Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (Spanish: [seˈlena kintaˈniʎa ˈpeɾeθ] or [seˈlena kintaˈniʝa ˈpeɾes]; April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, actress, and fashion designer. Called the Queen of Tejano music, her contributions to music and fashion made her one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century. Billboard magazine named her the "top Latin artist of the '90s" and the "best selling Latin artist of the decade". Media outlets called her the "Tejano Madonna" for her clothing choices. She also ranks among the most influential Latin artists of all-time and is credited for catapulting a music genre into the mainstream market.[6][7]

The youngest child of the Quintanilla family, she debuted on the music scene in 1980 as a member of the band Selena y Los Dinos, which also included her elder siblings A.B. Quintanilla and Suzette Quintanilla. Selena began recording professionally in 1982. In the 1980s, she was often criticized and was refused bookings at venues across Texas for performing Tejano music—a male-dominated music genre. However, her popularity grew after she won the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1986, which she won nine consecutive times. Selena signed with EMI Latin in 1989 and released her self-titled debut album the same year, while her brother became her principal music producer and songwriter.

Selena released Entre a Mi Mundo (1992), which peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart for 19 nonconsecutive weeks. The album's commercial success led music critics to call the album the "breakthrough" recording of her musical career. One of its singles, "Como La Flor", became one of her most popular signature songs. Live! (1993) won Best Mexican/American Album at the 1994 Grammy Awards, becoming the first recording by a Tejano artist to do so. In 1994, Selena released Amor Prohibido, which became one of the best-selling Latin albums in the United States. It was critically acclaimed as being responsible for Tejano music's first marketable era as it became one of the most popular Latin music subgenres at the time. Selena began recording English-language songs for her crossover album.

Aside from music, Selena was active in her community and donated her time to civic causes. Coca-Cola appointed her its spokesperson in Texas. Selena became a sex icon; she was often criticized for wearing suggestive outfits in light of her comments about being a role model for young women. Selena and her guitarist, Chris Pérez, eloped in April 1992 after her father raised concerns over their relationship. On March 31, 1995, Selena was shot dead by Yolanda Saldívar, her friend and former employee of her Selena Etc. boutiques. Two weeks after her death, George W. Bush—governor of Texas at the time—declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas. Her posthumous crossover album, Dreaming of You (1995), debuted atop the Billboard 200, making Selena the first Latin artist to accomplish this feat. In 1997, Warner Bros. released Selena, a film about her life and career, which starred Jennifer Lopez as Selena. As of 2012, Selena has sold over 60 million albums worldwide.[8]

Life and career

1971–88: Early life and career beginnings

Selena Quintanilla was born on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas. She was the youngest child of Marcella Ofelia Quintanilla (née Samora) who had Cherokee ancestry and Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., a former Mexican American musician.[10] Selena was raised as a Jehovah's Witness.[12] Quintanilla, Jr. noticed her musical abilities when she was six years old. He told People magazine, "Her timing, her pitch were perfect, I could see it from day one".[13] In 1980 in Lake Jackson, Quintanilla, Jr. opened his first Tex-Mex restaurant, where Selena and her siblings Abraham III (on bass guitar) and Suzette Quintanilla (on drums) would often perform.[13] The following year, the restaurant was forced to close after a recession caused by the 1980s oil glut. The family declared bankruptcy and were evicted from their home.[13][14] They settled in Corpus Christi, Texas; Quintanilla, Jr. became manager of the newly formed band Selena y Los Dinos and began promoting it.[13][15] They needed money and played on street corners, at weddings, at quinceañeras, and at fairs.[13]

As her popularity as a singer grew, the demands of Selena's performance and travel schedule began to interfere with her education. Her father took her out of school when she was in the eighth grade.[17] Her teacher Marilyn Greer disapproved of Selena's musical career. She threatened to report Quintanilla, Jr. to the Texas Board of Education, believing the conditions to which Selena was exposed were inappropriate for a girl her age. Quintanilla, Jr. told Greer to "mind her business". Other teachers expressed their concerns when they noticed how tired Selena appeared when she arrived at school. At seventeen, Selena earned a high school diploma from the American School of Correspondence in Chicago, and was also accepted at Louisiana State University. She enrolled at Pacific Western University, taking up business administration as her major subject.[19]

Quintanilla, Jr. refurbished an old bus; he named it "Big Bertha" and the family used it as their tour bus. In the first years of touring, the family sang for food and barely had enough money to pay for gasoline. In 1984, Selena recorded her first LP record, Selena y Los Dinos, for Freddie Records.[20] Despite wanting to record English-language songs, Selena recorded Tejano music compositions; a male-dominated, Spanish-language genre with German influences of polka, jazz, and country music, popularized by Mexicans living in the United States. Quintanilla, Jr. believed Selena should record musical compositions related to her heritage.[21] During the recording sessions for the album, Selena had to learn Spanish phonetically with guidance from her father. In 1985, to promote the album, Selena appeared on the Johnny Canales Show, a popular Spanish-language radio program, on which she continued to appear for several years. Selena was discovered by Rick Trevi, founder of the Tejano Music Awards, where she won the Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1987 and for nine consecutive years after.[22] The band was often turned down by Texas music venues because of the members' ages and because Selena was their lead singer. By 1988, Selena had released five more LP records; Alpha (1986), Munequito de Trapo (1987), And the Winner is... (1987), Preciosa (1988), and Dulce Amor (1988).

1989–90: Self-titled album and relationship with Pérez

José Behar of newly formed label EMI Latin Records, together with the new head of Sony Music Latin, watched Selena perform at the 1989 Tejano Music Awards. Behar was searching for new Latin acts and wanted to sign Selena to EMI's label Capitol Records, while Sony Music Latin offered Quintanilla, Jr. twice Capitol's signing fee. Behar thought he had discovered the "next Gloria Estefan" but his superior called Behar illogical because he had been in South Texas less than a week.[17] Quintanilla, Jr. chose EMI Latin's offer because of the potential for a crossover album, and becoming the first artist to sign to the label.[23] Before Selena began recording for her debut album, Behar and Stephen Finfer requested a crossover album for her.[24] She recorded three English-language compositions for the heads of EMI's pop division. Behar and Finfer's request for a crossover album was denied and Selena was told she needed a bigger fan base to sell such an album.[25] Behar thought EMI Records and the public did not believe that a Mexican American woman could have "crossover potential".

Selena released her self-titled debut album on October 17, 1989. Selena recorded most of the songs at AMEN Studios in San Antonio, Texas; "Sukiyaki" and "My Love" were recorded at Sunrise Studios in Houston. Selena wrote "My Love" and wanted the song to be included on her first recording. Her brother Quintanilla III became Selena's principal record producer and songwriter for most of her musical career. Quintanilla III did not write the tracks "Sukiyaki", "Contigo Quiero Estar", and "No Te Vayas".[26] "Sukiyaki" was originally recorded in Japanese in the 1960s by Kyu Sakamoto; Selena used a translation into Spanish of an English version of the song by Janice Marie Johnson.[26] The lead single, "Contigo Quiero Estar", peaked at number eight on the U.S. Billboard Top Latin Songs chart, while the album peaked at number seven on the U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart,[27] becoming Selena's first single and album to debut on a national music chart. Selena performed better than albums from other contemporaneous female Tejano singers.

In the same year, Coca-Cola wanted Selena to become one of their spokespeople in Texas.[19] The jingle used in her first two commercials for the company were composed by Quintanilla III and Chris Pérez—the latter of whom had joined Selena y Los Dinos several months earlier as the band's new guitarist. Pérez began having romantic feelings for Selena, despite having a girlfriend in San Antonio. After a trip to Mexico with the band, Pérez thought it would be best for them both to distance himself from her, but found it difficult and decided to try building a relationship with her. They expressed their feelings for each other at a Pizza Hut restaurant, and shortly afterwards became a couple. Pérez and Selena hid their relationship, fearing Quintanilla, Jr. would try to break it up.

1990–91: Ven Conmigo and the Selena fan club

Selena released her second studio album, Ven Conmigo, in 1990. Three tracks from Ven Conmigo were released as singles; "Ya Ves", "La Tracalera", and "Baila Esta Cumbia".[28] The latter, a Mexican cumbia song, became one of Selena's biggest singles. Its popularity grew in Mexico, where a compilation album bearing the single's name was released there. The album was certified platinum by the Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas (AMPROFON), denoting sales of 150,000 units.[29][4]

A registered nurse and fan named Yolanda Saldívar asked Quintanilla, Jr. to start a fan club in San Antonio. Saldívar had the idea after she had attended one of Selena's concerts. Quintanilla, Jr. approved Saldívar's request; he believed the fan club would bring more exposure for the band. Saldívar soon became a close friend to Selena and the family; she was trusted and became the acting president of the fan club in 1991.[31] That same year, Salvadoran singer Álvaro Torres composed a duet he wanted to record with Selena. The song, "Buenos Amigos", was produced by Enrique Elizondo and was released on Torres' tenth studio album Nada Se Compara Contigo (1991).[4] "Buenos Amigos" peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Top Latin Songs chart, giving Selena her first number one single. The song's music video earned Selena and Torres two nominations at the 1992 Billboard Music Awards.[4] The track was also nominated for Duo of the Year at the 1992 Tejano Music Awards.[4] Deborah Parédez wrote that the track enabled Selena to tour the west and east coasts of the United States. According to John Lannert of Billboard magazine, "Buenos Amigos" was helped by increased airplay on regional Mexican and Tejano radio stations, which had previously dismissed Selena's recordings.[4]

1992–93: Elopement, Entre a Mi Mundo, and Selena Live

Selena's sister Suzette found Selena and Pérez flirting with each other and immediately informed their father. Quintanilla, Jr. took Pérez off the bus and told him his relationship with Selena was over. Selena and Pérez continued their relationship despite Quintanilla, Jr's disapproval;[36] Selena's mother Marcella approved of their relationship. Quintanilla, Jr. saw Selena and Pérez romantically together on the bus; he pulled over and an argument between Quintanilla, Jr. and Selena ensued. He called Pérez a "cancer in my family" and threatened to disband the group if they continued their relationship.[37] Selena and Pérez relented; Quintanilla, Jr. fired Pérez from the band and prevented Selena from leaving with him. After his dismissal, Pérez and Selena secretly continued their relationship. On the morning of April 2, 1992, Selena and Pérez decided to elope, believing Quintanilla, Jr. would never approve of their relationship.[37] Selena thought Quintanilla, Jr. would leave them alone if they were married, and they would not have to hide their feelings for each other. Within hours of their marriage, the media announced the couple's elopement. Selena's family tried to find her; Quintanilla, Jr. did not take the news well and alienated himself for some time. Selena and Pérez moved into an apartment in Corpus Christi. Quintanilla, Jr. approached Pérez, apologized, accepted the marriage, and took Pérez back into the band.

A month after her elopement, Selena released her third studio album, Entre a Mi Mundo, in May 1992. The album was critically acclaimed as her "breakthrough album".[38][39][40] The recording peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart for 19 nonconsecutive weeks;[41] it was certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA for shipments of 600,000 copies.[42] In Mexico, the album was certified gold for sales of 300,000 units.[43] Entre a Mi Mundo became the first Tejano album by a female artist to sell over 300,000 copies. Selena's album outsold those of male Tejano singers, according to editors of the Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News.[44][45] The album produced four singles; "Como La Flor", "¿Qué Creías?", "La Carcacha", and "Amame". The lead single, "Como La Flor", became Selena's signature recording; it was critically acclaim by music critics as a career launcher for Selena.[46] "Como La Flor" helped Selena to dominate the Latin music charts and become immensely popular in Mexico—where Mexican-Americans were generally not liked among citizens—which was well received by critics. The track was nominated for Song of the Year at the 1993 Tejano Music Awards.[47] The single peaked at number six on the U.S. Billboard Top Latin Songs chart.[48]

Selena released Live! in 1993; it was recorded during a free concert at the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi, on February 7, 1993. The album included previously released tracks that were sung live and three studio recordings; "No Debes Jugar", "La Llamada", and "Tú Robaste Mi Corazón"—a duet with Tejano musician Emilio Navaira. The tracks "No Debes Jugar" and "La Llamada" peaked within the top five on the U.S. Billboard Top Latin Songs chart.[49][49] Live! won the Grammy Award for Best Mexican/American Album at the 36th Grammy Awards. In May 1994, Live! was named Album of the Year by the Billboard Latin Music Awards.[50] At the 1994 Tejano Music Awards, Live! won Album of the Year.[52] At the 1994 Lo Nuestro Awards, the album was nominated for Regional Mexican Album of the Year.[8] Live! was certified gold by the RIAA for shipments of 500,000 copies, while in Mexico it sold 250,000 units.[42][53] Selena briefly appeared opposite Erik Estrada in a Mexican telenovela titled Dos Mujeres, Un Camino. In 1995 she entered negotiations to star in another telenovela produced by Emilio Larrosa. She appeared in two episodes, which garnered a record viewing figures for the series.

1994–95: Fashion venture, film debut, and Amor Prohibido

Aside from music, in 1994 Selena began designing and manufacturing a line of clothing; she opened two boutiques called Selena Etc., one in Corpus Christi and the other in San Antonio. Both were equipped with in-house beauty salons. She was in negotiations to open more stores in Monterrey, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Saldívar managed both boutiques after the Quintanilla family were impressed with the way she managed the fan club. Hispanic Business magazine reported that the singer earned over five million dollars from these boutiques.[55] She was ranked among the twentieth-wealthiest Hispanic musicians who grossed the highest income in 1993 and 1994. Selena released her fourth studio album, Amor Prohibido, in March 1994. The recording debuted at number three on the U.S. Billboard Top Latin Albums chart[8] and number one on the U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Albums charts.[8] After peaking at number one on the Top Latin Albums chart, the album remained in the top five for the remainder of the year and into early 1995.[58] Amor Prohibido became the second Tejano album to reach year-end sales of 500,000 copies, which had previously only been accomplished by La Mafia.[59] It became one of the best-selling Latin albums in the United States. Amor Prohibido spawned four number one singles; the title track, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "No Me Queda Más", and "Fotos y Recuerdos". The album was certified double Platinum by the RIAA for shipments of two million copies in the United States.[42] Amor Prohibido was among the best selling U.S. albums of 1995.[61] The album was named on Tom Moon's list of the 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List (2008).

The album popularized Tejano music among a younger and wider audience than at any other time in the genre's history.[62] The two singles, "Amor Prohibido" and "No Me Queda Más", were the most successful U.S. Latin singles of 1994 and 1995, respectively, according to Billboard magazine.[63][64] The album's commercial success led to a Grammy nomination for Best Mexican/American Album at the 37th Grammy Awards in 1995.[65] It won Record of the Year at the 1995 Tejano Music Awards[52] and Regional/Mexican Album of the Year at the 1995 Lo Nuestro Awards. Selena was named "one of Latin music's most successful touring acts" during her Amor Prohibido tour.[66] After Amor Prohibido's release, Selena was considered "bigger than Tejano itself", and broke barriers in the Latin music world.[67] She was called the "Queen of Tejano music" by many media outlets. Sales of the album and its titular single represented Tejano music's first commercial success in Puerto Rico.[67] Selena recorded a duet titled "Donde Quiera Que Estés" with the Barrio Boyzz, which was released on their album of the same name in 1994. The song reached number one on the Top Latin Songs chart,[74] which enabled Selena to tour in New York City, Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Central America, where she was not well known. In late 1994, EMI chairman Charles Koppelman decided Selena had achieved her goals in the Spanish-speaking market. He wanted to promote her as an English-language, American, solo pop artist. Selena continued touring while EMI began preparing the crossover album, engaging Grammy Award-winning composers. By the time Selena performed to a record-breaking, sold out concert at the Houston Astrodome in February 1995, work had already begun on her crossover album. In 1995, she made a cameo appearance in Don Juan DeMarco, which starred Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp, and Faye Dunaway.[75]


The Quintanilla family appointed Saldívar manager of Selena's boutiques in early 1994.[31] Eight months later, Selena signed Saldívar as her registered agent in San Antonio, Texas. After the agreement, Saldívar moved from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to be closer to Selena. In December 1994, the boutiques began to suffer after the number of staff for both stores had decreased. According to staff members, Saldívar often dismissed employees she personally disliked. Staff at the stores regularly complained about Saldívar's behavior to Selena, who dismissed the claims, believing Saldívar would not negatively impose erratic decisions on Selena's fashion venture. According to Quintanilla, Jr., the staff later turned their attention to him and began informing him about Saldívar's behavior. Quintanilla, Jr. took the claims seriously; he told Selena to "be careful" and said Saldívar may not be a good influence. Selena dismissed her father's inquiries because he had often distrusted people in the past. By January 1995, Selena's cousin, her fashion designer Martin Gomez, and clients expressed their concerns over Saldívar's behavior and management skills. During an interview with Saldívar in 1995, reporters from The Dallas Morning News said her devotion to Selena bordered on obsession.

According to Quintanilla, Jr., in January 1995 he began receiving telephone calls from fans who said they had paid for membership in the Selena fan club and had received nothing in return for it, and he began an investigation. Quintanilla, Jr. discovered that Saldívar had embezzled more than $60,000 in forged checks from both the fan club and the boutiques. Quintanilla, Jr. held a meeting with Selena and Suzette on the night of March 9 at Q-Productions to confront Saldívar. Quintanilla, Jr. presented Saldívar with the inconsistencies concerning the disappearing funds. Quintanilla, Jr. told her that if she did not provide evidence that disproved his accusations, he would involve the local police. Quintanilla, Jr. banned Saldívar from having any contact with Selena. However, Selena did not want to dissolve their friendship; she thought Saldívar was essential to the success of the clothing line in Mexico. Selena also wanted to keep her close because she had bank records, statements, and financial records necessary for tax preparation.

On the morning of March 31, 1995, Selena met with Saldívar at her Days Inn motel room in Corpus Christi. At the motel, Selena demanded the financial papers; Saldívar delayed the handover by saying she had been raped in Mexico.[17] Selena then drove Saldívar to Doctors Regional Hospital, where doctors found no evidence of rape.[77] At 11:48 a.m. (CST), Saldívar drew a gun from her purse[13] and pointed it at Selena. As Selena attempted to flee, Saldívar shot her once on the right lower shoulder, severing an artery and causing a massive loss of blood. Critically wounded, Selena ran towards the lobby, leaving a 392-foot (119 m)-long trail of blood. She collapsed on the floor as the clerk called the emergency services, with Saldívar still chasing after her and calling her a "bitch".[79] Before collapsing, Selena named Saldívar as her assailant and gave the number of the room where she had been shot.[81] Meanwhile, Saldívar got into her pickup truck and tried to leave the motel. However, she was spotted by a responding police cruiser. Saldívar surrendered after a nearly nine-and-a-half-hour standoff with police and the FBI. By that time, hundreds of fans had gathered at the scene; many wept as police took Saldívar away. After 50 minutes of surgery, the doctors realized that the damage to Selena's pierced artery was irreparable. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was pronounced dead from blood loss and cardiac arrest at 1:05 p.m. (CST).[83]


Selena's murder had a widespread impact. Reactions to her death were compared to those following the deaths of musicians John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Major television networks interrupted their regular programming to break the news; Tom Brokaw referred to Selena as "The Mexican Madonna".[12] Her death was front page news in The New York Times for two days. Numerous vigils and memorials were held in her honor, and radio stations in Texas played her music non-stop.[85] Her funeral drew 60,000 mourners, many of whom traveled from outside the United States.[85] The news struck the Hispanic community extremely hard; many fans traveled thousands of miles to see Selena's house and boutiques, and the crime scene.[86] By mid-afternoon, police were asked to form a detour because a line of cars began backing up traffic from the Quintanillas' houses. Among the celebrities who were reported to have contacted the Quintanilla family to express their condolences were Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Julio Iglesias, and Madonna. Other celebrities—including Stefanie Ridel, Jaime DeAnda (of Los Chamacos), and Shelly Lares—appeared on radio stations to express their thoughts about Selena's death. An issue of People magazine was released several days after her murder. Its publishers believed interest would soon wane; they released a commemorative issue within a week when it became apparent it was growing. The issue sold nearly a million copies,[87] selling the entire first and second print runs within two weeks. It became a collector's item, a first in the history of People. Betty Cortina, editor of People, told Biography they never had an issue that was completely sold out; "it was unheard of". In the following months, the company released People en Español aimed at the Hispanic market, due to the success of the Selena issue. This was followed by Newsweek en Espanol and Latina magazine.[88]

A few days later, Howard Stern mocked Selena's murder and burial, poked fun at her mourners, and criticized her music. Stern said, "This music does absolutely nothing for me. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul ... Spanish people have the worst taste in music. They have no depth." Stern's comments outraged and infuriated the Hispanic community in Texas. Stern played Selena's songs with gunshots in the background on his show.[89] After a disorderly conduct arrest warrant was issued in his name, Stern made an on-air statement, in Spanish, saying his comments were not made to cause "more anguish to her family, friends and those who loved her".[90][91] Stern was not formally charged; the League of United Latin American Citizens boycotted Stern's show, finding his apology unacceptable.[92] Texas retailers removed any products that were related to Stern, while Sears and McDonald's sent a letter stating their disapproval of Stern's comments to the media, because some fans believed the companies sponsored Stern's show. Within a week, on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Stern and Robin Quivers (his co-host) were asked whether Stern's remarks about Selena were acceptable. Quivers decided not to talk about the situation to avoid arguing with Stern. When Linda Ronstadt—a pop singer of Mexican-American heritage—appeared on the show, she and Quivers argued when Ronstadt defended Selena.

On April 12, 1995, two weeks after Selena's death, George W. Bush, governor of Texas at the time, declared her birthday, April 16, Selena Day in the state.[19][93] He said Selena represented "the essence of south Texas culture." who never forgot where she came from.[94] Some European Americans in Texas wrote to the editor of the Brazosport Facts during April and May, asking what the big deal was; some were offended that Selena Day fell on Easter Sunday. Others said, "Easter is more important than Selena Day", and that they believed people should let Selena rest in peace and continue with their lives. Mexican Americans in Texas wrote vociferously to the newspaper. Some said others were too critical of Selena Day, and should not have responded so rudely. In October 1995, a Houston jury convicted Saldívar of first-degree murder and sentenced her to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 2025. In 2002, under a judge's order, the gun used to kill Selena was destroyed and the pieces were thrown into Corpus Christi Bay.[95][96] Fans and historians disapproved of the decision to destroy the gun, saying the event was historical and the gun should have been in a museum.[19]


Selena's vocal range was soprano.[97] In an April 1995 interview with Billboard magazine, Behar said he saw Selena as a "cross between Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston in style, feel, and vocal range".[98] Although Selena did not write most of her songs, she incorporated R&B, Latin pop, technopop, country and western, and disco into her Tejano music repertoire. Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News said that during her music career, Selena "merges Tejano's infectious cumbia rhythm with street-savvy R&B, old-school soul, dancehall reggae, sizzling salsa, and trippy, loopy funk". Selena's recordings expressed "love and pain, as well as strength and passion", according to Charles Tatum. She also recorded independently driven, female-empowerment-themed compositions; "Si La Quieres", "¿Qué Creías?", "Ya Ves" and "Ya No", which centered around inappropriate relationships and recovery from domestic violence. Peter Watrous of The New York Times said Selena's voice "sometimes quivered", and that she "roughed it up a bit". He continued, "[a]t its best, it had a coolness, a type of unadorned passion".[99] Ilan Stavans called her music "cursi-melodramatic, cheesy, overemotional, not too far from Juan Gabriel and a relative of Iglesias".[100] Richard Corliss of Time magazine said her songs "are perky, cheerful rather than soulful", and that earlier recordings, "with their tinny, Tijuana Brass charts, and keyboards that evoke calliopes, are ideal for the fairground or merry-go-round". Corliss calls Selena's singing an "expert mimicry of everything from Édith Piaf's melodramatic contralto to the coloratura riffs of Mariah Carey. But the sounds are still lightly Hispanic."[101]

Newsweek magazine called Selena's English-language recordings "a blend of urban pop and Latin warmth".[102] According to Texas Monthly, Selena's brother modernized her music into a more "funk and hip hop" sound.[103] Selena's use of emotive range during her musical career has been praised by critics as being her trademark. Quintanilla III wrote increasingly Cumbia-influenced songs for Ven Conmigo (1990); Ramiro Burr of Billboard said Selena and her band had "evolved a rhythmic style that demonstrated its increasing prowess for catchy cumbias such as 'Baila Esta Cumbia' and the title track".[104] Italian essayist Gaetano Prampolini wrote that "Selena's voice projected a sonorous warmth and joyfulness" during her review of Selena's Cumbia recordings. In his review of the remix album Enamorada de Ti (2012), Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that Selena's songs were "rooted in the '90s and sound that way—but [Enamorada de Ti] is a relatively fresher repackaging of her music than many of her posthumous releases".[105]

Public image

Quintanilla, Jr. sought to maintain Selena's image clean and family-oriented. In 1989, she was offered sponsorship from beer companies but her father turned them down. Selena was often refused gigs at Tejano venues because she was a female singer in a male-dominated music scene. Manuel Peña wrote that after 1989, Selena's popularity increased and she became a sex icon following the release of her debut album. Charles Tatum said Selena drew most attention was for her "beauty, sexuality, and youthful impact on the Tejano music scene". Selena said she never wanted to record suggestive songs because of her upbringing and because her fan base consisted largely of young children, who regarded her as a role model. She further commented on the question of her sexual appeal to men during her crossover attempt, asserting that she will "stay the same" and that her English-language recordings will refrain from foul language and sexual themes. In 1997, María Celeste Arrarás wrote in her book about Selena's death that the singer was a "sweet and charismatic girl". According to Arrarás, Selena "trusted everyone"; she often went shopping alone, despite her father's concerns over her safety.

Betty Cortina of People magazine said Selena's provocative choice of clothing was an acceptable emulation of Janet Jackson and Madonna, and that she wore "sexy outfits that extenuated a body of a Latina woman". Cortina also stated that Selena had a "flamboyant style, an unbelievable body, curves and booty". Arrarás wrote that Selena "began wearing clothes designed to emphasize her curvaceous figure" and that she "never came across as cheap-simply sexy". She also said Selena's makeup regimen was not being "painted up or vulgar". Arrarás also noted Selena's "fun-loving stage manner" and said she was "playful onstage and off". Matt S. Meier wrote in his book The Mexican American Experience: An Encyclopedia (2010) that Selena exhibited "contagious energy" during her concerts and said she displayed "warmth, passion, and sexuality" while exuding a "down-to-earth persona of the wholesome young girl next door". Selena wore outfits that accented her physical attributes and was not afraid to wear outfits she liked, despite criticism from parents who thought Selena's choice of outfits were inappropriate for young girls, who began emulating Selena. Her views on public image in the fashion industry were bothersome; she said she was opposed to the image that all woman should be "rail-thin" and the notion that they must wear certain outfits and be "super-young to be beautiful".

In the early 1990s, Selena began wearing decorative bustiers, spandex or tight pants, and attractive, unbuttoned jackets during her concerts. She was inspired by Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, and Madonna. During a 1992 interview, Selena said her choice of clothing does not reflect her personality. NBC News called Selena's outfit "provocative".[8] Because of her choices of outfits and dance moves, she was named by her fans as the "Mexican Madonna". According to Suzette, Selena often designed and sewed her own outfits backstage with her designers, moments before she was due on stage. Quintanilla, Jr. disapproved of Selena's outfits, but he later accepted it when Selena discussed about it being a fashion trend. Selena became an inactive member of the Jehovah's Witnesses due to her exotic clothing. During the photo shoot for Entre a Mi Mundo (1992), a photographer remarked on the ways Selena's choice of clothing affected Quintanilla, Jr. tremendously; he often left sessions when Selena appeared in revealing outfits. Selena was credited as the first women to change public perceptions of feminine beauty; a feminist, she blazed a trail for other female artists during her career.

Following Selena's death, some celebrities questioned her status as a role model among Hispanic women. In her 1999 documentary about the singer, filmmaker Lourdes Portillo expressed concerns whether Selena was a great role model to young women.[106] Portillo believed Selena was sending the wrong message to young girls by dancing in clothing that suggested hypersexualization. American author Sandra Cisneros agreed with Portillo's assessment that Selena was "not a good role model to Latina women". Media outlets also shared Portillo's views; they said the "fairy tale story" of Selena was one that her family would want to preserve, questioning Quintanilla, Jr.'s role for pushing an image that Selena had "never made mistakes" into the media, calling it "lies" and "not the real story".[107][108]


During her childhood, Selena helped organizations such as Toys for Tots. She was active in the U.S. Latino community, visiting local schools to talk to students about the importance of education. At Fulmore Junior High School in Austin, she educated two hundred high school students about positive attitudes and setting life-goals in their adult lives. Selena urged children to stay in school, and that alcohol and drugs will lead them nowhere in life. She spent her free time helping her community. Selena performed in Washington D.C. to celebrate the forming of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Following the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, Selena helped victims in Florida by performing at a Houston benefit concert.

In August 1994, Selena hosted a charity baseball game to raise money for unspecified charities. She also donated her time to civic organizations such as D.A.R.E. and planned a fund raising concert to help AIDS patients.[19] Selena participated with the Texas Prevention Partnership which was sponsored by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Dep Corporation), which released an educational video that was sent to students for free.[19] Her pro-education videos included "My Music" and "Selena Agrees". She was in the works for a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas Boys & Girls Clubs of America benefit concert.[19]

In January 1995, Selena headlined the Teach the Children festival in San Antonio. The concert funded a non-profit program to provide school supplies to needy children. Selena was a spokesperson for women in abusive relationships. She also helped out at homeless shelters. According to the A&E television series Biography, Selena's fans were often minorities; she encouraged them to make the most of their lives.

Legacy and influence

Selena has been credited for helping redefine Latin music and its subgenres of Tejano, Cumbia, and Latin pop. Selena broke barriers in the Latin music world.[97][109] She is considered "one of the most significant Mexican American singers of the end of the twentieth century". Selena also became one of the "most celebrated cultural products" of the United States-Mexico borderlands. Selena was called the "Queen of Tejano music", and was described as "the most important and popular Tejano star of all time". Her death was "the most devastating loss" in Tejano music history, according to Zach Quaintance of the The Monitor.[109] At the time of her death, Selena became one of the most widely known Mexican-American vocal artists[110] and the most popular Latin artist in the United States.[110] She had a "cult-like" following among Hispanics.

Selena has been named one of the most influential Latin artists of all-time and has been credited for elevating a music genre into the mainstream market.[6][7] Latin Post called the singer "one of the most iconic artists in Latin American music history",[111] while The New York Times called her "arguably the most important Latina musician in the country, on her way to becoming one of the most important, period."[112] Selena became a household name in the United States and in Mexico following her death and became part of the American pop culture.[112] She became more popular in death than when she was alive. After her death, her popularity among the Hispanic population was compared to those of Marilyn Monroe and Madonna in Anglo-American culture. According to author Carlota Caulfield, Selena was "one of the most popular Latina singers of the 1990s". Selena's popularity was drawn in by the LGBT community and minority groups in the United States. The popularity of Tejano music waned after her death, and as of 2015, has not recovered.[114] John Lannert of Billboard said in an interview with Biography in 2007 that when Selena died the "Tejano market died with her".

Dreaming of You, the crossover album Selena had been working on at the time of her death, was released in July 1995. It sold 175,000 copies on the day of its release in the U.S.—a then-record for a female vocalist—and sold 331,000 copies its first week.[115][116] Selena became the third female artist to sell over 300,000 units in one week, after Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey.[117] It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, becoming the first album by a Hispanic artist to do so.[118][119][120] Dreaming of You helped Selena to become the first solo artist to debut a posthumous album at number one.[121] The recording was among the top-ten best-selling debuts for a musician, and was the best-selling debut by a female act.[122] Dreaming of You joined five of Selena's studio albums on the Billboard 200 chart simultaneously, making Selena the first female artist in Billboard history to do so.[123] The album was certified 35x platinum by the RIAA, for shipping more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S. alone.[42][124] As of 2015, the recording has sold five million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling Latin album of all-time in the United States.[125] In 2008, Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle said its lead single, "I Could Fall in Love", had "made the Tejano goddess a posthumous crossover star".[126] Her death was believed to have sparked an interest in Latin music by people who were unaware of its existence.[127] It was also believed her death "open[ed] the doors" to other Latin musicians such as Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Shakira.[128]

In the same year, the United States Social Security Administration ranked the name Selena one of the 100 most popular names for newborn girls.[129] In December 1999, Selena was named the "top Latin artist of the '90s" and "Best selling Latin artist of the decade" by Billboard for her fourteen top-ten singles in the Top Latin Songs chart, including seven number-one hits.[130] She was the best-selling Latin female singer of the 1990s in the U.S. and Mexico.[132] Selena was named "Best Female Vocalist of the '80s" and "Best Female Vocalist of the '90s" at the 2010 Tejano Music Awards.[52]

Posthumous film and honors

In the months following her death, a number of honors and tributes were erected. Several proposals were made, such as renaming streets, public parks, food products, and auditoriums. Two months later, a tribute was held at the 1995 Lo Nuestro Awards.[133] The Spirit of Hope Award was created in Selena's honor in 1996;[134] it was awarded to Latin artists who participated in humanitarian and civic causes.[135] On March 16, 2011, the United States Postal Service released a "Latin Legends" memorial stamp to honor Selena, Carlos Gardel, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and Carmen Miranda.[136] In February 2014, the Albany, NY Times Union named her one of "100 Coolest Americans in History".[137] In 1997 Selena was commemorated with a museum and a life-size bronze statue in Corpus Christi, which are visited by hundreds of fans each week.

In 1995, Selena was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame,[35] the Hard Rock Cafe's Hall of Fame, and the South Texas Music Hall of Fame. In 2001 she was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame. The singer received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.[138] She was named one of the 20 most influential Texans of all time by author Laurie Jasinski. She was ranked fifth of the "100 most influential Latin musicians of the 20th century" according to the Orange County Register.[139] The singer has been given many epithets by media outlets, including the "Queen of Latin music",[140] the "Queen of Cumbia",[141] the "Chicana Elvis",[142] the "Queen of hybrid pop culture", the "Hispanic Marilyn Monroe",[100] the "Tupac Shakur of Latin music",[143] the "Corpus Christi queen",[144] and the "people's princess".[145] Media have compared Selena's fashion sense to that of Madonna more times than any other celebrity.[2][3]

In 1995, Mexican actress Salma Hayek was chosen to play the role of Selena in a biopic film produced by the Quintanilla family and Warner Bros.[146] Hayek turned the role down; she said she felt it was "too early" to base a movie on Selena and that it would be emotional because Selena's death was still being covered on U.S. television.[147][148] Puerto Rican-American actress Jennifer Lopez replaced Hayek, which drew criticism because of Lopez' Puerto-Rican ancestry. Over 21,000 people auditioned for the title role, becoming the second largest audition since the search for Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939).[149] Gregory Nava directed for the film, which was released on March 21, 1997. After seeing Lopez' performance in it, fans changed their views on her. Selena opened in 1,850 theaters worldwide and grossed $11,615,722, making it the second-highest-grossing film debut that week.[150] With a production budget of $20 million, the film grossed $35 million in the U.S.[150] The film was a commercial and critical success[151] and is often cited by critics as Lopez' breakthrough role.[152] Lopez rose into pop culture, for which the film's success was credited.

In 1999, a Broadway-bound musical titled Selena was scheduled to premiere in San Antonio in March 2000 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of her murder. Broadway producers Tom Quinn, Jerry Frankel, Peter Fitzgerald, and Michael Vega staged the musical,[154] and Edward Gallardo wrote the show's book and lyrics. Fernando Rivas composed the show's songs. In 2000, Selena Forever was first produced; the show embarked on a 30-city U.S. tour with a budget of over US$2 million.[154] After a national casting call, producers chose Veronica Vasquez to portray Selena; Vasquez alternated in the role with Rebecca Valdez.[155] The musical previewed on March 21, and opened on March 23 at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium.[156]

Selena's family and her former band, Los Dinos, held a tribute concert on April 7, 2005, a week after the 10th anniversary of her murder. The concert, titled Selena ¡VIVE!, was broadcast live on Univision and achieved a 35.9 household rating. It was the highest-rated and most-viewed Spanish-language television special in the history of American television. The special was also the number-one program in any language among adults ages 18 to 34 in Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco; it tied for first in New York, beating that night's episode of Fox's reality show American Idol.[157] Among Hispanic viewers, Selena ¡VIVE! outperformed Super Bowl XLV and the telenovela Soy tu dueña during the "most-watched NFL season ever among Hispanics".[158][159]

In January 2015, it was announced that a two-day annual event called Fiesta de la Flor would be held in Corpus Christi for Selena by the Corpus Christi Visitors Bureau. Musical acts for the first annual event included Kumbia All-Starz, Chris Pérez, Los Lobos, Jay Perez, Little Joe y la Familia, Los Palominos, Stefani Montiel of Las 3 Divas, Girl in a Coma's Nina Diaz, Las Fenix, and previous The Voice competitor Clarissa Serna.[160][161][162] The event raised $13 million with an attendance of 52,000 people with 72% of whom lived outside of Corpus Christi. The event sparked interest from people in 35 states and five different countries including Mexico, Brazil, and Ecuador.[163]


Solo studio albums


Film and television
1995Don Juan DeMarcoMariachi singerMinor role/cameo appearance (posthumous release)
1993Dos Mujeres, un CaminoHerself2 episodes
1994Sábado giganteHerselfGuest
1995Latin NightsHerselfTV documentary

Biographical programming

1997Selena RememberedDocumentary
1997The Final NotesDocumentary
1998Behind The MusicEpisode: "Selena"
2005Selena ¡VIVE!Dedicatee
2007Queen of Tejano musicDocumentary
2008BiographyEpisode: "Selena"

True crime documentaries

1995E! True Hollywood StoryEpisode:" The Selena Murder Trail"
1998American JusticeEpisode: "Selena Murder of a Star"
2001The GreatestEpisode: "100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock and Roll History"
2003101Episode: "101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment"
2010Famous Crime SceneEpisode: "Selena"
2012100 Most Shocking Music MomentsDocumentary
2012Reel Crime/Reel StoryEpisode: "Selena"
2014SnappedEpisode: "Selena Death of a Superstar"