UNIVERSAL CITY -- Thousands of fans packed Gibson Amphitheatre Wednesday morning to cry, sing and honor the Diva de la Banda, Jenni Rivera.
"Drink tequila and beer, let the bands play with might," she sang. "Release butterflies, applaud me with your hands, because that's how you celebrate when a lady dies."
There were crowds - some 6,000 fans were expected - video montages, and, throughout, a brass band belted out the Banda tunes that turned the Long Beach girl into an international musical superstar.
And at the end of the memorial- just as she requested - fine paper butterflies fluttered down over the crowd.
Rivera, 43, died Dec. 9 when her rented Learjet LJ25 crashed in northern Mexico about 15 minutes after departing Monterrey, Mexico. Six other people aboard also died.
The memorial was billed by the Rivera family as a "Celestial Graduation." The ceremony was led by Rivera's brother, the Rev. Pedro Rivera, Jr., who is pastor at the Primer Amor church in Whittier.
The family requested that in lieu of flowers, fans make donations to the Jenni Rivera Love Foundation, and arrive to the memorial with a single white rose, which were later placed around her casket. Burial services will be private.
The memorial was a mix of songs performed by famous Latin American singers, including Joan Sebastian and Ana Gabriel, and moving eulogies by members of her family - many of whom are top acts in the Regional Mexican music industry.
Two of her daughters performed songs in her honor, and Rivera's father, Pedro Rivera, brought the crowd to tears when he sang a corrido written in honor of his daughter.
Daughter Janney "Chiquis" Marin said her mother fought for everything and was a warrior.
"I'm a product of the strongest woman I have ever known," Marin said, adding she feels her mother telling her, "Chiquis, you have to be strong."
While her son, Trinidad Michael Rivera, 21, called for a moment of silence in memory of the children and teachers killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Connecticut.
Her family asked fans to call radio stations to request that they play her hit, "La Gran Senora" at noon tomorrow.
Rivera was known in Mexico and the United States as "La Diva de la Banda," a singer who had sold more than 15 million records of banda music and whose life, loves and losses were well known among her admirers.
Born and raised in Long Beach, Rivera was one of the biggest stars of the Mexican regional style known as grupero music, which is influenced by the norteno, cumbia and ranchero styles.
While her music drew many toward her, it was Rivera's story of humble beginnings growing up in Long Beach, as well as her Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"-like attitude toward life, her three marriages, her five children, and her sense of giving back, that appealed to her fans.
The singer, businesswoman and actress had her own reality shows including "I Love Jenni" and "Jenni Rivera Presents: Chiquis and Raq-C" and her daughter's "Chiquis `n Control." She had recently signed a deal with ABC to develop a sitcom about a Latina single mom.
Griselda Perez, 19, of San Diego said seeing her idol's coffin on stage Wednesday instead of the bubbly, energetic idol dancing and singing was heart wrenching.
"I just don't believe it," Perez said. "For her real fans, she's still alive. She'll always be alive."
Perez, whose mascara was smeared from her tears, said she's been to more than 10 Rivera concerts even gaining backstage access to a few to interact with the diva.
But placing a white rose near Rivera's coffin Wednesday was never how she's image her last meeting with the Latina pop star.
"This is the worst feeling ever," she said between sobs.
© 2012 the Daily News (Los Angeles)