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Who Was Jenni Rivera? A Look Back At The Life Of The Late Latina Superstar

December 10, 2012
Jenni Rivera performs during Billboard Latin Music Awards 2012 at Bank United Center on April 26, 2012 in Miami, Florida -- Getty Images
Jenni Rivera performs during Billboard Latin Music Awards 2012 at Bank United Center on April 26, 2012 in Miami, Florida -- Getty Images

Jenni Rivera's music was a celebration, but her personal life was filled with turmoil. And now, Access Hollywood looks back on the ups and downs of the singer, whose life ended far too soon.

She was called the "Diana Ross of Mexican Music," had sold 20 million albums and was a multiple Grammy nominee, making Rivera larger than life. She was also famous for her marathon performances, some lasting over five hours.

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"Jenni Rivera was a legitimate superstar and that phrase gets thrown out a lot, but in this case she really was," People magazine's Deputy Managing Editor Peter Castro told Access Hollywood in a new interview on Monday, following the star's death over the weekend in a plane crash. "She sold out the Staples Center - the only Mexican-American woman ever to do that. And she had a huge, huge following."

Now bad for a woman who started out in real estate, and didn't record her first album until the age of 34.

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"Jenni Rivera: The Mom, wants her kids to be happy. That's what my life is about," she said on her Mun2 reality show, "I Love Jenni."

Her family was like a Latino version of the Kardashian family. Known as a tough negotiator, Rivera had a business empire that included her own clothing line, cosmetic line, a weekly radio show, four different reality shows - one, "I Love Jenni" - focusing on her chaotic life and her family.

"It's really a reality show - the camera following me into things I'm doing now, which is just being myself," Rivera told Billboard in an interview earlier this year.

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Hollywood talent agency CAA snatched up the modest star, and she told Billboard she was overwhelmed by the attention.

"Knowing that such a huge company would be interested in me, makes me very proud of myself," she told the music publication. "At the same time I'm in disbelief that they would want someone like Jenni Rivera. I guess now I see the world in a different way. There are so many things I can do that are offered to me now."

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Beginning with a move into film, Rivera made her screen debut this year at Sundance as the jailed mother of a hip-hop artist in "Filly Brown."

According to Castro, Rivera was also poised to launch into sitcom television.

"It was a terrible irony. She was about to crossover into mainstream America on an ABC comedy... very much like 'The George Lopez Show," he told Access . "It was based on her life and she wanted to do this because even though she loved her fans and loved singing, and loved concerts, she was kinda getting tired of the grind, wanted to fly less. She also expressed, at some point in her life, that she understood that flying around a lot was a dangerous thing and wanted to stop that."

But Rivera's music was fueled by a troubled past that included marriage and pregnancy at 16.

"Jenni Rivera's life was really like a soap opera," Castro said, noting Jenni was married three times.

And on Saturday night, after her show in Monterey, Mexico, she spoke out about her recent separation from her third husband, Esteban Loaiza, a professional baseball player.

"I can't focus on the negative, because that will defeat you," she said at a news conference after the show, per the Los Angeles Times. "That will destroy you.... The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up."

Copyright 2012 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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