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Background information
Birth name Selena Quintanilla
Born April 16, 1971
Origin Lake Jackson, Texas, United States
Died March 31, 1995
Genre(s) Tejano
Years active 1984–1990 (group)
1991–1995 (solo)
Label(s) EMI
Website Official site

Selena Quintanilla Pérez ( April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995), best known as Selena, was a Mexican-American singer who has been called the "queen" of Tejano music. The youngest child of a Mexican-American couple, Selena released her first album at the age of twelve. She took the award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 1987 at the Tejano Music Awards and landed a recording contract with EMI a few years later. Her fame continued to grow throughout the early nineties, especially in Spanish-speaking countries. Her album Selena Live! won a Grammy Award for Best Mexican-American album at the 36th Grammy Awards and her 1994 album Amor Prohibido was nominated for another Grammy and produced four number one Spanish hits.

Selena attained further notability in the United States and Mexico after Yolanda Saldívar, the president of her fan club, murdered her at the age of 23. On April 12, 1995, two weeks after her death, George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, declared her birthday "Selena Day" in Texas. Warner Brothers made a film based on her life starring Jennifer Lopez in 1997. As of June 2006, Selena was commemorated with a museum and a bronze life-sized statue ( Mirador de la Flor in Corpus Christi, Texas). Both the statue and museum are visited by hundreds of fans each week.

Early career

Born in Lake Jackson, Texas, to the Mexican-American father Abraham Quintanilla and a Mexican/Native American mother Marcella Ophelia Zamora. She began singing at the age of six; when she was nine her father founded the singing group Selena y Los Dinos, which she fronted. They initially performed at the Quintanilla family's restaurant, "Papagallos," but the restaurant failed shortly afterwards.

The family soon went bankrupt and was evicted from their home. Taking all their musical equipment in an old bus, they relocated to Corpus Christi in Southern Texas. There, they performed wherever they could: at street corners, weddings, quinceañeras, and fairs. These efforts at spreading their name paid off in 1984, when Selena, then twelve years old, recorded her first album for a local record company. The album was not sold in stores, and her father bought all the original copies. It was later released in 1995 under the title Mis Primeras Grabaciones.

Selena did well in school, but as she grew more popular, the travel demands of her performance schedule began to interfere with her education. Her father pulled her out of school altogether when she was in eighth grade. She continued her education on the road; at age seventeen she earned a high school diploma from The American School of Correspondence in Chicago and was accepted at LSU. Selena released her second album, Alpha, in 1986.


At the Tejano Music Awards in 1987, Selena took the award for Female Vocalist of the Year (and would continue to dominate the Awards for the next seven years). In 1988, she released two albums, Preciosa and Dulce Amor. In 1989, José Behar, the former head of the Sony Latin Music division, signed Selena with Capitol/EMI records, a record company founded by Behar. Behar later said that the reason he signed Selena was because he thought he discovered the next Gloria Estéfan. Selena signed a contract with Coca-Cola to become one of their spokespersons the same year, and her concerts were drawing thousands of people.

In 1988, Selena met guitarist Chris Perez, who had his own band. Two years later, the Quintanilla family hired him to play in Selena's band and they quickly fell in love. At first her father didn't approve of the relationship between Perez and Selena, and went as far as firing Perez from the band. He eventually came to accept the relationship, telling Selena that Perez could come back only if they married and moved next door to the family home. Selena accepted and on April 2, 1992, Selena and Perez married in Nueces County, Texas, and Selena added her new husband's surname to her own.

In 1990, Selena released another album, Ven Conmigo, written by her main songwriter and brother Abraham Quintanilla, III. This recording was the first Tejano album ever to achieve gold status. Around the same time, a registered nurse and fan named Yolanda Saldívar approached Selena's father with the idea of starting a fan club. Her wish was granted, and she became the club's president; later she would become the manager of Selena's clothing boutiques. Selena released another hit album in 1992, Entre A Mi Mundo, which also achieved gold status. Songs from that album, such as " Como La Flor", helped make Selena a star. Her 1993 Live album won a Grammy award for Best Mexican-American Performance.

Selena released her next album, Amor Prohibido in 1994. The album was nominated for another Grammy award for Mexican-American Album of the Year. She began designing and manufacturing a clothing line in 1994, and opened two boutiques called Selena Inc., one in Corpus Christi and the other in San Antonio. Both were equipped with their own in-house beauty salons. Hispanic Business magazine reported that the singer earned over five million dollars from these boutiques. Selena also made appearances alongside Erik Estrada in a Latin soap opera titled Dos Mujeres, Un Camino.

Selena and her band continued to receive accolades; Billboard's Premio Lo Nuestro awarded them a total of six prestigious awards, including Best Latin artist and song of the year for Como La Flor. Coca-Cola released a commemorative bottle in her honour to celebrate their five-year relationship. Meanwhile, her duet with the Barrio Boyz, "Dondequiera Que Estes", raced to the top of the Latin charts. This prompted Selena to tour in New York City, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Central America, where she was in growing demand. The duet with Salvadoran singer Alvaro Torres "Buenos Amigos" was also a hit.

By fall of 1994, Amor Prohibido was a commercial success in Mexico and made four number-one Latin hits, replacing Gloria Estefan's "Mi Tierra" on the chart's number one spot. It sold over 400,000 copies by March of 1995, reaching gold status. At this point, Selena developed plans to record an English-language album, but continued to tour for Amor Prohibido while beginning preparations for the album.

In 1995, Selena made a cameo appearance in the romantic comedy Don Juan DeMarco, which starred Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway. She appeared as a background mariachi singer during the first scene. In February, 1995, Selena played a concert at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in the Houston Astrodome, which attracted over 61,000 fans -- more than country stars such as George Strait, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire. Despite her busy schedule, Selena visited local schools to talk to students about the importance of education. She also donated her time to civic organizations such as D.A.R.E., and planned a fundraising concert to help AIDS patients. These demonstrations of community involvement won her loyalty from her fan base. Selena scheduled her English album for release in the summer of 1995. Afraid that her fans would think she was turning her back on them, she was working on a new Tejano album as well. Meanwhile, she planned to open two more boutiques, including one in Monterrey, Mexico.


In early 1995, the Quintanillas discovered that Yolanda Saldívar, the president of Selena's fanclub and the manager of her boutiques, was stealing money from the boutiques and decided to fire her. Soon after the fallout, Selena agreed to meet Saldívar in a Days Inn hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the morning of March 31, 1995 in order to retrieve paperwork for tax purposes. At the motel, Selena demanded the missing financial papers. Saldívar delayed the handover by claiming she had been raped in Mexico. The singer drove Saldívar to a local hospital, where doctors found no evidence of rape. Saldivar returned to the motel where Selena again demanded the missing financial papers.

An argument ensued and Saldívar drew a gun from her purse, pointing it first at her own head and then at Selena. As the singer turned and left the room, Saldívar shot her once in the back. Selena fled to the manager's office in the lobby for help, with Saldivar chasing her, calling her a bitch. Before collapsing to the floor, Selena named Saldívar as her assailant and gave the number of the hotel room where she was shot. An ambulance and the police arrived on scene and Selena was transported to a local hospital. She died there from loss of blood at 1:05 P.M., at the age of 23, sixteen days shy of her 24th birthday. The gun used to kill Selena was later destroyed and the pieces thrown into Corpus Christi Bay.


Selena's death shocked and saddened Latinos and non-Latinos alike across the United States and abroad. Major networks interrupted their regular programming to break the news; Tom Brokaw referred to Selena as "The Mexican Madonna". Numerous vigils and memorials were held in her honour and radio stations in Texas played her music non-stop. Her funeral drew approximately 60,000 mourners, many of whom traveled from outside the United States. Among the celebrities who were reported to have immediately phoned the Quintanilla family to express their condolences were Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and Madonna. The magazine People published a commemorative issue in honour of Selena's memory and musicial career, titled Selena 1971-1995, Her Life in Pictures. A few days afterwards, 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 the Hispanic community all across Texas. Two weeks after her death, on April 12, 1995, George W. Bush, the then Governor of Texas, declared April 16, Selena's birthday, "Selena Day," in Texas.

That summer, Selena's album Dreaming of You, a combination of Spanish language songs and several new English language tracks, debuted at number one on the Billboard music charts in the US, making her the first Hispanic singer to accomplish this feat and the second highest debut after Michael Jackson's HIStory. On its release date, the album sold over 175,000 copies, a record for a female pop singer, and sold two million copies in its first year. Songs such as "I Could Fall In Love" and "Dreaming Of You" were played widely by mainstream English language radio with the latter reaching #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Meanwhile, "I Could Fall In Love," while ineligible for the Hot 100 at the time, did reach #12 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart and the top 10 on the Adult Contemporary Chart. "Dreaming of You" has sold approximately five million copies in the USA.

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 thirty years.


A statue made in the honor of Selena in Corpus Christi, Texas
A statue made in the honour of Selena in Corpus Christi, Texas

In 1997, Jennifer Lopez played Selena in a film about her life, called Selena. Directed by Gregory Nava, the biopic opened with mostly positive reviews. More than 12,000 people auditioned for a role in the film. The film stirred some controversy in the Mexican-American community, since Lopez is Puerto Rican and played the role of a singer of Mexican descent. But Selena's fans supported the movie, and Lopez's role in the film helped elevate her career. Although Lopez would succeed as a pop star herself a few years later, Selena's voice was dubbed in for all the songs in the movie. For her role in the film, Lopez was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Musical.

Reliant Stadium in Houston hosted a tribute concert, " Selena ¡VIVE!", on April 7, 2005. Held a week after the 10th anniversary of her death, more than 50,000 fans attended the concert, which featured various high-profile artists including Gloria Estefan, Pepe Aguilar, Thalía, Paulina Rubio, Ana Barbara, Alejandra Guzmán, Ana Gabriel, and Fey. All of the artists at the event performed renditions of Selena's music, as did her brother, A.B. Quintanilla, who performed along with his band Kumbia Kings backed with footage of Selena singing Baila Esta Cumbia. Broadcast live on the Univision network, "Selena ¡VIVE!" now holds the record for the highest-rated and most-viewed Spanish-language show in American television history. The show, which was over three hours long, scored a 35.9 Nielsen household rating.

Selected discography

Early releases

Year Album
1984 Mis Primeras Grabaciones
1986 Alpha
1987 And the Winner Is...
1988 Preciosa (album)
1988 Dulce Amor

EMI Music releases

Year Re-released Album
1989 2002 Selena
1990 2002 Ven Conmigo
1992 2002 Entre A Mi Mundo
1993 2002 Selena Live!
1994 2002 Amor Prohibido

Posthumous releases

Year Album
1995 Dreaming of You
1996 Siempre Selena
2002 Ones (CD/DVD)
2003 Greatest Hits (CD/DVD)
2004 Momentos Intimos
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