her; we talked on the phone for three while she was in a Maryland hotel room on her first East Coast tour. Over the course of that conversation, I dropped all my macho bullshit and became an eternal fan. It wasn't just the music, which was loud, brash and wonderfully unapologetic, but also what she represented: a visionary who, as I would write, "changed Mexican culture forever" simply by singing about her rags-to-riches story and urging fans to believe they also could find success if they only tried.
We talked again in 2009, this time in person for a profile I was writing for Latina. We sat in the wood-paneled Woodland Hills offices of Fonovisa, the label at which she stayed for most of her career. By now, Rivera was a megastar, and her songwriting had become even better—but, as during our first interiew, she told me music wasn't enough. She wanted to create a beauty line. Beauty salons. Businesses for her daughters. A clothing line. Make the crossover to television. Acting. Real estate. Start a charity. Get into political activism. And conquer the "mainstream" English-language market that refused to acknowledge her because her success was only with Mexicans.
What was most amazing about Rivera is that everything she told me she'd do in our two interviews, she accomplished—empty promises simply didn't exist in her life.
She was a Culver City native with a high school GED who got into business first, then became a singer: "I was a business child, then a business teenager, and finally a businesswoman. No other woman was doing it, so I knew I'd dominate the market. At the same time, I didn't just want to be another pretty body onstage. I wanted to convey a message—that women could be as bad-ass as men."
Arellano writes: "Her 2009 smash single, 'Ovarios,' demanded society consider ovaries as metaphors for courage the same way we lionize balls."