A massive memorial celebration was under way Wednesday for singer Jenni Rivera, a Long Beach native who died in a plane crash in Northern Mexico.
Relatives, friends and fans packed the Gibson Amphitheatre for the two-hour "Celestial Graduation'' ceremony led by Rivera's brother, the Rev. Pedro Rivera Jr.
The memorial opened with a video tribute to Rivera that began by flashing the words, "Mujer (Woman). Caracter (Character). Fuerza (Force).''
The film played as Rivera's family entered the stage dressed in white with red flowers and ties. The family took their seats to shouts of "Jen-ni. Jen-ni'' from the audience. Rivera's ruby-red casket was carried out by family members and placed at the front of the stage above a display of dozens of white roses and other flowers.
The ceremony featured speeches from family members, including her mother and father, punctuated by musical tributes.
One relative called her a "brown superhero.'' Fighting back tears, he said "Jenni made it OK for women to be who they are. Jenni also made it OK to be from nothing with the hopes of being something.''
Rivera, a 43-year-old Long Beach native, died Dec. 9 when her rented Learjet LJ25 crashed in northern Mexico about 15 minutes after departing Monterrey on its way to Toluca, outside Mexico City. The six others aboard also were killed.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, fans make donations to the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation, along with a single white rose. Burial services will be private.
Born in Long Beach, the mother of five who maintained an estate in Encino dominated the "banda'' style of regional Mexican music popular in California and northwestern Mexico. She was one of the biggest stars on Mexico television and was popular on ``regional Mexican'' stations in California.
Rivera lived a tumultuous life, which was the basis for much of her music. She had been married and divorced three times, the last time from former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Esteban Loaiza.
The singer, who sold more than 15 million records, sang songs of heartbreak and abuse. She had her own reality show, and ABC was developing a comedy pilot for her, according to the entertainment website Deadline.com.
A limited number of tickets to the memorial service were offered online. Purchasers had to pay $1 up front, but the cost is expected to be refunded within 72 hours.