Who Was Selena Quintanilla?
Selena Quintanilla made her recording debut in the '80s, going on to become an award-winning recording artist in the Latin music scene with albums like Amor Prohibido and Selena Live. In 1995, she was murdered by the founder of her fan club. Her last album, Dreaming of You, was released posthumously in 1995.
Early Life and Family
Selena was born on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas. Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla, was a former musician. He managed and produced his family’s group, Selena Y Los Dinos.
Selena grew up speaking English, but her father taught her to sing in Spanish so she could resonate with the Latino community. She learned the lyrics phonetically at first, and eventually learned to speak Spanish fluently. She began performing as a child.
Around the age of 10, Selena became the lead singer in her family's band. The musical group started out playing weddings and clubs in their native Texas. The band featured her brother Abraham on bass guitar and her sister Suzette on the drums.
Selena was considered the "Queen of Tejano," a type of Mexican music that incorporated other styles, such as country and western. She was also sometimes referred to as the "Mexican Madonna" for her sexy outfits and dance moves.
PHOTOS: Selena's Iconic Fashion
Ven Conmigo (1990)
Selena’s 1990 album was the first Tejano record to achieve gold record status, meaning it sold more than 500,000 copies.
Selena became the first female Tejano artist to take home a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album. Her album Live! hit No. 2 on the Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart.
Amor Prohibido (1994)
Selena and the band played numerous tour dates in New York, California, Puerto Rico and Argentina in 1994. Amor Prohibido was released that same year and went gold.
Dreaming of You (1995)
Soon after the release of Live!, Selena went to work on her first English-language album that she hoped would put her on the top of the U.S. pop music charts. Unfortunately, she did not live to see its success.
Dreaming of You was released after Selena’s death and became a huge hit. The album hit number one on the Billboard Top 200 the week of August 5, 1995. That made it the first predominantly Spanish-language album to top the chart.
Popular compilation albums of Selena’s music include 12 Super Exitos (1994) and All My Hits Todos Mis Exitos (1999).
Selena saw seven songs hit No. 1 and 14 more songs hit the top 10 on the Hot Latin Songs Chart. “Dreaming of You” peaked at number 22 on the Hot 100 charts.
Other popular songs by Selena include:
- “No Me Queda Mas”
- “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”
- “Amor Prohibido”
- “Tu Solo Tu”
- “I Could Fall in Love”
- “El Chico del Apartamento 512”
- “Que Creias”
- “Baila Esta Cumbia”
- “I’m Getting Used to You”
- “La Carcacha”
- “Fotos Y Recuerdos (Back On The Chain Gang)”
- “Buenos Amigos”
- “Dondequiera Que Estes”
- “Missing My Baby”
- “Siempre Hace Frio”
- “No Debes Jugar”
- “Techno Cumbia”
- “La Llamada”
- “Como La Flor”
- “No Quiero Saber”
Grammy and Other Awards
In 1993, Selena won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album for her album Live! at the 36th Grammy Awards.
Selena was very popular with Tejano music fans. At the 1987 Tejano Music Awards, she won both "Best Female Vocalist of the Year" and "Performer of the Year."
Selena married Chris Pérez on April 2, 1992. The couple met and began secretly dating in 1990 when Pérez joined Selena’s band, Los Dinos, as the lead guitarist. They were married for nearly three years before Selena was killed in 1995.
Selena was shot and killed in Corpus Christi, Texas, on March 31, 1995. She was just 23 years old.
Selena's murder sent shockwaves through the Latino community, and her fans around the world mourned the singer's passing.
Yolanda Saldivar, the founder of the Selena fan club, killed Selena. Saldivar had been managing Selena's boutique in San Antonio. The two were meeting in a hotel room to discuss Selena’s concerns that Saldivar was embezzling money, according to court records, when Saldivar shot Selena. Saldivar claimed the shot was accidental. She was sentenced to life in prison in October 1995.
Saldivar is up for parole in 2025, as she will have served at least 30 years of her sentence at that time.
Selena's life story became the subject of a 1997 film, Selena, which stars Jennifer Lopez as the Tejano superstar and Edward James Olmos as her father. Lopez became the first Latina actress to take home $1 million for a movie role, and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.
Book, Lawsuit and Series
Pérez wrote a book about his time with Selena, To Selena, With Love, published in 2012. He planned to make the book into a TV series.
In 2016, Abraham brought a lawsuit against Pérez for violating an estate agreement that Pérez signed shortly after the singer’s death that gave her father the exclusive rights to Selena’s name, voice, photographs and story in perpetuity. Pérez lost his appeal in late 2018, and both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit the following May.
Meanwhile, Netflix announced it was developing a scripted series about the singer's life, with the Quintanilla family serving as executive producers. Selena: The Series, starring The Walking Dead's Christian Serratos, debuted in December 2020.
The popularity of Selena's music and persona has endured through the years. Selena was posthumously honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 3, 2017, proclaimed "Selena Day" in Los Angeles by Mayor Eric Garcetti. That year, reality star Kim Kardashian West also dressed up as the Tejano singer as part of her homage to music legends for Halloween.
In February 2019, Texas State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos introduced a bill that would designate April 16, Selena's birthday, as a holiday. That year, San Diego State University also announced plans to offer a new course, "Selena and Latinx Media Representation," to begin in 2020.
In March 2020, Selena became the first Latina artist and the ninth person overall to be inducted into the Star Trail of Fame outside the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
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