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November 3, 2017

Selena Quintanilla-Perez: A Star That Will Always Shine

Texas is known for its unique culture, food, traditions, sports, and music. The Texan attitude towards Tex-Mex bands is uniquely appreciated and patriotic for Texan residents, especially to those living in Texas during the 1980-1990s when singer/songwriter Selena Quintanilla-Perez was at the peak of her musical career. She was known for singing Tejano music, a unique genre that was most popular in the state of Texas.1 Tejano music is a unique genre that is composed of an integration of both country beats and traditional Mexican rhythms, as well as a fusion of unique sounds that includes a mixture of cumbias, country-western, and R&B.

Selena Quintanilla-Perez was born in Lake Jackson, Texas on April 16, 1971. She was the daughter of Abraham Quintanilla and Marcella Perez-Quintanilla, and the youngest of three children. Her artistic career began at the age of six years old when her father Abraham decided to start a family Tejano band known as “Los Dinos.” The band featured Selena’s brother Abraham (AB) and her sister Suzette.2 Mr. Quintanilla taught Selena and her siblings how to play instruments and sing the lyrics to famous Spanish songs. Her brother AB played bass, while her sister Suzette played the drums, and Selena acted as the lead singer. “Selena y Los Dinos” started by performing in the family restaurant, “Papa Gallo’s,” and at weddings in her hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas.3

“She Gave the U.S. Media a Latino Wake Up Call” | Courtesy of the Huffpost

In 1981, the band moved to Corpus Christi and began to excel in the Tejano music industry by becoming a professional musical act performing in nightclubs, festivals, and state fairs.4 One of the most prominent features that distinguished Selena from other singers was her fashion. She was mostly recognized for her striking outfits and elaborate dance movements, obtaining the identity of the “Mexican Madonna.” She was also labeled as the “Queen of Tejano Music.” She was among the first female performers to excel in this particular music industry. Her charming and humble character won the hearts of American and Latin American audiences.5 Despite her success in the Spanish-language market, mainstream society largely ignored Selena until 1993.

In 1984, the band recorded their first album with Freddie Labels. They decided to name the album “Selena y Los Dinos,” a simple and recognizable title. Unfortunately, the group did not have much luck selling their albums. Selena’s father, who played the role of band manager at the time, decided to move the band from Freddie Label to Cara Recordings.6 Living in a van, the band continued to tour by opening for larger Tejano acts in cities all over Texas. The group released their second album Alpha in 1986, followed by the album Muñequito De Trapo. The year of 1986 was an eventful year for the star, as she was discovered by the two major players in the Tejano Music Industry: Rick Trevi, founder of the Tejano Music Awards, and Johnny Canales, the host of one of the top Spanish television shows.7

Selena’s rise to fame continued in 1986 when she won the Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year. By the late 1980s, Selena was known as “La Reina de la Onda Tejana” or the Queen of Tejano music. The band released three more albums in 1987 and 1988 (And The Winner IsDulce Amor, and Preciosa). Her popularity soared winning her more awards from the Tejano Music Awards for 1988.8 She continued to win awards repeatedly for the next seven years. The publicity she gained in these years allowed her to sign a contract with EMI Latin Records in 1989. That same year, her first album was released on EMI Latin called simply Selena. It was the first album that listed the artist as Selena instead of Selena y Los Dinos.9

Selena faced many obstacles during her musical career and she was often compared to other artists; she was criticized for her unpolished Spanish, since she grew up never having learned Spanish. She was neglected for not being able to speak fluent Spanish; however, using her charm and charisma, she was able to win acceptance in Mexico.10 But she obtained the love and support from Mexican citizens, which was an extremely rare phenomenon, as Mexicans rarely welcome Mexican-American performers. She also managed to break through several barriers and cross into the mainstream pop charts. Her unique look allowed her to influence those in her culture of her authentic Mexican heritage by shattering the Barbie Doll stereotype and redefining beauty for Hispanic women. However, like every obstacle in her life, she continued to improve and impress the Tejano music industry. Mexico’s approval would be hard for her to obtain, so she decided that the only way to gain the country’s love was to cross over to the Latin American market. She went to Mexico and attracted over 98,000 fans in Monterrey and other major cities. In 1994, Texas Monthly named her one of twenty influential Texans, and the Los Angeles Times interviewed her, and praised her for her tenacious, humble, and hardworking character.

Selena wins her Grammy in 1994| Courtesy of Google Images

Selena continued to prosper in the early 1990s, despite the gender and cultural stereotypes. A great example of her ultimate success took place in 1993 when she won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance for her album Selena Live.11 Her success and humble character opened many opportunities for her as she began to design and manufacture her own clothing line. Her dream was to open a boutique, and like everything Selena set her mind to, she achieved it, not only opening one location but two in 1993, one in Corpus Christi and one in San Antonio.12 The years of glory continued to rain on the star’s life in 1994. She released her album Amor Prohibido (Forbidden Love), which was nominated for another Grammy. The fame and recognition brought by her musical career attracted the attention of the Mexican mainstream media, and she was made an offer to appear in the Latin soap opera Dos Mujeres, Un Camino.

One of her last and more memorable performance took place in 1995 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The band attracted over 61,000 fans. It was a record-breaking performance that gave her “Star” status. This would be the last concert she would perform.

Courtesy of CNN Entertainment | Selena standing next to Yolanda Saldivar (1994)

On March 31, 1995, Selena’s life was taken away. Yolanda Saldivar, her fan club president and manager of her boutiques, was responsible for shooting Selena in the back. They quickly rushed her to the local hospital, but unfortunately, she was pronounced dead at 1:05 pm. She was only twenty-three and was two days away from her third wedding anniversary, and seventeen days shy of her twenty-fourth birthday.13

The death of Selena was devastating, especially for the Hispanic community. Selena Quintanilla-Perez remains and will remain an iconic legend for the Tejano music industry, as she inspired thousands of women and gave life to an underrated music genre.14 She was able to set the standards for Hispanic women breaking stereotypes, especially in a male dominating industry.

Selena had recorded an English album, but unfortunately did not finish recording it.15 As a tribute to her tragic death, her family decided to release an album that included a combination of Spanish songs and the four English songs that Selena had recorded for her planned English album. In the summer of 1995, the album Dreaming of You was released. Even after her death, she continued to break records. The album appeared on the U.S. Billboard 200 for the songs I Could Fall In Love and Dreaming Of You. She was the first Latin artist to achieve such status. Her music was widely played on mainstream English radio.16

To this day, Selena still inspires us. She has become a cultural icon, establishing the importance of humbleness and kindness.17 Selena was loved for her vibrant character, as she set the example by being proud of her roots and being hard working in order to accomplish her goals. She was an idol to millions of people and set major records in the Tejano music industry.

  1. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musician, s.v. “Selena (Quintanilla Perez),” by Nicolas Slonimsky and Laura Kuhn.
  2. Contemporary Musicians, 1996, s.v., “Selena,” by Christopher B. Tower.
  3. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  4. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musician, s.v. “Selena (Quintanilla Perez),” by Nicolas Slonimsky and Laura Kuhn.
  5. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  6. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musician, s.v. “Selena (Quintanilla Perez),” by Nicolas Slonimsky and Laura Kuhn.
  7. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  8. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  9. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  10. Contemporary Musicians, 1996, s.v., “Selena,” by Christopher B. Tower.
  11. Contemporary Musicians, 1996, s.v., “Selena,” by Christopher B. Tower.
  12. Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Selena 2016.”
  13. Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Selena 2016.”
  14. Contemporary Musicians, 1996, s.v., “Selena,” by Christopher B. Tower.
  15. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Selena,” by Georgina Chinchilla-Gonzalez.
  16. Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Selena 2016.”
  17. Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, s.v. “Selena 2016.”

Valeria Hernandez

Author Portfolio Page

Recent Comments


  • Stela Naomi Sifuentes

    Selena’s music transcended cultural and linguistic boundaries, attracting a diverse fan base of all ages and backgrounds. Her infectious energy, catchy melodies, and relatable lyrics resonated with listeners worldwide, making her one of the most beloved and influential Latin artists of her time. I love how you made this around the time the Netflix series came out!

  • Selena derze

    my parents loved Selena so much that they named me after her but I do love the way you put Selena in this article

  • Abbey Stiffler

    I assumed she was Mexican because I didn’t know much about her life and career, and after reading this article, I’m shocked to learn that she never learned to speak Spanish fluently. This page contains a ton of information about not only her biography but also specifics like her passion for fashion. Selena was well renowned for her passion for clothing and fashion.

  • Victoria Castillo

    Amazing article! I’ve always heard about Selena and her songs from a young age and how she was loved by many people. I remember hearing stories about her and even saw the movie that came out about her life and learning how she died at such a young age always hurt. I’m still surprised by how a person she probably trusted with a lot of things could shoot her in the back. Learning of how she persevered in her life and career, even with so many challenges she faced with gender and cultural stereotypes, will continue to amaze me as she achieved something many couldn’t do.

  • Madison Magaro

    This was a great article that told the story of Selena Quintanilla. Her music inspired so many people and it is sad to see that her life was cut short. She has a great legacy because of everything that she was able to accomplish at a young age and her fans will keep her name alive. Selena was a Tejano queen and it is very sad that she was taken away from the world so soon.

  • Isabella Lopez

    Great article. I remember when I was a kid, my comfort artist was Selena. I think it’s great how you didn’t just cover her music career. She was so innovative. I think there was some information that I was surprised by and some that was in the movie even. You covered her life with effectiveness but throughly. I still can’t listen to her songs without being a little sad.

  • Iris Reyna

    Valeria good job on the article and telling the story of Selena Quintanilla. Selena will always be remembered as the icon she is. The music she made is inspiring and relatable to any woman and man regardless of their background. Even though she had her life cut short by a person she had so much trust and faith in because of money is a sad tragedy that will always be remembered for taking the Tejano Queen away from the world when she had so much more to share.

  • Rosalyn Ledesma

    I absoultely love her music as well as her voice! Everytime I think her death or when I listen to her music, I always wonder how popular she could have been in today’s music industry, how she could have become the Latin music icon. Despite her death, I believe she has become an icon to so many young hispanic girls. Honestly, I never realized just how young she was– 23 and on the verge of being 24 years old. She had some much life to live and love to give to the world, however, her legacy and the love from all of the fans are what keep her name alive. I can only hope that we never let her name be forgotten.

  • Dejah Garcia

    Texas Latina Icon ! Selena is such a big inspiration in the southern Texas culture. Selena inspires me as a Afro-Latina in the music industry! Growing up i listened to Selena and admired her beautifully. It so sad that she died at such age an angel taken away too soon. Im sure the legacy of her art will contuine to be carried on for centuries in the Latin culture!

  • Idaly Oropeza

    I truly love the way you wrote this article Valeria. You told Selena’s story beautifully. This article is super informative on not only just her life but also smaller details like her love for fashion. Selena was really known for her love of fashion and clothes. Selena has an inspirational story to tell many young hispanic girls. It is unfortunate how soon she was taken from this world. I wonder what more she could have accomplished if she wasn’t murdered.

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