Honoring the life and career of Tejano artist, Selena.
In the early 90’s the name “Selena” was synonymous with Tejano music as Selena Quintanilla burst into superstardom. The youngest member of a family band with her siblings, similar to Michael Jackson, Selena became the lead singer for Selena y Los Dinos – before bursting onto the international music scene. In hindsight it’s easy to pinpoint Selena as a groundbreaking legend in Latin music, but in the 80’s as she came up, pushback was commonplace for a young woman trying to perform Tejano music in Texas.
What is Tejano music? The genre grew out of a fusion of R&B stylings paired with folk and blues music along the border of Texas and Mexico. According to Masterclass “Tejano music draws from norteño, a style of music from Northern Mexico, and the brass music of German and Czech immigrants who settled in Texas during the 19th century.” Selena is often considered ‘the Queen of Tejano Music.”
In 1992, Selena released Entre a Mi Mundo – which peaked at number one on the US Billboard, Mexican Albums Chart for eight straight months. In 1994, she would go on to win a Grammy for Best Mexican/American Album and was the first Tejano artist to do so. Selena became known for making Tejano music marketable and introducing it to a global audience.
Tragically in 1995 Selena Quintanilla was murdered by Yolanda Saldívar, a friend of Selena’s who managed her fan club. Selena was just 23 years old and at the height of her career when she was shot and killed.
Selena was mourned far and wide, some likened it to the day “John Lennon was killed.” According to Esquire – “At a public viewing of Selena’s casket, as many as 50,000 mourners converged… from as far as California and Mexico to drape the casket with thousands of white roses. On April 12, 1995, George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, declared Selena’s birthday, April 16, as Selena Day in the state of Texas.”
The world was shocked and appalled by the death of the young superstar. Her legacy is undeniable in 2021 as Spanish-speaking music is mainstream in America and across the globe. In 1997, a film depicting Selena – titled Selena was released starring a little known actress at the time by the name of Jennifer Lopez. Selena’s role was so important that Jennifer Lopez was paid $1 million for the role, making her the first Latina-actress to be paid seven figures.
The 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show starred headliners Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, along with appearances by Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and Emme Muñiz. Later in 2020 – J Balvin would go on to be featured in an international ad campaign for McDonald’s titled the “J Balvin Meal.” Spanish speaking music is in major motion pictures, it’s used for the largest ad campaigns, and sporting events in the world – all because Selena broke through.
Selena was killed in 1995 – yet in 2021 her music is being streamed millions of times on Spotify and Apple Music. Amor Prohibido has well over 142 million streams on Spotify, and her hits El Chico Del Apartamento 512 and Si Una Vez are not far behind around 90 million.
With the death of Selena, the world was robbed of her evolution. Imagine if the world lost Michael Jackson, Madonna, or Beyonce at 23 years old – the world had so much more to gain from her. Selena was never fortunate enough to see the world she helped build, but we all are.
So today we give roses to Selena – an undeniable superstar who was taken from the world far before her time.