Jenni Rivera dead, funeral service: Fans say goodbye to Jenni Rivera Los Angeles service

A bright red casket with butterflies on it was center stage in a packed Los Angeles auditorium Wednesday as thousands of mourners bid farewell to Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera.

Music rang out in the Gibson amphitheater, which holds 6,100 people. Photos showing Rivera with her family flashed in the background. And fans chanted her name.

"Jenni made it OK for women to be who they are," longtime manager Pete Salgado said, choking back tears and drawing cheers from the crowd. "Jenni also made it OK to be from nothing with the hopes of being something."

Rivera, whose soulful ballads sold out concert halls and made her a household name to many, died in a plane crash in a remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico on December 9. The crash killed everyone aboard the small plane, including Rivera's publicist, lawyer and makeup artists.

"I am sure that my sister is singing now," said Juan Manuel Rivera, one of her brothers.

Another family member, Gustavo Lawrence Rivera, asked crowds to applaud for "Jenni, the eternal diva."

The singer's death left fans devastated.

Nicknamed "La Diva de la Banda" or The Diva of Banda Music, she was a musical powerhouse with her Spanish performances of regional Mexican corridos, or ballads.

She was reportedly on the verge of a crossover with an English-language sitcom inspired by the success of "I Love Jenni," a Spanish-language reality TV show on Telemundo's mun2 network.

Rivera sold 15 million records, according to Billboard, and recently won two Billboard Music Awards, including favorite Mexican music female artist.

The singer was also known for her tumultuous personal life -- something her friends acknowledged in Wednesday's ceremony.

"Jenni to us was perfectly imperfect," Salgado said.

Pepe Garza, the singer's godfather, said her honesty and openness made friends and fans adore her.

"Above all we love her for her imperfections," he said. "It was her blunders that made us know that she was one of us."

Humble beginnings

In 2010, Rivera spoke about how she once sold cans for scrap metal and hawked music records at her family's stand at a Los Angeles flea market.

"It is very flattering when they tell me that I'm a great artist, a great entertainer, that when I'm on stage I can get in the recording studio and come up with a great production," she told CNN en Español. "But before all of that, I was a businesswoman. I'm primarily business-minded."

Rivera eventually became the owner of several companies, including Jenni Rivera Enterprises, which produced and marketed her music, a fragrance brand, a jeans factory and a television production company.

She was nominated for Latin Grammy Awards in 2002, 2008 and 2011. In October, People en Español named her to its list of the 25 most powerful women.

Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera released her debut album in 1999, according to her website.

She followed that up with two more albums, including the 2003 album "Farewell to Selena" -- a tribute to slain Tejano star Selena Quintanilla -- that increased her popularity.

Tumultuous personal life

Rivera was a single mom at the age of 15 and is the mother of five, her website said.

In 2009, she made headlines when she was detained at the Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

A year later, she made headlines again with the marriage to former baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They later divorced. It was her third marriage.

"Staying defeated, crying and suffering was not an option," she told CNN en Español in 2010. "I had to get off my feet, dust myself off and press on. That's what I want to teach my daughters."

Her over-the-top lifestyle was chronicled in "I Love Jenni" on Telemundo. The show began airing on mun2 last year, and featured her life on the road, balancing the duties of motherhood and stardom as she toured Mexico and the United States.

Rivera performed at a concert in Monterrey on December 8 before boarding the Learjet early the next day. It lost contact with air traffic controllers about 60 miles into the trip.

Plane company investigation

The small Learjet plane was 43 years old, the state-run Notimex news agency reported, citing the Mexican director of civil aviation.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating the company that owned the plane.

Court records revealed that the aviation company, Starwood Management, had two planes seized this year. The DEA declined to give further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

But it confirmed that the company was in a dispute with insurance firms over accusations of of falsehoods. Starwood and its representatives have not responded to repeated CNN requests for

comments.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it is helping with the investigation.

U.S. records show the airplane was substantially damaged in 2005 when it struck a runway marker near Amarillo, Texas. At the time, the plane's pilot reported losing the ability to steer.

Journalist Victor Badillo, CNNMexico.com and CNN's Rafael Romo, Jim Barnett, Guillermo Arduino and Leslie Tripp contributed to this report.


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