LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jenni Rivera launched her career hawking cassette recordings of her songs at flea markets, but a 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 had recently filed for divorce 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 sold more than 15 million copies of her 12 major-label albums and won a string of Latin music awards. Her shows filled both the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Mexico's National Auditorium, a feat few male singers in her industry achieved.
Many of her songs dealt with themes of dignity in the face of heartbreak, and her shows were known for their festive atmosphere and her intimate interactions with her fans. She would fill song requests from fans who had suffered heartbreak and setbacks, and would often pull women and girls onto stage to personally tell them to keep moving forward.
The plane, being flown by two pilots, was taking her and her publicist, Arturo Rivera, her makeup artist, Jacob Yebale, and two friends, one named Mario Macias and another who was only identified as Gerardo, to the central Mexican city of Toluca after a Saturday night concert before thousands in the northern city of Monterrey. All were killed.
After the concert she gave a press conference during which she spoke of her emotional state following her recent move to divorce former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for teams including the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rivera 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."
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.