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Jenni Rivera won over fans who related to her struggles

Jenni River(right) her crew including makeup artist Jacob Yebale mug onboard plane Saturday. | Posted Instagram account Jacob Yebale

Jenni Rivera (right) and her crew, including makeup artist Jacob Yebale, mug onboard the plane Saturday. | Posted to the Instagram account of Jacob Yebale

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Updated: January 12, 2013 6:16AM



Latin music star Jenni Rivera, who died in a plane crash Sunday, was the real “Jenny From the Block.”

Fellow Latina icon Jennifer Lopez may have claimed the title herself, but Rivera actually lived up to the spirit of the song, a testament to staying the same despite fame and fortune, and never forgetting one’s roots.

Unlike Lopez, Rivera remained true to her working-class background till the end. “I am the same as the public, as my fans,” said Rivera, 43, known as “La Diva de la Banda,” in an AP interview this March.

With her zaftig figure and no-nonsense attitude, she became a heroine to many who identified with her struggles, including teen pregnancy, domestic/sexual abuse, ro­mantic heartbreak, and perhaps most of all, being a woman in a man’s world. (Banda, the brass-based Mexican style, is a boys’ club in particular.) “The number of times that I have fallen down,” said Rivera in a press conference after her last concert Saturday, “is the number of times that I have gotten up.”

Born in Long Beach, Calif., the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera was part of an entertainment dynasty that included her brothers, Latin music stars Lupillo and Juan, and was launched by her father, Pedro Rivera, founder of the indie label Cintas Actuarias.

Remarking she wanted to become “the Mexican Oprah Winfrey,” she was on her way to that goal, with her own perfume and jeans lines, and reality-TV franchises. Rivera, who had just signed on to star in an ABC sitcom and made her feature film debut in the indie “Filly Brown,” also was on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough. “[Anglos] don’t really know me,” she recently told Latina magazine. “And that’s going to change.”

Unlike Latin pop stars such as Thalia or Paulina Rubio, who rely on sex appeal, Rivera — in an irony — saw herself as a survivor, not a siren. She covered the anthem “I Will Survive” — in a banda arrangement, no less — on “My Vida Loca” (2007).

“She had a tough life, but she also had an extraordinary gift,” said Edward James Olmos, executive producer of “Filly Brown.” “She touched millions, and she’ll be missed.”



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