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 Mexican American former musician. Selena was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. 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". In 1980 in Lake Jackson, Quintanilla, Jr. opened his first Tex-Mex restaurant, Papa Gayo's, where Selena and her siblings Abraham III (on bass guitar) and Suzette Quintanilla (on drums) would often perform. 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. They settled in Corpus Christi, Texas; Quintanilla, Jr. became manager of the newly formed band Selena y Los Dinos and began promoting it. They needed money and played on street corners, at weddings, at quinceañeras, and at fairs.
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 1987, 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.
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. 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. 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 musician Rick Trevino, founder of the Tejano Music Awards, where she won the Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1987 and for nine consecutive years after. The band was often turned down by Texas music venues because of the members' ages and because Selena was their lead singer. Her father was often told by promoters that Selena would never be successful because she was a woman in a genre historically dominated by men. 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).
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 from her "beauty, sexuality, and youthful impact on the Tejano music scene". Selena said she never wanted to record explicit 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.
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. Latin Post called the singer "one of the most iconic artists in Latin American music history", 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." Selena became a household name in the United States and in Mexico following her death and became part of the American pop culture. 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 has not recovered. John Lannert of Billboard said in an interview with Biography in 2007 that when Selena died the "Tejano market died with her".
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. 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). "Buenos Amigos" peaked at number one on the US 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. The track was also nominated for Duo of the Year at the 1992 Tejano Music Awards. Biographer 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.
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; Selena's mother Marcella approved of their relationship. Quintanilla, Jr. saw Selena and Pérez romantically together on the bus after he informed them of his disapproval; 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. 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. Selena thought Quintanilla, Jr. would have to accept them if they were married, and 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. In interviews, Quintanilla, Jr. expressed how he feared Pérez could be a machista (Spanish for a male chauvinist), who would force Selena to end her career and music goals, a move that prevented Quintanilla, Jr. to accept Pérez as being suitable for Selena at the time. Quintanilla, Jr. later approached Pérez, apologized, accepted the marriage, and took Pérez back into the band.
Selena released Live! a year after Entre a Mi Mundo; 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 US Billboard Top Latin Songs chart. 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. At the 1994 Tejano Music Awards, Live! won Album of the Year, while at the 1994 Lo Nuestro Awards, it was nominated for Regional Mexican Album of the Year. Live! was certified gold by the RIAA for shipments of 500,000 copies, while in Mexico it sold 250,000 units. 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 record ratings for the series.
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 fundraising concert to help AIDS patients. 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. 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.
In 1995, Selena was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, 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. In 2017, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The unveiling ceremony of her star was attended by around 4,500 fans, which was the largest-ever crowd for an unveiling ceremony at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 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. The singer has been given many epithets by media outlets, including the "Queen of Latin music", the "Queen of Cumbia", the "Chicana Elvis", the "Queen of Hybrid pop culture", the "Hispanic Marilyn Monroe", the "Tupac Shakur of Latin music", the "Corpus Christi queen", and the "people's princess". Media have compared Selena's fashion sense to that of Madonna more times than any other Celebrity.
(English: Lookout of the Flower) also known as Selena's seawall, is Selena's own life-size bronze statue monument in Corpus Christi, Texas sculpted by H.W. "Buddy" Tatum and unveiled in 1997. About 30,000 people from around the world visit this monument every year.
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, 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. After a national casting call, producers chose Veronica Vasquez to portray Selena; Vasquez alternated in the role with Rebecca Valdez. The musical previewed on March 21, and opened on March 23 at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium.
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. Among Hispanic viewers, Selena ¡VIVE! outperformed Super Bowl XLV and the telenovela Soy tu dueña during the "most-watched NFL season ever among Hispanics".
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 [accentuated] 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 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. The Spirit of Hope Award was created in Selena's honor in 1996; it was awarded to Latin artists who participated in humanitarian and civic causes. 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. In February 2014, the Albany, NY Times Union named her one of "100 Coolest Americans in History". In 1997 Selena was commemorated with a museum.
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. 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". Stern was not formally charged. The League of United Latin American Citizens boycotted Stern's show, finding his apology unacceptable. 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.
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 The Voice competitor Clarissa Serna. 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.
On August 30, 2016, a wax figure of Selena was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Hollywood. In October 2016, MAC Cosmetics released a limited edition Selena makeup line after a fan started a petition for the company to do so and it garnering over 37,000 signatures. It became the best-selling Celebrity line in cosmetic history. She was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame at Texas Woman's University in October 2016. An exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. that ran in 2017, focused on Selena's influence in marketing. "Due to her massive appeal to both general and Latino markets, advertisers began targeting specific demographics for the first time."
Google honored Selena on October 17, 2017 with a musical doodle of her life. In January 2018, it was announced that an inspired biographical television series based on Selena's life was scheduled to be aired on ABC.