Over the course of eight months since banda singer Jenni Rivera passed away in a plane crash in Mexico, everything has changed, says eldest daughter Janney “Chiquis” Marín Rivera. The 28-year-old now considers herself the head of a family that includes four younger siblings, and she’s responsible for continuing the legacy her mother – an entrepreneur and growing media personality – left behind. That includes Rivera’s hit series, “I Love Jenni,” which Chiquis has continued to film alongside sisters Jacqui and Jenicka, and brothers Michael and Johnny.
“This season has been the most difficult, even more than when we first started filming and everything was so new,” says Chiquis of “I Love Jenni,” now in its third season. “You’re grieving and suddenly something reminds of you of her – and the cameras are there. And it’s even more difficult for me because you see how the kids are trying to deal. We’re an entire family that’s had to go through these emotions and that’s been hard. To be honest, I didn’t feel like being on camera on some days, but we had to do it. It’s our work.”
Jenni had already filmed six episodes of “I Love Jenni” and with more than half of the season left to be taped, the younger Rivera says felt it was her responsibility to wrap up the project in order to “share my mom’s legacy.”
“She had already started it, so I felt it needed to be finished so we could show the world what she was like until the end,” says Chiquis. “If we hadn’t, those episodes would have never aired. We owed it to the fans to show her last months and weeks. We did it for my mom and we did it for the fans who loved her so much.”
The last scenes of Jenni doting on her family, promoting her business endeavors and touring – her very last live performance in Monterrey, Mexico was aired this season – have brought in sky-high ratings for cable network mun2. It’s proof of Jenni’s success to the end, says Chiquis, who shared that she hasn’t been able to watch her mother’s last moments.
“I haven’t been able to watch those episodes,” says Chiquis. “I’ve tried, but it’s very difficult.”
And while Chiquis has devoted herself to completing this season of “I Love Jenni” – likely the show’s last, she notes – she’s also done her best to move forward. She was a guest host on ABC talk show “The View” in July and reveals that the gig was a step towards fulfilling a life-long dream.
“I would love to host a TV show,” divulges Chiquis. “I’m very strong in my opinion, so hosting or being part of a panel on a talk show would be great. My mom taught me to be open and to be yourself. If you put your foot in your mouth, you can apologize later. I like to talk about everything – nothing is off limits.”
That includes off-the-cuff remarks about sex and dating, topics of lively conversation in the Rivera household that have long been a signature of “I Love Jenni.”
“Johnny told me the other day that when it’s time for him to have a girlfriend, he’ll know how to treat a woman,” says Chiquis of her 11-year-old brother. “We’re such a close family and that’s how my mom raised us. And I want for Johnny to know how to value and respect a woman because of all the strong women that have helped raise him. Even [22-year-old brother] Mikey knows how to treat his baby’s mother, all because of what my mother taught him. That’s major.”
While Jenni has been missed, her sister Rosie and brother Juan have emerged as parental figures to Chiquis and the rest of the Rivera children. It’s an honor, says Juan, to spend time with his nieces and nephews in the aftermath of his sister’s death.
“I admire them so much to continue their mother’s legacy, knowing that every Sunday the world will be watching them without their mother physically present,” says Juan of Chiquis and her younger siblings. “I appreciate that they let me be part of their life, as an uncle and male figure they can count on and love. Doing the show has been hard work, but I think all the projects Jenni left behind have been a blessing in disguise, so we could be distracted from such a loss in our family. And when the show ends, we’ll continue to find a way to honor our sister’s legacy and finally come to peace with what has happened.”
And one way the entire family intends to honor Jenni is through a full-length, feature film.
“We’re definitely planning to do a movie,” says Juan. “I’m a little selfish though, I would love to see Chiquis play Jenni.”
“My mom always said she would have a book of her life and a movie about her,” says Chiquis, who says the biopic will be released within the next year.
“And my mom always made sure that her dreams came true.”