STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — Nearly one year after Jenni Rivera’s tragic death, her brother and daughter shared their private memories of the larger-than-life Mexican-American superstar.
Few artists, singing in Spanish or English, ever reach the success of Rivera.
“Billions of people have walked the planet; very few fulfill their destiny,” said Rivera’s brother, Juan. “Her determination was to be the Mexican Oprah. That’s what she always said.”
The 43-year-old Long Beach native was just skyrocketing to crossover stardom as a singer, songwriter, actress and television producer when she was killed in a plane crash on Dec. 9, 2012.
“I remember being in my sister’s room. And my niece…coming up to me and hugging me. Having to look at her face and her tell me, ‘Please bring my mom home. I know she’s alive.’ And I had all the fear in my life inside me,” said Juan.
Rivera’s daughter, Jacqui Campos, and Juan said they miss her more than ever.
“I wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom and say, ‘Where are you? I need your help.’ But now I can’t,” said Jacqui. “With my first labor, she was there. She helped me through everything. She said, ‘This is the way you breathe. You’re gonna be fine.’ This next time, with my second child, I’m not going to have that.”
Rivera, born Dolores Janney Rivera, was the daughter of undocumented immigrants.
She made her first recording as a Mexican regional artist in 1992. In 2003, she was nominated for her first Latin Grammy.
Today, she’s sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.
2013 was going to be the big year for Rivera. Those plans ended tragically in the mountains of Iturbide, Mexico.
“When we got to the site of the accident and we saw the magnitude of it, I said there’s no chance,” said Juan.
Posthumusly, Rivera has won 15 Billboard Awards.
“People know the artist. They know the singer. They know the actress. They know the reality star. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my sister. Because the person that took her there is bigger than what they see,” said Juan.
Rivera’s death made international headlines for weeks. To her fans, it was much more than the loss of a singing idol and superstar. What drew them to her was her humanity.
Asked if her survival instinct was what most touched her fans, Juan said, “The things she had to go through, a normal person shouldn’t go through. She got married at 15. She was beaten down physically and emotionally by her husband. Having to endure my nieces and my little sister being sexually abused and molested by her husband. Being raped herself. Just so many things that she had to go through. Most people would break. I don’t have the courage she has.”
Rivera wrote about being raped, which happened when she was just launching her singing career, in a book called “Unbreakable: My Story, My Way,” which was released seven months after her death.
It was a dark chapter very few people even knew about.
“I didn’t know she was raped,” said Juan. “I had no clue. As soon as I read the first few pages, I put it down. I didn’t want to read it.”
It seems like Rivera is still everywhere people turn. From the release of the English language movie “Filly Brown,” in which Rivera plays a drug addicted mother, to having a tequila named after her.
“Her tequila. The sales are out of this world…ridiculous. We can’t get a bottle,” said Juan.
Rivera’s biggest legacy was the way she inspired her family and her fans.
Daughter Jacqui said even in death, Rivera shows them how to move forward.
“If they’re going through any of what she went through…to find hope in her…[if] this woman, a single mother of five, made it this far, that they can also do that same,” she said.
Rivera’s family is getting ready to release an album of the last concert she performed in Monterrey, Mexico, on Dec. 3.