By Jeff Pfeiffer
Latin singing superstar Jenni Rivera has not only become the most prominent female recording artist in regional Mexican music — she is a multi-gold, platinum and double-platinum award-winning artist — but she has proven equally successful in the world of television and social media.
Jenni is back on mun2 (pronounced moon-dos) following the huge success of last year’s series Jenni Rivera Presents Chiquis and Raq-C, which the singer co-executive produced. The series scored record ratings for mun2, helped the network’s website garner over 7 million page views, and established Rivera as a go-to franchise for the bilingual channel. Naturally, they wanted to bring her back, and she is indeed back in a big way in in the second season of the show, now called I Love Jenni, which premieres on mun2 March 5 and airs Saturdays at 2pm ET/PT, 1pm CT, and places more of its attention on her.
“It was gratifying to see that viewers tuned in,” Jenni says of Chiquis and Raq-C. “I Love Jenni turns the focus on my complicated career and family, and how we live in both worlds. Fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at ‘mi vida loca,’ and all the different personalities in the Rivera family. This is going to be one fun ride.”
In the first episode, Jenni faces pressure to pick between kids and career. Chiquis wants to get Jacqui to let loose on her 21st birthday, but Jacqui’s baby is turning one at the same family party. Michael helps Chiquis move the office — for a price. And an acting coach is caught off guard when Jenni channels her inner “chola” for a part in an Edward James Olmos movie.
During the Television Critics Association press tour back in January, I sat down with Jenni after her presentation to journalists promoting the series. Her fun, open personality made it easy to see why fans adore her — and she them — and she had a lot to say about the new series and her fans, and offered a few personal insights into her life.
How did the idea for “I Love Jenni” come about?
Jenni Rivera: I love [the fans], and I love to give them what they love. They love me, they love me so very much. That’s why the show is called I Love Jenni, because my fans don’t like me, they love me. I mean, my fans go to five or six shows of mine a year. That’s a lot. I don’t do that for my favorite artists. So to think that they do that — I mean, they really love me and want to feel close to me. So when they wanted more off of the Chiquis and Raq-C show — they wanted more of us — we’re like, “Let’s give it to them, see how it works.” Basically it doesn’t take much work. It’s just having the cameras follow us, and we’re just ridiculous human beings that say dumb things that people laugh at and keep on watching. (laughs)
What other types of “family”-themed reality shows do you watch, and did you learn anything from them about what you wanted to do on this show?
We like the Kardashians, and I think a lot of America does. That’s mainly the one that we watch the most at home. It’s so homey; it’s family. I think it’s okay for the kids to watch that. I have great respect for the family. They’re great business people, and I really admire that. I think Kris is a super–intelligent woman. And I think she’s – and I’m a mother myself – she’s trying to make the kids happy and give them a position somewhere, and I really respect that.
You have a huge number of followers online — via your website (jenniriveramusic.com), Facebook and Twitter. How interactive are you with them online?
You need to follow me to see! I think I am the most involved artist, and human, probably, with their fans. I have an assistant, to be totally honest with you, that does my Facebook and does my website and everything. I do Twitter all on my own. I love [my fans], and I know that saying “Happy Birthday” to somebody will make them piss in their pants they’re so happy! (laughs) And if they say, “Jenni, I’m not doing well, can you pray for me?” Sure. And that just puts a smile on somebody’s face, and I like to do that. I’m super super busy, so if I’m at a red light, or sitting on the toilet (laughs), or someone’s driving for me, I like to tweet to them, just because the contact is so direct, and now that I can have it on my phone, it’s just so close. I don’t always have the time to sit in front of a computer, and answer my fans like that. But Twitter is on my phone, and it’s such a close contact with them, and it makes them so happy.
For example, from Twitter — I think things happen for a reason. I was sick [recently], with a very bad kidney infection, and it just hurt so bad. Then off of Twitter, fans asked for our e-mail for our foundation — I have a foundation, my daughters and I, to help people that have been sexually abused, or domestic violence, or people in general that are ill or that need help. And we got a letter which I’m going to make their dream happen. In Mexico there’s a 13-year-old boy that’s living with one kidney, and that’s bad. They have a donor; they just don’t have the 350,000 pesos, which is about $30,000, for his operation. And my kids and I are going to do that. And that’s very close, that’s very deep. The reason I decided to do that is because we love to do things like that, but then I was just sick, and that’s when I got better, and I’m like, “Oh, my God, if I’m this sick, how does this 13-year-old boy feel?”
So from there, to saying “Happy Birthday,” to spending time with them, to when I go to my concerts –- all Twitterers have a special VIP area where they take pictures with me. We work with that on my Twitter page. Once again, because my fans are so important, and they feed myself and my children. They pay for my cars, they pay for what I’m wearing. But more than that, they’re human beings that just want to be happy, so that’s why we do things like that.
Who do you follow online?
I follow Oprah Winfrey, who’s like my ultimate idol. I follow Rob Kardashian — I don’t follow the girls, but I follow him. He tweets really nice, significant things. He kind of makes me feel like he’s a soft-hearted male, and I love that. I follow Ricky Martin, I follow Paulina Rubio, I follow a few rappers. Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and people like that. People that I really admire and have a lot of respect for.
What else are you working on?
I start my next album tomorrow [Jan. 14, at the time of the interview]. Basically the songs are selected, ready to go. Basically I have to lay down the tracks so that they can do the music for it and then I can do vocals in like a month or so. We’re anticipating maybe an April album.
One part of [I Love Jenni] as well is to promote what I do, which is my jeans line, which is my upcoming cosmetics line and my album. So besides following us around and following what our family consists of, [I Love Jenni is] also about what I do, because I know that that interests my fans, and it will be part of the reality show.
What types of shows do you like to watch?
I like Forensic Files. I TiVo It Only Hurts When I Laugh. My 10-year-old cracks up when the things happen on that show. He TiVos Family Guy and he makes me watch it. And I watch the E! channel. One of the reasons that I do that is because on Spanish television I’m so in there. They mention me every day, and I don’t need to hear that, whether it’s good or bad. I like to be Jenni. So if they’re talking bad, I don’t need to hear it. If they’re talking good, I don’t need to hear it either — I don’t like people to lift me up more than I should be lifted. So I watch English instead, and the kids kind of want to watch what they want, so I sit and watch to spend some quality time with them.
When was the last time you felt like crying?
When I see my kids, and to think that I raised them on my own, that I was a single mother on welfare, with public assistance and everything. [Riding] on a bus, or on a 10-speed bike when I could afford a bike. And to see that my 25-year-old is sitting there in front of me, and she’s so grown and so responsible, she’s been my right hand — that’s when I think I’m just so blessed, and that’s when I wanted to cry.
The city of Los Angeles has named a Jenni Rivera Day. How did that come about?
They just chose me. I do a lot for my community, a lot of charitable work. I’m out there. I think my story has helped a lot of females more than anything to be able to shake the dirt off when they fall, and to say, “I can keep on going because Jenni did.” My public kind of sees me like a Mexican-American hero to them, and because of the charitable work that I’ve done, they’ve just decided to make August 6 Jenni Rivera Day in Los Angeles.
How often do you tour?
Usually I’m touring all the time. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, sometimes Thursday and Monday, as well. But I really needed some time off to cook and clean, and be a mom, and work out, and go to Target — do normal things in life. So I needed time for myself and the kids.
You have to go to [a concert] to see how crazy my fans get, and to see how I transform myself into the artist, into the diva. The diva goes on stage, but Jenni the human is actually the one who’s talking to you right now. So I have many hats. And I want you to see me with my diva hat on!
It seems likely that fans will enjoy seeing Jenni wearing all of her “hats” in I Love Jenni.
© NBC Universal, Inc. Credit: Robson Muzel/mun2