Selena’s career inspired others


Lily Davis, staff writer

Selena Quintanilla was born in Lake Jackson, Texas on April 16, 1971. She was the youngest child of Abraham and Marcella Quintanilla.

From an early age, Selena’s father saw her potential to become a great performer.  He formed a family band called Selena y Los Dinos with his son AB playing guitar, his daughter Suzette on drums, and Selena as the lead singer.  They got their start at the family restaurant, Papagayo, where they would perform on weekends and for parties and weddings.  Abraham wrote original songs for the band and they had many local fans, but the restaurant eventually failed and closed down. They were forced to move in with family after that, but they never gave up their music.

As Selena grew older, her brother AB took over as the song writer, and the family was always traveling to perform at different shows. Since English was Selena’s first language, she even learned Spanish to appeal more to the Tejano music community they normally performed for. Tejano music, also known as Tex-Mex music, is a popular music style fusing Mexican and US influences. In 1986 at the age of 15, Selena won her very first Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. She would go on to win that same award every year until 1996. This coined her the Queen of Tejano music.

In 1989, Chris Perez joined Selena y Los Dinos as their lead guitarist.  Soon after, he and Selena fell in love.  They were married on April 2, 1992.  Abraham did not approve of the relationship at first because he didn’t believe in mixing business with pleasure, but he welcomed Chris with open arms once he and Selena were married.

Selena and her song-writer brother AB single handedly revolutionized the Tejano music industry. Being Mexican-American, Selena had a universal appeal.  Her influence allowed her to break barriers, and she ultimately put the Latino community on the map when she made history by becoming the first ever Tejano artist to win a Grammy in 1994 for her Mexican/Mexican-American Album, Selena Live!

This paved the way for other Latino artists such as Enrique Iglesias and Shakira to break through on American charts and win Grammys as well. Enrique Iglesias won a Grammy for Latin Pop Album in 1997. Shakira won Grammys in the same category in 2001 and 2018, as well as Latin Rock or Alternative Album in 2006. 

Selena’s life was tragically cut short on March 31, 1995. After a verbal dispute, she was shot in the back by her fan club manager Yolanda Saldivar at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi, Texas. She died later that day at Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital. She was just 23 years old.

Before Selena’s death, she was working on her very first English Crossover Album.  Dreaming of You was released posthumously on July 18, 1995. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart, which was the first time ever for a Latin artist. Like her Grammy win the year before, this further broke barriers and paved the way for Latin artists to come. The album sold three million copies and went platinum 59 times. It was the best-selling Latin and Latin Pop album of both 1995 and 1996.

Selena’s best-selling album prior to Dreaming of You was Amor Prohibido which released on March 22, 1994. That album sold two million copies and was certified 20 times platinum.

Selena’s greatest all-time hit songs today include Dreaming of You, I Could Fall in Love, Amor Prohibido, Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, and Como La Flor.

Last year in 2020, two Latina women performed at the Super Bowl LIV halftime show. Those women were Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Without Selena’s influence, that might not have been possible. And if Selena were still alive today, she probably would have been right up on that stage with them.

It’s been 26 years since Selena’s death. She is still mourned, adored and celebrated by her family, friends, and fans worldwide. Her life has been documented on film in the 1997 biopic Selena starring Jennifer Lopez, and most recently in the Netflix mini-series Selena: The Series starring Christian Serratos.  Her husband Chris wrote a book for her called To Selena, With Love, and her sister Suzette runs the Selena Museum in their hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Earlier this year on March 14, 2021, Selena was honored posthumously with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Selena once said during a 1994 interview that she would want to be remembered not only as an entertainer, but as a person who cared a lot and gave the best she could; to be the best role model and the best person she could possibly be. And today, she is a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Eternally the Queen of Tejano, Selena is still being celebrated.