She built a recording and performing career, several businesses and a devoted following - and her life was as full of the ups and the downs as any of the characters she sang about.
She was born 43 years ago in Long Beach, California, to Mexican parents Rosa and Pedro Rivera who named her Jenny Dolores Rivera Saavedra.
In an interview with CNN en Español in 2010, Rivera spoke about how she once sold cans for scrap metal and hawked music records at her family's stand at a Los Angeles flea market.
When she was just 15 and a high school student she became a mother herself, giving birth to her first child, Janney "Chiquis" Marin Rivera in 1985. She then had two more children - Jacqueline Marín Rivera and Michael Marín Rivera - with her then-husband, José Trinidad Marín.
Rivera spoke about how Marín physically abused her because while she wanted to attend college, he wanted her to quit school and be at home "cooking and cleaning." She said she grew up with four brothers so she knew how to fight back.
They divorced in 1992 when Rivera found out Marín molested their daughter, Janney, and Rivera's younger sister, Rosie. Marín was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Divorced and on welfare with three children, Rivera worked in real estate and took a second job at her father's record label, Cintas Acuario, which led to her passion and career in Regional/Banda/Norteño music.