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Jenni Rivera, soulful, troubled Mexican music star

The Associated Press, Monday, December 10, 2012, 11:04am (PST)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Jenni Rivera started out doing office work for her family's small independent music label, but her powerful voice, soulful singing style and frank discussion of personal troubles powered her to the heights of a male-dominated industry, transforming her into the one of the biggest stars of the genre known as grupero.

Her life was cut short at its peak on Sunday by an airplane crash in northern Mexico that also killed six friends and co-workers.

The 43-year-old mother of five and grandmother of two became a symbol of resilience for millions of fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Her fame grew as she branched out into acting, appearing in independent film, reality TV and the televised singing competition "La Voz Mexico."

She was recently divorced from her third husband, was once detained at a Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan who verbally attacked her in 2011.

"I am the same as the public, as my fans," she told The Associated Press in an interview last March.

Rivera's parents migrated from Mexico to California and founded the label that also propelled two of her five brothers, Lupillo and Juan Rivera, to careers as well-known singers of grupero music.

Born on July 2, 1969, Rivera studied business administration and formally debuted on the music scene in 1995 with the release of her album "Chacalosa".

The album was a success, followed with two other independent albums, one a tribute to slain Mexican-American singer Selena that helped Rivera expand her following. By the end of the 90s, she won a major-label contract, and built a loyal following that knew her as the "Diva de la Banda."

At the end of the 1990s, Rivera was signed by Sony Music and released two more albums. Widespread success came when she joined Fonovisa and released her 2005 album whose title translates as "Partier, Rebellious and Daring."

She was also an actress, appearing in the indie film "Filly Brown," which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, as the incarcerated mother of character Filly Brown.

She was filming the third season of "I Love Jenni," which followed her as she interacted with her family and toured through Mexico and the United States. She also played a key role in the reality shows "Jenni Rivera Presents: Chiquis and Raq-C" and her daughter's "Chiquis 'n Control."

In 2009, she was detained at the Mexico City airport when she declared $20,000 in cash but was really carrying $52,167. She was taken into custody. She said it was an innocent mistake and authorities gave her the benefit of the doubt and released her.

In 2011, her brother Juan assaulted a drunken fan at a popular fair in Guanajuato. In the face of heavy criticism among her fans and on social networks, Rivera publicly apologized for the incident during a concert in Mexico City, telling her fans: "Thank you for accepting me as I am, with my virtues and defects."

On Saturday night, Rivera had given a concert before thousands of fans in Monterrey. After the concert she gave a press conference during which she spoke of her emotional state following her recent divorce from former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for teams including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Rivera had announced in October that she was divorcing Loaiza after two years of marriage.

"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," she said Saturday night. "The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up."

___

E.J. Tamara reported from Los Angeles.

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