Fans and family members of singer Jenni Rivera celebrated her music and "perfectly imperfect" life Wednesday at a Southern California memorial service that included memories shared by the children of "La Diva de la Banda."
The service, featuring several musical tributes, at the 6,000-seat Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City was described by Rivera's family as a "celestial graduation." Jackie Melina Campos, one of Rivera's daughters opened the service with a tribute to her mother, who died with six others Dec. 9 in a northern Mexico plane crash that remains under investigation.
Another daughter held back tears as she described her mother's comforting words.
"All I hear in my mind, day and night, 'Chiquis, you have to be strong,'" said daughter Janney "Chiquis" Marin. "I know that's what my mom wants from all of us. To stand strong with no fear, for the queen is still here."
Marin then addressed her mother, whose red casket was on a stage in front of a speakers' podium.
"All I want to do is make you proud," she said. "I can't wait to hug you and smell the perfume on your neck. Like you always say, 'I'll catch you on the flip-side.'"
The service opened with a video on a large monitor as Rivera's family entered the seating area. The video flashed the Spanish words for "woman," "character" and "force." Fans chanted "Jenni, Jenni" between speakers, including long-time manager Pete Salgado.
"We all have heroes," Salgado said. "We admire them for their ability to be strong. I think that defines Jenni.
"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. Jenni, to us, was perfectly imperfect."
Rivera, 43, sold more than 15 million copies of her 12 major-label albums. Free tickets to the public memorial service were snapped up in less than one hour Tuesday afternoon.
"It was very hard to get in," a fan told NBC4 Wednesday morning outside the Gibson Amphitheatre. "We got here at 4:30 in the morning. Her songs inspired a lot of women. She was, for me, the best."
"I never had the opportunity to go to her concert and it felt like she was completely present," said Vanessa Perez, fan. "I think that's the best way to explain it, she was definitely present."
Other fans arrived outside the venue without tickets. Some swarmed Rivera's two brothers as they distributed tickets near a gate, according to the Associated Press.
After the service, which continued for more than two hours, many fans brought single white roses to place in front of the ruby red casket.
Her soulful singing style and her honesty about her tumultuous personal life won her fans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. She was also an actress and reality-TV star.
Born in Long Beach, Calif., Rivera -- a mother of five who was once married to Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Esteban Loaiza -- launched her career by selling cassette tapes at flea markets. By the end of the 90s, she won a major-label contract and built a loyal following that knew her as the "Diva de la Banda."
Many of her songs deal with themes of dignity in the face of heartbreak, which Rivera spoke of openly with her fans.
She had recently filed for divorce from her third husband, was once detained at a Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan who verbally attacked her in 2011.
Rivera's burial will be private.