Jenni Rivera at the Billboard Latin Music Conference Q&A with Billboard's Leila Cobo and mun2's Flavio Morales. (Photo: Michael Seto)
Mexican-American diva Jenni Rivera - singer, songwriter, performer, producer, reality TV star, radio show host, television producer, fashion designer, compulsive tweeter and future author - may be the "most successful female recording artist of our time," as Billboard's Leila Cobo introduced her to standing-room only crowd Tuesday at the magazine's conference in Miami.
But there is one role that is most important to her.
"I'm a mother above all things," said Rivera, whose family of five children, one grandchild and another nieto on the way is on "I Love Jenni," the Mun2 show she launched in 2009.
Other tasks include hours of emailing each morning, the radio show, tweeting to her fans, designing jeans for women with big hips, taping for the TV show and writing her autobiography.
"That would be a Wednesday, let's say. Sometimes I get home at 2 a.m. and start the day again," Rivera said in a Q&A conversation with Cobo and Flavio Morales, senior vice president of programming at Mun2.
Rivera fields a question from senior vice president of programming at mun2 Flavio Morales, who helped get her reality show off the ground. (Photo: Michael Seto)
Rivera has come a long way since she was a real estate agent in suburban Los Angeles, a single mother trying to make it out on her own in business and figuring out if she wanted to be a lawyer or a teacher or a nurse. Diva was not in her plans. She recorded in her father's studio as a hobby, for fun. But one day, she was meeting a couple to show them a house and, waiting in her car, she heard herself on the radio.
"It was simply my hobby to record music," Rivera said. "Nobody believed a single mother could be a recording artist. At that time, they were picking people off the street because of their looks and making them into a package."
But since that time, she has taken her successes and her missteps and turned them into the story of a role model for other Latina artists. Or, maybe, businesswomen.
"I keep feeling more like a businesswoman than an artist," she said. "The music is a therapy, an emotional release of everything I lived."
Now, everything she lived can be seen on TV in the Mun2 show, "I Love Jenni." Some of the impetus for the show was because there was so much tabloid talk about her anyway, she decided she would set the record straight on her terms.
"When I saw that my life caused interest, I thought, 'I am going to use my name in my way,'" she added. "My name is used in many ways in many arenas and I said, 'I am going to produce TV programs and design a clothes line, have a fragrance and a radio program."
Morales asked her if there were times she regretted that decision.
"It could make you upset but if I allow that to overwhelm me, I'm going to be frustrated and bitter," she said. "What matters is that I know this is part of the business and I will do everything possible to turn the negative into something positive."
Not just the TV show, but the radio show and her Twitter account also help her do that.
Rivera poses beside her recent Billboard Magazine cover. (Photo: Michael Seto)
"Having direct contact on my radio program, I can clarify things and people can interview me," said Rivera, who added that she loves Twitter for the same reason.
"In Twitter, every time I just write something, everybody responds," she said. "I really like talking to people on Twitter because it is contact with my public. A 'happy birthday,' saying 'congratulations' is important to them. They feel in touch. They feel they have me close by."
Still, it is the Mexican artists that came before her - way before her - that ultimately influenced her musically, Rivera said, naming Rocio Ducal, Isabel Pantoja and Lupita D'Alessio. In 1994 or 1995, she heard a young singer named Selena and admired her as a woman who did things her own way.
But like Selena, Rivera - who was born in the U.S. after her mother crossed the border while pregnant -- has done things her way and has kept true to her Mexican-American roots.
"I had the good fortune that my parents were very strict. They didn't let me speak English at home or listen to English music at home. "They instilled in me even more my roots, my culture."
"I'm super happy with what I've accomplished," she said. "I want to see my products grow. I can do a lot more when it comes to music, but I think it is my responsibility to inspire the world more, my fans more -- not only through music, but maybe through my book, the story of my life."
"I want to be more of an interpreter."