A new bio-series chronicles the life story of the late Mexican American Banda and Ranchera superstar, Jenni Rivera.
Telemundo premieres “Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio,” on Tuesday night.
Tucson, Arizona native Angélica Celaya, 34, will play the role of Rivera in the years leading up to her stunning success and her untimely death in a 2012 plane crash.
Known as “La Diva de la Banda,” Rivera’s life was as complicated and filled with tragedy as it was a remarkable fight to fame and stardom.
A mother of five children, Rivera became pregnant at 15.
She was physically and emotionally abused by her first husband, José Trinidad Marín, who eventually went to prison for raping Rivera, her daughters and her sister Rosie.
Rivera’s second husband, Juan López, was convicted of selling drugs, and died while serving time in prison.
Esteban Loaiza, a professional baseball player, was Rivera’s third husband. The two filed for divorce in 2012 — just a few months prior to the singer’s death.
Celaya, a telenovela star of 14 years, talked with NBC Latino about playing Rivera in some of the most difficult points in her life.
“When she gets raped, as an actress, you just can’t prepare for that. You have to just be in the moment and enter panic mode to do it justice," said Celaya.
“I was 6 months pregnant when we filmed the scene when her sister confesses that both she and Rivera’s daughters were raped by Marín," said Celaya. "It was in that moment that I could barely feel my own child, and I haven’t held my child, but to know that this could happen, it moves fibers in you that you don’t ever want moved. As an actor portraying this, it’s tough."
The series is based on Rivera’s New York Times best-selling autobiography, “Unbreakable: My Story, My Way,” and input from the Rivera family.
Rivera’s sister, Rosie, was one of the producers of the series.
“The process was very difficult —when it comes to producing your sister’s life, there’s much more pressure," said Rivera. "It was very difficult to choose an actress that looked like her, and for me to accept a storyline that wasn’t a thousand percent true. But, I’m learning that it’s about making a story, and putting 43 years of life in 90 episodes is extremely difficult, but seeing it finished makes it all worth it. I cried,” Rivera said.
Jenni Rivera’s success was unprecedented for a woman in the musical genre she chose.
She was named the most important female figure and top-selling female artist in the Mexican music genre. Selling more than 20 million records worldwide, Billboard magazine named Rivera the "top Latin artist of 2013.” She won 22 Billboard Latin Music Awards, and 11 Billboard Mexican Music Awards.
“Even if you’re not a fan, and don’t have any idea about who she is, you’re going to see a woman who defied the odds. Her story is about a journey of being a single mother of five and reaching your goals," said Celaya. "It didn’t matter her age, sex, and economic circumstances, she went for the stars and she got them.”
The title of the series “Mariposa de Barrio,” signifies Rivera’s transformation from caterpillar to butterfly in both her personal life and the persona she brought to the stage.
“It started with her first husband who always put her down because she wasn’t a beauty queen. She didn’t have the body type," said Celaya. "He always said she was ugly and wouldn’t amount to anything… And she did feel like the ugly caterpillar, and then she blossomed and bloomed on stage. That’s where she truly shined. Her personal life was chaos, filled with realities that you don’t want to face. She felt her true love on stage, and with her fans.”
Telemundo’s television version of Rivera’s life isn’t the first. In January Univision premiered, “Su Nombre Era Dolores: La Jenn Que Yo Conocí,” based on a book by Rivera’s former manager, Pete Salgado. The Rivera family sued Univision for $10 million, claiming it featured unauthorized confidential information.
The family says “Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio,” was produced with their full support.
“In the end I’m just a little sister who protects her big sister. But I know my sister would be happy because we told the whole truth. There were stories that Telemundo was like; ‘We could get in trouble for that.’ But my sister would have been like, ‘Who cares. Let’s do it. Let’s take the risk,’” Rosie Rivera said.
Rivera’s mother, Rosa Saavedra, told NBC Latino at Monday night’s Los Angeles premiere that she was truly happy about the making of the series.
“In it you can see that all of Jenni’s dreams came true,” she said. It also, she said, made her sad.
“Jenni Rivera: Mariposa de Barrio,” premieres on Telemundo Tuesday, June 27 at 8PM/7C