Mexican American superstar Jenni Rivera was always open with her fans about her personal struggles and professional triumphs, sharing that throughout her life, she was often challenged, but always unbreakable. And that was the message that Rivera, who passed away last December when her plane crashed in Mexico, wanted to leave fans in her memoir “Unbreakable.”
Rivera had been working on her autobiography before she died, scribbling chapters about her life in a notebook between concerts and time spent with her five children. From the abuse she suffered at the hands of her first husband, her suicide attempt at 19, a rape she endured when she was just at the cusp of beginning her career as a banda singer, to the excitement she felt at the news that all four broadcast networks were interested in picking up a sitcom based on her life, Rivera did not hold anything back in writing “Unbreakable.”
The book – released Tuesday on what would have been Rivera’s 44th birthday – is a testament to the reason why fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border loved her. With several books published about Rivera in the months immediately after her death, her autobiography – in her own words and the only one authorized by her family– sets the record straight on the legacy the mother of five wanted to leave behind. Below are three key stories that she shared, the details of which have never been public until now.
The love she kept a secret
Rivera, who had filed for divorce from her third husband, Mexican baseball player Esteban Marin, several months before her death, was also honest with her fans about the ups and downs in her love life. But there was one romance she kept a secret to all but her close friends and family: a man that gave her “the passion and the devotion that I’d always wanted,” wrote Rivera.
Rivera’s mystery man was named Fernando and the two met in April 2003. Rivera describes him as a “cholo,” a “bald-headed guy” who swept her off her feet. Fernando was a best friend to Rivera, a man who exposed her to marijuana (“I couldn’t stop laughing,” she wrote, of smoking with him) and who loved her “for the passionate, down, crazy, gangsta woman I was when the spotlight was off.” The two eventually broke things off for good but Rivera wrote that when she cried on stage, it “was almost always for Fernando.”
The details on the English language album that she never released
Rivera reveals in “Unbreakable” that she recorded “about eight songs in English” between 2003 and 2004. “I wanted to do an English album,” she shares, but on the counsel of her father, decided not to for fear of alienating her Latino fans. Instead, she released “Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida” in 2005 and shortly afterwards, sold out a performance at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California.
“As I pulled up to the theater, Hollywood Boulevard was swamped. As I looked at the lines of people wearing Jenni Rivera T-shirts, I got choked up,” Rivera wrote. “Can you believe it? I said to nobody in particular. The nerd from the LBC sold out the Kodak.”
On the rape that impacted her forever
Rivera used her style of Mexican norteña and banda music to publicize her personal struggles, earning millions of female fans who could relate to the physical and sexual abuse Rivera endured. She wrote honestly in “Unbreakable” about the domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband José Trinidad Marín and also revealed that in 1997, she had been raped just after taping her very first music video for the single “La Chacalosa.” She delved into these painful issues in the hope that her female fans would know they were not alone in their pain.
“I silently thanked God as I was slammed onto the sidewalk, realizing that it was finally over,” wrote Rivera of the night she was raped by a man whose advances she had rejected. “But the damage was done. I sat on the curb, numb. I couldn’t cry. I was just relieved to be alive. I vowed that I would never tell anyone of my shame.”
But Rivera realized there was strength in adversity, and offered fans a peek into the spirit that shaped her character.
“My soul had been shattered but to the outside world I did just as I had been taught since I was a little girl,” wrote Rivera. “I kept my head up and continued forward.”