Who is Selena?

Selena

(1971-1995)

In her short life and career, Selena became a singing sensation and one of the leaders in the rising popularity of Tejano music. She was on the verge of national stardom when she died tragically, murdered at the age of twenty-three. Selena Quintanilla was born in Lake Jackson, Texas.

Her father, a former singer, rec¬ ognized her singing talent when she was only six years old. Soon, she was giving her first public performance at her father’s Tex-Mex restaurant. A short time later, she and her siblings formed a band, Selena y Los Dinos, which began traveling and performing throughout southern Texas.

Selena made her first recording in 1979, and she left school in the eighth grade so she could spend more time traveling with her band. When she was fifteen years old, she won Tejano Music Awards for best female vocalist and per¬ former of the year. Two years later, the band signed a record deal with the Latin division of the EMI Records Group. In 1992, she married the bands guitarist, Chris Perez.

Traditionally, Tejano has meant music by Texans of Mexican descent, but Selena and others helped popularize the style by mixing in sounds of pop, country and western, and Caribbean music. She added her own sex appeal in the early 1990s, when she became known as the “Tex-Mex Madonna” for her bustiers and provoca¬ tive looks.

In 1993, her recording Selena Live received a Grammy Award for best Mexican American album. Her next album, Amor

Prohibido, sold six hundred thousand copies in the United States. It featured the single “Fotos y Recuerdos,” which reached the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Latino charts. By 1995, Selena’s albums had sold a total of three million copies.

That same year, Selena played to record crowds in Houston, and she dominated the Tejano Music Awards ceremonies. With appearances in American movies and on a Latino television soap opera, she seemed destined for a second career in acting.

Unfortunately, her life was cut short. In March of 1995, Selena went to confront the manager of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, whom she suspected of stealing money from the club. Saldivar met Selena at the door of her motel room and shot her in the back and shoulder. Selena died a few hours later.

The reaction to Selena’s death was a testa¬ ment to her popularity. Fifteen hundred mourners attended a vigil held before her funeral. Thousands came to see her coffin, and in cities such as Los Angeles and San Antonio, thousands more gathered to pay their respects. In 1997, the popular movie Selena depicted her life story—from the startling rise of her career, through its many successes, to its tragic end.