Before Selena Quintanilla became the Queen of Tejano music, she was the youngest of three siblings from a Mexican American family in Texas. Her father Abraham Quintanilla Jr. noticed her talent for singing when she was as young as 6-years-old. Being a former Mexican musician himself he made sure that his three children would practice making music for 30 minutes a day in the family’s garage.
In 1980, Quintanilla Jr. opened a Tex-Mex restaurant and would have his children (Selena singing, Suzette on drums and Abraham III on bass guitar) perform as Selena y Los Dinos there. Unfortunately, the oil glut in the 1980s led to a recession and the Quintanillas became bankrupt and homeless.
Needing money fast and seeing the exceptional talent of his children, Quintanilla Jr. became the band’s manager and had Selena and her siblings perform at fairs, quinceaneras, street corners and weddings. As Selena started to become popular, the family of five were on food stamps and they lived with eight relatives in a house that only had one bathroom.
By the time Selena finished high school, she was exhausted from going in and out of school, performing and learning Spanish phonetically, but she was proud to earn her degree.
Later, on the “Big Bertha” tour bus, the family would sing for food and gas money in order to get by, and it paid off because in 1984 they recorded the band’s first Tejano record, “Selena y Los Dinos.” By 1988, the band had five more records released. These six albums made Selena a pioneer for women in the male-dominated Tejano music scene. From 1987 and for the nine years afterwards, back to back, she would win Female Vocalist of the Year from the Tejano Music Awards.
By the late eighties and early 90s, Selena was considered the “next Gloria Estefan” by EMI Latin Records founder Jose Behar. In 1989, Selena earned a $75,000 contract to be the Texas’ spokesperson for Coca-Cola in English and Spanish and released her self titled studio album “Selena,” which cemented her status as the leading female voice in Tejano music. This same year, as her brother became her record producer, she met her future husband and the band’s newest guitarist Chris Perez.
Selena’s 1990 followup album, “Ven Conmigo,” made her the first female Tejano to be certified gold. A compilation album of her music in Mexico would later be certified platinum. A year later, to help Selena stay connected with her growing fanbase, Quintanilla Jr. hired Yolanda Saldivar to become president of his daughter’s fan club. Saldivar quickly became friends with Selena and had a part in every aspect of her life.
On April 2, 1992, Selena and Chris Perez eloped and by May she released her critically acclaimed breakthrough album, “Entre a Mi Mundo.” The album became six times platinum and outsold other female and male Tejano singers. Her live album in 1993 garnered her a Grammy award, and fame in Mexico where she appeared on a telenovela.
In 1994, Selena finally completed her goal of receiving her business degree and combined it with her love for fashion by opening a boutique that featured clothes that she designed. The boutiques earned her five million dollars and the title of twentieth-wealthiest Hispanic musician in 1994. In 1995 after the release of the record breaking “Amor Prohibido” album, she sold out a concert at the Houston Astrodome and had a cameo in the movie “Don Juan DeMarco.”
As Selena’s fame was on the rise, so were her fans and her trust in fan club president Saldivar. In 1994, Saldivar gained the authority to manage Selena’s boutiques while still running the fan club. Saldivar became so close to Selena that she moved into her hometown of Corpus Christi. As Selena was busy working on her first English-language crossover pop album, “Dreaming of You,” Saldivar was stealing money from both enterprises. When Selena confronted Saldivar, she lied and said she had been a rape victim. After Selena brought her to a hospital and discovered Saldivar was lies, she confronted her a second time at the Days Inn motel and Saldivar chased after her with a gun, then shot her in the shoulder. On March 31, 1995 at 1:05 p.m. Selena died at age 23.
Since childhood, Selena was a civic leader and helped with the Latino community by being an advocate for education, setting life goals through optimism, staying away from drugs and helping the homeless. She spoke for minorities, abused women, and those suffering from AIDS. In her short life, she not only helped to reinvent Latin music, but she showed what it meant to be a true compassionate leader in the U.S. and the Latin community. For that she will always be a Queen.
Fun Facts about Selena
- Her name was suggested from her nurse and meant “Selenite” and “moonstone”
- She was born on Easter Sunday
- She won many awards including the Grammy
- People en Español magazine was created after a tribute magazine for Selena was sold out
- Selena’s killing was received with shock and horror in the US much akin to the killing of John F Kennedy and John Lennon
- 22,000 girls of varying ages auditioned to be in the film “Selena”
- A museum in her memory in Corpus Christi, Texas displays the singer’s clothes as well as her achievements which have been detailed along with over 500 Faberge eggs which the singer owned
- The People magazine featured her on its cover in a special tribute issue for the singer. It is only the third tribute edition ever by People magazine, the earlier two was for Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn
- Selena was known for her unique often unusual style and liked to make her own clothes. She often talked about becoming a fashion designer.
- Selena also talked about being a farmer and had bought along with her husband, 10 acres of land in Texas. However she was killed before her dream could be realized.