- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF. (AP) - Hundreds of fans of singer Jenni Rivera gathered Wednesday in Universal City for a chance to enter a 6,189-seat arena for her memorial service, which her family has billed a “celestial graduation.”

Many people had bought tickets for $1 from Ticketmaster for the service at Gibson Amphitheatre, but others arrived empty-handed. They swarmed two of Rivera’s brothers, Pedro Jr. and Juan, when they came by a gate to distribute free tickets.

“Pedro, we want to be with Jenni,” one woman said in Spanish. Another said she had brought her entire family.

Television reports showed four men carrying Rivera’s casket into the amphitheater for the memorial service that was closed to most media, although a broadcast of the proceedings was made available.

The burial will be private.

Rivera and six other people died Dec. 9 in a northern Mexico plane crash that remained under investigation. Rivera, the mother of five children and grandmother of two, was 43.

Rivera sold more than 15 million copies of her 12 major-label albums. Her soulful singing style and 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 Los Angeles, Rivera 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.

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