Robyn's Performer Profile:
JENNIFER PENA--TEJANO MUSIC'S BRAND NEW DIVA
By: Robyn Barnette
"When I was stuck and I listened to you,
Your voice gave me inspiration,
That's when I knew that I wanted to sing,
For the world was my motivation."
("I dedicate (Part I)," "BRANDY," 1994)
Four words: Take this girl seriously.
For thirteen-year-old Jennifer Pena, the release of her EMI-Latin debut album "Dulzura" represents both her realization of a dream influenced by her mentor Selena and her message that hard work and believing in yourself makes all your goals in life possible. Her commitment to Tejano music as well as spreading her message throughout her music career has paid off.
On "Dulzura," the beautiful, bubbly, red-haired Latina demonstrates a vocal passion reminiscent of Selena, filled with soulful power beyond her years. At times, she peppers her vocals with a sassy attitude, defining a "you go girl" part of her personality. Combining these vocals with a flourishing Tex-Mex groove packed with luscious Latin melodies that "just-don't-stop-it-'cause-they-thump-it-in-the-pocket," as provided by her band Los Jetz, "Dulzura" is a ten-track joyride of Tejano with a sentimental edge. But don't think of Jennifer as a Selena protege or a gifted charmer; her range and depth of integrity place her among music's best and brightest.
In collaborating with Brian "Red" Moore and the Q-Productions clan, Jennifer strikes the right chords on each track, sprinkling sensuous vocal ad-libs and passionate flavor throughout. Such is the case on the album's first track, "Ven A Mi," a classic Tejano melody polished with a Puerto Rican flair.
Jennifer shines brightly on a mariachi tune, "Me Piden," which fortifies this classic musical aspect of Tejano without diverting from its quality or origination. On "Quisiera Vetre Otra Vez," she drops emotion-filled, heart-warming vocals over a sweet R&B-flavored harmony.
Throughout "Dulzura," Jennifer establishes herself as serious,
thoughtful, and grateful to those who've helped guide and motivate her to
this prominent juncture. She sings about the truth and what she believes
in. She sings with a lot of affection, repleted with so much feeling.
Jennifer was born in Corpus Christi, Texas--the same hometown of her big sister Selena--on
September 17, 1983 and began singing at the age of five. Though not serious about pursuing
it as a career, she built a reputation singing during her years in elementary school. In
1995, following the tragic murder of Selena, Jennifer submitted to Selena's parents, Abraham
and Marcela Quintanilla, what was described as a "condolence tape"--a videocassette
containing footage of herself performing Selena's songs, which included such hits as "Bidi
Bidi Bom Bom," "Como La Flor," and "Amor Prohibido." Abraham and Marcela viewed the tape
and were very touched by what they saw. Abraham, especially, was touched and so impressed
with Jennifer's performance that he struck a gold mine discovering Tejano music's newest
superstar. Latin music's famous music producer had faith in Jennifer continuing the
valuable musical legacy Selena left behind and consulted her parents about becoming her
manager. With her parents consent and the help and support of Abraham, the girl who wasn't
serious about pursuing a music career showcased her hidden, natural-born talent at numerous
high-profiled gigs and festivals in San Antonio, Houston, and places in south Texas
(including the Memorial Day Tribute to Selena concert held at the Houston Astrodome on May
29, 1995). She also showcased her talent on "Siempre en Domingo," "El Show de Johnny
Canales," and other specials featured on Spanish-speaking television affiliates, including
Telemundo and Univision.
When Jennifer's neither involved in her music career nor her schoolwork, she likes to spend
time reading, rollerblading, hanging out with friends, and the one activity girls love to do
best--shopping! As to whether or not Jennifer has a boyfriend, well...Jennifer's
single--very!--and is looking for that someone special in her life. Hispanic males from
south Texas, Mexico, and other Latino communities throughout the United States--who range in
ages from five to twenty-five (!?)--are trying to make themselves available to her. With
her slender figure, brown eyes, and gorgeous cover girl looks, it's no wonder why! (She
sends her condolences to those who've been turned down.)
Jennifer has many influences who have inspired her to become the agile vocalist that she
is--among them, Gloria Estefan, Mariah Carey, and Brandy Norwood. But during a segment
featured on the ABC Television Network news program "20/20," where she was briefly profiled,
a reporter asked her a question that almost everybody logically knew the answer to: Who was
the one influence that inspired her the most. In her most softest, emotional voice, with a
slight grin and tears springing to her eyes, Jennifer simply replied one name: "Selena."
Jennifer is growing up and learning the responsibilities of having a music career while
still a student in junior high school. She knows how stressful it can be juggling both a
music career and schoolwork. However, she is very happy about her life so far and focused
on where she wants to go in the future. With her positive attitude and her message about
believing in yourself, Jennifer has a very glowing future ahead of her.
There's one message Jennifer wants to tell her fans, and it's a simple, yet poignant
message: "Thank you for all the love and support you have given me. You've made me realize
my dreams and believe in them. I love you all from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you
always believe in your dreams, too."
If Selena was alive today, she would've been proud of the many accomplishments Jennifer has
made in her thirteen years. But one accomplishment Selena would be proud of is Jennifer
becoming Tejano music's brand new diva. Jennifer knows that in her heart and in her soul
Selena's proud of her. She will always and forever cherish the inspiring messages Selena
placed on her through her voice, her music, and her legacy. Tejano music's brand new diva
promises great things to come.