The memorial commemorating the life of Jenni Rivera was as dramatic and colorful as the artist herself, a cornucopia of laughter, tears and celebration, with fans often singing loudly along to Rivera videos and live performances by her friends and family despite the incongruity of the red coffin on the stage.
Rivera will be laid to rest later in a private ceremony, but fans and friends were invited to the Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles-which for the first time ever hosted a memorial for an artist--this morning to celebrate a life lived well and richly lived, as full of travails and drama as it was of accomplishment and fame.
The ceremony veered from celebratory to mournful, with Rivera's five children, her parents and brothers taking the stage one by one to eulogize Rivera in familiar terms ("my mother was perfectly imperfect," said daughter Jacquie Melina Campos). Even as tears flowed-as happened when Rivera's youngest son, 11-year-old Johnny Lopez, spoke in what he said was "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life"-the mood would quickly turn festive. Pedro Rivera, the patriarch of the family and the person who got Rivera started both as an artist and a businesswoman, struggled to keep tears at bay for two hours, but still managed to perform a corrido in his daughter's honor, accompanied by a full banda. It was, as family members often said, as Jenni would have liked it.
The event was hosted by the celebrated Rivera family, including brother Lupillo Rivera, another banda star; and brother Juan Rivera, a pastor and singer who often opened Jenni's shows and who welcomed those in attendance to "Jenni's celestial graduation."
"She has many plans," said Juan Rivera, speaking of his sister in the present tense and hinting at possibilities for the Jenni Rivera brand and name. "So we have a lot of work to do. So many times I introduced her in her shows: The queen of queens, the Diva of banda, La Gran señora and, because you made it this way, I will proudly say, No. 1: Jenniiiiiii!!!!!!"
Daughter Chiquis said, "The queen is still here -- and she is one hot queen, if I do say so myself."
Although the Gibson was packed mostly by fans who paid $1 on Ticketmaster to purchase refundable tickets (arranged that way to avoid scalping), there was also a number of executives and celebrities, including Marco Antonio Solís, Joan Sebastian-who performed "Más Allá del Sol"-- Ana Gabriel-who performed ranchera hit "Paloma Negra"--Olga Tañón-who performed "Mirame"--and Gloria Trevi. Executives included manager Pete Salgado; Victor González, president of Universal Music Latin, Rivera's label; TV host Raul De Molina; and mun2 VP of programming Flavio Morales, the latter of whom had worked closely with Rivera on her reality show "I Love Jenni," and who could not contain tears.
"Jenni made it okay for women to be who they are," Salgado said.
The service ended with the band gathered around the coffin and fans filing past, leaving white roses.
Rivera was traveling on a private Learjet the morning of Dec 9 when her plane crashed in the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico.
Reaction to the singer's death has been overwhelming, with fans taking over twitter-which Rivera once said was one of her favorite pastimes-and sales of Rivera's music soaring; this week, three of her albums placed at No. 1, 2 and 3 on Billbaord's Top Latin Albums chart.
The ceremony ended with an impassioned sermon by Juan Rivera, who quoted from Ecclesiastes "There is a time to be born and a time to die… Jenni passed through many tough situations in her life, and she was able to stand up after each one of them, because she had the power of God and the power in herself. She lived a victorious life. She never gave up."
Juan Rivera's sermon was followed by a prayer from Jenni's sister Rosie, who raised her fists in the air as a cloud of confetti butterflies fell on the crowd.
Then, iof course, the banda started to play, in a moment strangely reminiscent of the words of Rivera's own song, "Bury Me With the Band," in which she and Lupillo sing: "The day I die, bury me with the band. My life is always joyful, and that's why I want to be carried by the band."
With reporting by Justino Aguila and Judy Cantor-Navas.