Aren’t You El Cinco’s Lady?
Ahora estoy, entre luces hermosas
mas cuando estaba sola, sé que Dios me cuidó.
(Now I am among the beautiful lights,
but when I was alone,
it was God who took care of me.)
—from “Mariposa de Barrio”
Sunday, January 26, 1997
The night began at El Farallon, a popular nightclub in Lynwood, California. El Farallon was where you went to hang out with your friends and get lost in the music, forgetting everything else for just a few hours. It was where I met Juan López, my second husband, after locking eyes with him across the dance floor. Most important, it was where many regional Mexican singers launched their careers. And it was where I decided to shoot my first music video, for my song “La Chacalosa” (The Jackal Woman).
My father had done business with the owner of El Farallon, Emilio Franco. Franco said we could shoot the video before the doors opened at 9:00 p.m. At the time, my dad, known to many as Don Pedro Rivera, was one of the biggest producers of regional Mexican music. He had always been my biggest supporter, especially in those early days when I was struggling to break out. He had plans to buy commercial airtime for this video to promote “La Chacalosa.”
I wasn’t making much money with my music. It was difficult to get my songs on the radio because I refused to fit into the mold of the typical Latina singer. I should have been younger, thinner, softer, quieter, dumber. In the Latino community, female singers were supposed to be beautiful and superskinny, and their music was supposed to be silly. Latina singers were meant to be looked at and not really heard. But I wasn’t eye candy. I was considered overweight. I was considered not to have vocal talent. And I was singing strong, ballsy corridos (folk tales, often involving drug dealers). I probably intimidated the men. No other women were singing corridos. It was like a woman rapping. Women weren’t thought to be tough enough, or real enough, to be singing about the gritty world of drug dealers. The people in the industry tried to make me change. If you want to make it in this genre, they said, you have to do this or that. A lot of women had to do sexual favors to get played on the radio. Fuck that. I wouldn’t do it. I wanted to make it based on my talent or not at all.
At the time we shot the video for “La Chacalosa,” I was working as a Realtor to support my three children and myself. Music was secondary. Juan López, the man I later married, was serving a seven-month prison sentence after being charged with smuggling immigrants. He was set to be released in three weeks. Because I didn’t want to be alone, my sister, Rosie, and her friend Gladyz came with me when I would go out at night for a music gig. On this night they sat in the nearly empty club watching me do several takes of the song. I thought we would be done by nine, but by the time we finished taping at around nine thirty, a few customers had started to trickle into the bar area. Before we left I went to the ladies’ room. As I exited the restroom, a man grabbed my right arm to make sure he had my attention. “Aren’t you El Cinco’s lady?” he said. El Cinco (The Five) was Juan López’s nickname. I distinctly remember looking into this man’s green eyes as he tugged roughly at my arm. He was making me upset and he knew it. “Leave me the fuck alone,” I told him as I broke away, wondering how he knew Juan and why he cared if I was Juan’s lady.
The only autobiography authorized by Jenni Rivera
"I can’t get caught up in the negative because that destroys you. Perhaps trying to move away from my problems and focus on the positive is the best I can do. I am a woman like any other, and ugly things happen to me like any other woman. The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up."
These are the last words that beloved Mexican American singer Jenni Rivera spoke publicly before boarding the plane that would crash and cut her life short on December 9, 2012. However, they are not the final words that La Diva de la Banda had for the world. Those are found in the pages you hold in your hands, Jenni’s own account of the highs and lows of her extraordinary journey.
She became the most acclaimed Spanish-language singer in the United States and sold more than 15 million records worldwide. A single mother of five and grandmother of two, she was also an actress, a television producer, the star of her own reality show, and an entrepreneur. But for all its immense success, Jenni’s life often seemed to be a series of personal battles in which perseverance was her only weapon. As her fame grew, she made it her mission to speak about her struggles, forging an intimate connection with her fans. She became a figure of strength and a source of encouragement to women of all ages.
In Unbreakable, Jenni recounts the crucial moments in her past, revealing her experiences with domestic and sexual abuse, divorce, body image issues, making her way in a male-dominated industry, raising her children as a single mother, and learning that she could depend only on herself.
Though she is no longer with us, Jenni will always be the "Rivera rebel from Long Beach," the girl who maintained her sense of humor and fighting spirit in every circumstance. In this remarkable memoir, Jenni leaves behind a legacy of inspiration and determination that will forever live on through her precious family, friends, and fans.