Jenni Rivera’s passing on Sunday has brought all sorts of tributes and appreciations, constant reports in Spanish television channels and radio stations, and an outpouring of messages from her fans and friends social media. It was sad news all over.
While I personally was not a fan of her banda music, I had grown to like her personality and her story. She was a Mexican American who was born and raised in Long Beach, California, who came from nothing to make herself one of the most successful women singers, Hispanic entrepreneurs and role models, in spite of all the drama and troubles that continually followed her.
Her death seems unfair because at 43 years of age, she was at the peak of her career, and she was expanding beyond the music and the reality TV shows. She also leaves behind a large family and 5 kids.
And yet there is another side of the artist coming out: the version of Jenni with generosity and kindness she showed to people, to her fans, to Latinos, to her fellow musicians. It’s as if she won you over just by getting to know her. Como dijo Miguel Bosé about meeting her for the first time, her fellow judge/coach on the Mexican version of “La Voz de México”: “Fue amor a primera vista.”
Someone who knows firsthand about her generosity and kindness is Krystle Corral, who works at Telemundo in Los Angeles and who was kind to share this story and photos of her experience meeting Jenni Rivera just a few months ago.
Krystle is a cheerleading coach at Wilson High School in El Sereno, California (Los Angeles) where she coaches 20 kids (boys and girls) between the ages of 14- and 18. The WHS Cheerleaders were fundraising to attend and compete in the National Cheerleading Association’s High School competition in January 2013 and they needed money for the team and their chaperones. They reached out to famous people via social media and websites, and the first one to respond was Jenni Rivera’s assistant, to inquire and see how they could help.
As it turns out, Jenni Rivera herself surprised the team during one of their practices on August 15th. The kids did not know she was coming, and they literally did flips of joy when she showed up at their gym. Jenni spent about 40 minutes with them, watching their practice, posing for pictures with everyone, giving out hugs and words of wisdom. She also mentored them and asked them to do 4 things:
1. To listen to their coaches.
2. To stay in school and get good grades.
3. To compete in the Nationals and represent Los Angeles proudly.
4. To continue volunteering and give back to the community.
She told Krystle that a check would be coming in the mail for them. To their amazement, a few days later, they received a check for 15 THOUSAND DOLLARS for everyone to attend the Nationals. She paid for everything they needed to get to the event in Dallas on January 12 and 13, 2013. Imagine that!
On October 17th, the cheerleaders visited Jenni at the radio station where she recorded her weekly show. Again she posed for pictures with the team and wished them good luck and asked them to keep her posted on their progress.
On Sunday, the kids were volunteering at a Senior Citizen’s center in LA when Krystle had to break the sad news. As you can imagine, the kids were devastated and couldn’t understand why this happened. La verdad es que nadie lo entiende…
But their spirit to win is now stronger than ever. The kids have dedicated their performance and all their preparation to Jenni Rivera. Sirve de consuelo saber que ya están siguiendo los consejos, and that they are already volunteering and giving back.
So thank you Jenni Rivera, for this and the countless other acts of generosity that mostly went unnoticed, like paying for a young child’s kidney transplant in my hometown of Mexicali, B.C.… like helping battered women get back on their feet after episodes of domestic violence… liking helping organizations that help a los indocumentados en Estados Unidos and standing up for them… And thank you for proving women can make it happen y que pueden salir adelante cuando son luchonas y le echan ganas a todo.
As her father Pedro Rivera said last night, “She never gave up and she was always good to people.” Descanse en Paz.