Opinion: Why Jenni Rivera's Death Will Be Bigger Than Selena's

Having established herself as a norteño and banda artist, Rivera also experimented with rancheras, ballads and more pop-oriented recordings, with much success. Her most recent single, the break-up anthem "La Misma Gran Señora," shows Rivera at her best - a woman singing from a place of hurt, who then finds the strength within herself to hold her head up high and keep moving. "You, without me, are worth nothing in this world," she sings. "Leave now and close the door on your way out/Don't think that without you I'd die/I was the one who gave you status/How are you going to think that for your love I would suffer?"

After her passing, Gustavo Lopez, an executive vice president at Universal Music Latin Entertainment, an umbrella group that includes Rivera's label, told the Los Angeles Times that Rivera was the "Diana Ross of Mexican music" - a comparison I don't necessarily agree with because I don't think Rivera has a counterpart on the Anglo side - her story and her circumstances are just too unique.

But while we're on the topic of comparisons, it's inevitable to think of Tejano music queen Selena Quintanilla, who was murdered in 1995. Both were women who changed regional Mexican music forever and whose lives were cut short by tragedy.

On the surface, there are obvious similarities. Both were born and raised in the U.S. (Quintanilla in Texas and Rivera in California) and throughout their remarkable careers, they straddled both sides of the border, conquering the hearts of Mexican immigrants and their children.

Both came from close-knit musical families, whose patriarchs guided their careers.

Onstage, they were larger-than-life, not unlike great Mexican singers of eras past. Offstage, they were accessible, Jennis From The Block, versions of your homegirl, your sister, your cousin. Leila Cobo, executive director of Latin content and programming at Billboard tells me: "They [Jenni Rivera and Selena Quintanilla] were both Mexican Americans in a very unique position to appeal to people like them. When girls looked at them, they recognized themselves for the first time. All the other singers who came from Mexico looked very different from the girls raised here - they weren't raised in the hood. As famous as Selena and Jenni Rivera became, they stayed grounded and they still thought of themselves as real people whose success depended on their connection with other real people."

Both did more than just music – Quintanilla had boutiques and beauty salons, while Rivera had everything from her own line of jeans and cosmetics to a growing media empire. Just last week, Deadline Hollywood reported that a new scripted family comedy, inspired by Rivera's life, was in the development for ABC. At Sundance this year, Rivera also made her feature film debut in the indie drama Filly Brown, playing a drug-addicted mother whose daughter (Gina Rodriguez) turns to rapping as a way to bust her out of jail. Edward James Olmos raved about Rivera's performance at Sundance.

See Also: Filly Brown Gives Jenni Rivera a Chance to Grow and Gina Rodriguez a Space to Shine

But the lives and careers of both women were markedly different, and there is reason to believe that Jenni Rivera's death will ripple with greater magnitude than Selena's – even if they are equally tragic.

Arellano sums up the key difference between the two artists thusly: "Selena was a Tejana; she had to learn to speak Spanish and had to learn how to be Mexican so she could cross over, and Jenni was unapologetically Mexican. Selena was a humongous star in her own right - she sold out the Astrodome in Texas - but she hadn't yet crossed over into the totality of Latino USA until after she passed away."

The news of their deaths spread in very different ways, with celebrities and fans alike sharing their thoughts on Rivera's passing on Twitter and Facebook within minutes of reports stating that her private jet had disappeared. These were social media tools that did not exist during Quintanilla's lifetime and which Rivera herself often used to communicate directly with fans and expand her brand.

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