Singer Jenni Rivera. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images)

Remembering Jenni Rivera – one year later

Singer Jenni Rivera passed away one year ago today, giving way to a legacy that has burned brightly in the months following her death in a tragic plane crash on Dec. 9, 2012.

The 43-year-old Mexican American singer was en route to the city of Toluca in central Mexico after performing at a sold-out concert in Monterrey when a plane carrying her and six others nose-dived from more than 28,000 feet.

The Learjet 25 with Rivera aboard was reported missing about 10 minutes after takeoff at 3:15 A.M. local time and was later found disintegrated upon impact in the rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.

Among the victims of the crash were members of Rivera’s entourage including Arturo Rivera, a publicist; Jacob Yebale, makeup artist; Mario Macias Pacheco, attorney; and Jorge Armando Sanchez Vasquez, Rivera’s hairdresser. Head pilot Miguel Perez Soto, 78 and co-pilot Alejandro Torre, 20, also passed away in the plane crash.

A two-hour long “celestial graduation” memorial service was held for the public just days after Rivera’s passing; an event that was attended by thousands of fans at the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California. While multiple lawsuits are currently pending regarding compensation, damages and responsible parties  involved with the decision to rent the plane on the morning of Dec. 9, there is no doubt that her memory lives on.

Latin singer Jenni Rivera rehearses for the 2012 Billboard Latin Music Awards, from Miami, Florida at the BankUnited Center, University of Miami – April 25, 2012.

Latin singer Jenni Rivera rehearses for the 2012 Billboard Latin Music Awards, from Miami, Florida at the BankUnited Center, University of Miami – April 25, 2012. (Photo/Getty Images)

Rivera – affectionately known as La Diva de la Banda – recorded her first album, “Chacalosa,” in 1996. The singer – who at the time of her death was divorcing her third husband, former Major League pitcher Esteban Loaiza – had earned notoriety by singing norteñas and bandas, musical genres traditionally dominated by men.

And her multigenerational fan base – largely comprised by women on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border – appreciated how Rivera helped erase stereotypes about females in Mexican music. The Long Beach, California native has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and also posthumously won seven honors at the Billboard Mexican Music Awards, including Artist of the Year.

RELATED: [VIDEO] Jenni Rivera’s memorial most touching moments

Rivera, or ‘La Gran Señora’ as she was also known, also received 11 nominations at the 2013 Latin Grammy Awards.

Following her death, Rivera – known as ”La Diva de La Banda” to her fans –  was also the subject of several memoirs about her legacy as a business woman, mother, philanthropist, reality television star and barrier-breaking artist.  She was the first female banda artist to sell two consecutive nights of concerts at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles in August 2010. But to the end, Rivera was the author of her own legacy, which was proven when her autobiography was published in July.

RELATED: Jenni Rivera shares her “Unbreakable” spirit with fans through her new book

Scribbled in a notebook between concerts and time spent with her children, Rivera held nothing back in her official autobiography. She wrote about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her first husband, as well as her experience as a teen mother who defied all odds to graduate from California State University, Long Beach.  She chronicled tough moments in her life – her suicide attempt at 19, and a rape she endured when she was just at the cusp of beginning her career as a banda singer.

But she also shared the excitement she felt at the news that all four broadcast networks were interested in picking up a sitcom based on her life, Rivera was characteristically honest in “Unbreakable: My Story, My Way.” Published on what would have been Rivera’s 44th birthday on July 2, “Unbreakable” became an instant best-seller.

Jenny Rivera sings the Mexican national anthem before the Middleweight bout against Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora at Staples Center on September 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Jenny Rivera sings the Mexican national anthem before the Middleweight bout against Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora at Staples Center on September 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Rivera’s legacy went beyond publishing and music.  Her popular reality series, “I Love Jenni” continued to air new episodes throughout the summer of 2013, resulting in record-breaking ratings for bilingual cable network mun2. The Latina entrepreneur – who had a real estate company, makeup, fragrance and denim lines – will also be the subject of a new biopic, currently with her eldest daughter Janney “Chiquis” Marín Rivera set to star in the leading role. Rivera’s life is also the subject of an exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, California, which is on display through May 2014.

RELATED: New Jenni Rivera concert album gets December release date

Rivera’s philanthropic work also stands as a testament to her legacy as a woman who cared deeply about the world around her.

A victim of domestic abuse during her first marriage, Rivera used her high profile to advocate about the issue. In 2010, she was named a celebrity spokesperson for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) against battered women and domestic violence in Los Angeles.  To further commemorate her dedication to battered women, the L.A. City Council officially named August 6th “Jenni Rivera Day.” Rivera had also founded a charitable organization – the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation – which offered supportive services to single mothers and victims of both domestic and sexual abuse.

Rivera also spoke out for immigrants, partaking in rallies and speaking out on behalf of Latinos vulnerable to regulation like Arizona’s SB1070 law.

”It doesn’t respect humanity and it’s racist,” said Rivera at a 2010 rally in Arizona. She was also outspoken about issues ranging from education, health (she had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast in 2011), LGBT equality (she performed at the Billboard Mexican Music Awards dressed in purple to show solidarity) and gender equality.

Through her work as an artist, humanitarian, advocate and businesswoman, Rivera stood out among her peers as a crossover star who will always be missed but never forgotten. Rivera’s tenacity and drive made her an icon with an intensely loyal fan base. After all, as Rivera reminded the public often, she  – like them –  was a mother, sister, wife and friend.

“I am a woman like any other and ugly things happen to me like any other women,” Rivera told reporters at her final press conference following her Dec. 8 concert in Monterrey.

“The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up.”

RELATED: Chiquis Rivera talks Jenni Rivera movie, opens up about moving on

%d bloggers like this: