Jenni Rivera's legacy lives on with the third and final season of I Love Jenni.
Premiering Sunday on the U.S.-based, Spanish-language cable channel mun2, I Love Jenni follows the successful Mexican American singer and her family. The last footage of Rivera was filmed in late October and November, and the decision to air the reality series following Rivera's death was not without much discussion between the network; members of her team including Pete Salgado, Rivera's manager; and her family.
Rivera died Dec. 9 at 43 in a plane crash in northern Mexico following a concert in Monterrey with several members of her inner circle. (In January, a lawsuit was filed by the families of the victims who were on the plane with Rivera against several companies, including the company that owned the plane and Jenni Rivera Enterprises.)
"The last several years working with [Pete], Jenni and the family, it has been a true partnership," Diana Mogollon, general manager at mun2, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "When everything happened in December, we were in shock. We were in mourning. Once the new year came around, we said, 'You know what, why don't we regroup? Why don't we figure out what do we do?' "
Salgado, also an executive producer on I Love Jenni, echoed Mogollon's sentiments saying that Rivera "was always about giving herself." "Her whole career, there was nothing off-limits. The kids and everyone figured mom would want us to show the world how we're dealing with this just [as] how mom dealt with all of the headlines that were part of her career," he tells THR.
The strong partnership between mun2, part of the NBCUniversal family, and Rivera's team was a testament to Rivera's personality, Salgado says: The people at mun2 "became family." "We had some of our crew take it really, really hard because they were a part of her day-to-day life," he recalls of the impact of Rivera's death. "They didn't just work on a reality show. Jenn brought you into her world."
When it was decided that I Love Jenni would return for a final run, it was important to all involved that the last episodes showcased the Rivera mun2 viewers have grown attached to. Salgado affirms there was no re-editing or exclusion of specific scenes. "This wasn't a relationship of, 'We're the network and we have the final say ... which they do, but they've always been respectful and it's always been home to us," Salgado says.
The final season wasn't approached as a tribute to Rivera -- prior to the first episode, there is a dedication -- but rather "a reflection," as Salgado calls it. "It's a reflection more than a tribute because a tribute is an effort. A reflection is the byproduct and this is definitely the byproduct of Jenn and who she was as an entertainer, who she was as a mother, a business associate and entrepreneur and a pioneer," he explains. "We hope it all reflects very well on her."
Viewers will see Rivera in her final months, including the filing of her divorce to ex-pro baseball player Esteban Loiaza, as well as her family "picking up the pieces and going on" without her, Mogollon adds.
When asked about their favorite memories of Rivera, Salgado offered a glimpse into the woman that was captured on a previous season of I Love Jenni. "It was a celebration for Mother's Day last year in her backyard. She had a carne asada barbeque for her mom and invited all her friends over," he reminisces. "It was her bonding with her kids and her kids appreciating her. That to me was what Jenn was all about. It wasn't judging her as a performer, a show or her promoting, it was a very raw, real moment."
Rivera's influence on the Latin entertainment scene continues to reign (her estate is controlled by Rivera's younger sister Rosie, with help from Salgado). The Grammy Museum recently announced it would open an exhibit May 12 featuring costumes, rare photographs, hand-written notes, videos and awards belonging to the late singer. Additionally, Rivera's autobiographical memoir, Unbreakable, will be published posthumously in July through Atria Books.
As Salgado tells it, there are "many great things" being done to keep Rivera's brand and image alive. "Her legacy and story will be told," he says. "There will be a lot of people who heard of the name because of the tragic accident, but once they dig in to find the woman we hope she'll continue inspiring through her story."
Salgado likens Rivera's story to that of Helen Keller, the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelors degree. "Someone said, 'Why Helen Keller?' I said, 'Because she never let her disadvantages hold her back from succeeding. She used it to inspire others,' " he says. "That's my personal mission of making sure that continues to be out there."
I Love Jenni premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on mun2.