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<I>I Love Jenni</i>: Don’t Put Words in My Mouth

I didn't watch Season 1 of I Love Jenni, mun2's unscripted hit about icon Mexican-American superstar singer Jenni Rivera, despite it being the highest rated reality series on Hispanic cable television in 2011. Honestly, I've never dedicated more than a few minutes of my time to anything on mun2. And -- here's the kicker -- I've never heard of Jenni Rivera before (which is slightly shameful, given her numerous achievements in the Latin music world)... but I do have many hours of reality TV-watching under my belt, and can recognize that there's something special about this series.

To be clear, what makes I Love Jenni unique and compelling is not her family life. Maybe some people can take joy in watching the gross-out antics of the Rivera clan, but I for one can only tolerate so many minutes of excessive sex, fart and poop jokes in one hour... though that's not to say the story about Jacqui (the daughter who legitimately and purposefully looks like Ugly Betty) eating her sister's poop wasn't amazing. From the "aren't we crazy?!" humor to the Real Housewives of New Jersey/Caroline Manzo-level of family pride to the generally uneventful press segments to the editing of this show, Jenni is nothing new -- and since I don't really know her as a celebrity, I find it hard to immediately connect to Rivera. She's definitely got an extremely warm personality that makes her likable, though, and I can completely understand why she has such an enormous and dedicated fan base that goes beyond her music career.

But what's truly compelling about Jenni is the breast cancer storyline that the series is clearly diving head-first into. After the first 50 jokes about "playing with balls," I doubted that this show had much meat to it, until Rivera went to Tijuana to have a growth in her breast examined. I don't mean to get dark here, but it's touching to see this obviously strong woman talk about having a tumor and discussing the very real possibility of having breast cancer on TV. I'm lucky enough to have never had that trauma in my own life, but I would imagine that normalizing it and opening up a dialogue about cancer on an otherwise extremely light reality show could help people who've been through (or are going through) this experience. It's dealt with in such a way that you feel close to Rivera without it feeling at all forced.

While I think it's confusing that Jenni decided to announce her health scare to her family via her extremely public radio show (and also that her kids call her husband "Abuelo," which I thought was Spanish for "Grandpa," but that's a whole 'nother ball game), I'm not one to judge how people deal with weighty personal subjects... though, as a viewer, I admit that it does help to balance the harder subject material with some of the less poignant conversations about where red sugar comes from.

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