It’s three days before the 5th year anniversary of the day (Dec. 9) regional Mexican star Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash while working in Mexico. In a Los Angeles soundstage, the matriarch’s children are recording promos for their upcoming third season of The Riveras.
It’s evident that the siblings — Chiquis, Jacqie, Jenika, Michael and Johnny — are bonded. On set, they’re doing what they know best in front of the cameras as part of the NBCUniverso reality series that’s mostly in English, even though the network is mostly in Spanish.
For the children of the singer, who was known for being outspoken, bold and controversial, the lessons learned along the way have been challenging, but the best way to honor their mother is by working and moving forward. This year they plan on celebrating their mother as part of a tribute special on NBCUniverso’s Remembering Jenni, Our Mom airing on Dec. 9.
“At the end of the day she continues to keep us together,” says Chiquis. “She had a strong personality, but she was a go getter and never gave up. If one door closed, she’d open the window and never took no for an answer.”
At 32, Chiquis is the eldest sibling who was originally the star of her own reality show until one day producers asked Jenni to appear in a few episodes. Pleased with Jenni’s vibrant personality, the network (then called Mun2) producers rebranded the show to I Love Jenni, which concluded its run in the summer of 2013. The children took about two years off before returning to a series.
“People see themselves in them,” says Liane Su, executive producer of The Riveras, who has been with the family from the start. “They’ve been on the air for about eight years in several incarnations. The show is in English on a Spanish-language network because we had a proven history and I give credit to the executives who gave the show a chance because the family and the stories are strong enough.”
When Rivera died on Dec. 9, 2012, Spanish-language media shifted much of their coverage to the entertainer. The story dominated in the ratings and that coverage expanded to many networks in English as well.
Rivera, Su says, wanted to have a platform for her children and even today, five years after their mother’s death, the offspring are taking steps to find their own paths personally and professionally, while honoring their mother.
On their mother’s anniversary, the siblings are going to spend most of the day together. They are “adopting a family” in need as a way to honor their mother who was often helping people even when the cameras were not rolling.
“Through our experiences we can help people,” says Chiquis. “We’ve been through a lot, but we have each other. This is part of a bigger picture. God knows what he’s doing.”
Billboard caught up with siblings to see what they’re up to and have planned for 2018.
Chiquis: The eldest of all siblings, she’s already released an album and singles in the last few years, but it is her new album for early 2018 that she says will stay true to the regional Mexican genre and will include a few modern-day surprises. “I want to get nominated for a Grammy,” says the singer, who also says she’s in love with Lorenzo Méndez, the lead singer of La Original Banda El Limón. “I feel more secure as a singer, artist, performer and a woman.”
Jacqie: The third season of The Riveras doesn’t start until March, but Jacqie, 28, knows plenty is going to go down and calls the new installment a “metamorphous” because so much happens and everyone evolves in major ways. She also wants to make music, but only if she can do it on her own terms without having to worry about sales or deadlines. A devout Christian, Jacqie wants to create music that inspires others, so she’s already recording music in addition to taking courses in writing, among other areas. She’s also eyeing alternative and country music. “I may be Jenni’s daughter, but that doesn’t mean I have to record corridors or banda music.”
Michael: Balancing life between design school, taking care of his daughter and The Riveras is a good challenge, Michael, 26, says, but he doesn’t necessarily have his heart set on a life in the entertainment industry. Art speaks to him and it’s something he wants to continue doing. “My ultimate goal is to do murals for mom and see where art leads me.”
Jenicka: Becoming a teacher is an option, says Jenicka, 20, but she’s also very passionate about being a plus-size model and doing make-up. She knows that the business is tough, but she’s enjoying modeling for now and having a platform on The Riveras, where the new season of promos will showcase all the siblings wearing cool black leather jackets, outfits and fierce attitudes uniting them as a family.
Johnny: At 16, Johnny is already producing music (he produced a Jenni song). He recently graduated from high school and wants to direct movies, produce other recording acts and make music since in recent years has shown he loves to sing. His biggest news in recent weeks was declaring that he has a boyfriend: “I feel much better and I feel like I can breathe now,” Johnny says about coming out to his family and fans on a recent social media video with Chiquis by his side.