March 31st 2021 marks 25 years since the death of the great Selena Quintanilla who became a global sensation with her unique Tex-Mex style of performance. She blended pop, Latin, R&B, and other genres to create a unique musical experience that resonates in venues till this day.
Selena was also a fashion designer, actress, model making her one of the most well-known Mexican American artist of all time.
Selena – A lasting legacy represents March’s Black Sheep of the month and why she will always be a part of the Black Sheep family.
Selena was born in Lake Jackson, Texas on April 16,1971 to Abraham Quintanilla and Marcella Quintanilla. She was the youngest of three siblings and rose to fame with the help of her family. The road to fame was a difficult one for them and it took many long years of hard work to finally reach the top.
At a young age Selena began singing with the encouragement of her family. Eventually, her father created a band to showcase his family’s musical talent.
The band began by performing in small venues such as weddings, local clubs, carnivals, and whatever venue they could earn at the time. Her brother Abraham Quintanilla also known as A.B. played bass. Suzette Quintanilla, Selena’s older sister played the drums, although she resisted in the beginning. Together, they formed a band known as Selena Y Los Dinos managed by her father.
Selena – A lasting legacy – Family
Selena’s family were very close knit. They did everything together, literally. During tough times after losing their restaurant, the Quintanilla’s even slept in one room for a time with 13 people total. During tours, they rode together in a van and when they began to succeed, they upgraded to a bus and named it “Big Bertha.”
Regardless, they were together, working together, failing together, and succeeding together. Selena was lucky to have a highly motivated family, and also highly talented.
Abraham Quintanilla Jr
Selena’s father also had a background as a musician.
Before he was drafted to the Army, Abraham inspired to be a successful musician. He was part of a band for many years simply known as “Los Dinos.”
Unfortunately, the band faced many barriers, one big one, racism. On one occasion when the band showed up to a venue to perform, the owner assumed they were Italian. When he realized they were Mexican, he cancelled the show and did not pay them a dime. The band continue to face racism and discrimination especially in white dominated neighborhoods.
Fortunately for Abraham, he would be able to relive his dreams through his children.
Selena’s brother A.B. was instrumental to her success as much as her sister and parents were.
The new Netflix Selena series does a great job showcasing the family’s talent and how they helped Selena to the biggest stage. A.B. was behind many of Selena’s greatest hits such as Como La Flor, Amor Prohibido, Fotos y Recuerdos and many more.
A.B. musical career never ended, instead he has been fortunate to continue producing music. He created the Kumbia Kings and is still active in the music industry today.
Selena’s parents pushed her, and the rest of the family. Selena even dropped out of school and did not have a normal upbringing that most children had because of her family’s musical aspirations. She eventually finished her education via a “corresponding course.”
Everyone in her family worked as a team, a high performing one. They all knew their roles, what was expected, and had true respect for Abraham who wanted all of them to succeed. Even as she grew in status she always entrusted her father and family to make the right decisions. She never forgot her roots and where she came from.
Selena – A lasting legacy – Love Life
Selena Y Los Dinos needed to add musicians. In their search. A.B. knew of Chris Perez who was recruited as their new guitarist. However, it was obvious Selena and Chris had other intentions.
It was love at first sight, but her father Abraham did not approve of the relationship even kicking Chris out of the band. Selena and Chris brushed it off and got married on April 2nd 1992. Eventually, Abraham took the L and invited Chris back into the band.
Selena – A lasting legacy – Queen of Tejano
Tejano Music, better known as “Tex-Mex” is a fusion of Mexican, Texas, and European musical elements infused into one creating a unique musical experience. Although there are many Tex-Mex artist, none are more popular than Selena. Her ability to incorporate different cultures, link them together, and perform at a high level consistently separated her from the herd.
When she was moving up the Tejano ladder, she did not only because of her talent but because of her sense of style. Quickly she earned the nickname “Mexican Madonna” because of her unique dance moves, elaborate outfits, and her consistency in the art of performance. She was not only talented but humble, approachable, and charming.
What made this more impressive is the fact she did it as a woman in a male dominated industry. In 1986 she won the “Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year.” She won many awards for the next seven years cementing herself as “La Reina de la Onda Tejana” or the Queen of Tejano music.
At the 1989 Tejano Music Awards, Jose Behar of EMI Latin Records watched Selena’s performance and then made an offer to sign her to EMI’s Capitol Records, which Quintanilla, Jr. ultimately accepted. Selena released her first album as a solo artist on October 17, 1989. At that time, it outperformed all albums released by other female Tejano artists.
In 1994 she became the first female to win the Grammy award for “best Mexican-American Album for her album Live.
As a Black Sheep, we tend to do things a little differently. Selena was first an English speaker before she spoke Spanish. Her father realized quickly, due to cultural and racial barriers, Selena had a better opportunity to perform for people that looked more like her. He introduced her to Spanish music and explained to her why she needed to embrace it.
Over time, Selena learned to sing in Spanish and vastly improved her Spanish speaking skills. This was instrumental during her earlier stages to help propel her to the next level. Resonating with the Latino population was a strategy that paid off for her and she was able to slowly create music that not only resonated with the Latino community, but eventually the rest of America and the world.
Of course, being a non-native Spanish speaker has its barriers especially when trying to break into the Latin world via music. Many in the Latino community were skeptical. There are many interviews she partook in Spanish with mixed results. She spoke in broken Spanish for a while before improving. Luckily, she was always smiling, her charm really took her a long way.
When she finally performed in Mexico, she was able to win over the crowd. Her musical talents and ability to perform at the highest level was evident.
Selena – A lasting legacy – Fashion
Selena had tremendous talent. She could sing, she could dance, she was a master performer. Her swag and unique style even made her father shake his head a few times as he was much more conservative with his own sense of fashion. She constantly changed her hairstyle and color of her hair and tried new bold looks. She became more serious when she began collaborating with Martin Gomez.
According to the Houston Chronicles, Martin met Selena at a mall in Corpus Christi. At the time, Martin was in an executive training program for Dillard’s where he dreamed of designing clothes. They developed a professional relationship and Selena eventually offered Martin a position to design. Although reluctant of leaving his opportunity at Dillard’s, he eventually accepted.
In the article, Martin described how hard she worked to provide her own vision of her fashion. Even in her busy schedule she was able to find time to develop ideas.
“She had goals of moving beyond clothing to fragrances and shoes, unheard of at that time.” – Martin Gomez
Selena’s fashion dreams came true when she opened boutiques in 1994 in Corpus Christi followed by a second location in San Antonio. She was a true collaborator, even encouraging Martin to put his name on the products he designed.
Gomez says it was Selena’s idea to put his name on the label: “Designed by Martin Gomez Exclusively for Selena.”
“This is how incredibly collaborative and kind this woman was,” Gomez says.
In 1991 Selena’s family hired Yolanda Saldivar to run a fan club and also manage her two boutiques. Yolanda was reportedly not only a fan of Selena, but possessively obsessed with her.
In March 1995, many red flags began to go up. Fans weren’t receiving their products after purchases, and $30,000 went missing. In an attempt to question and retrieve documents related to the missing funds, Selena went to a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi where Yolanda was staying. She confronted Yolanda about the records and as she tried to leave, Yolanda shot her in the back.
Yolanda was eventually sentenced to life in prison with a charge of first-degree murder.
The affects of this event still is lasting today, especially in the Latin community.
Not only did she break through cultural barriers in her own country and in Mexico, she inspired thousands of Latinos that you don’t have to look like a Barbie doll to be successful or accepted. Embrace who you are and make the best of it.
In 1995, her last album was released known as “Dreaming of you.” It was intended to be in English but she did not get the opportunity to finish it because of her sudden death. The album combined Spanish and English songs and broke records. It appeared on the U.S. Billboard 200 cementing her as a legend.
Selena – A lasting legacy – Legends never die
Today, millions around the world still pay tribute to Selena. She has been featured in a new series for Netflix starring Walking Dead star Christian Serranos. MAC Cosmetics will launch a “second makeup collection inspired by her”, and she was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame several years back.
A-List celebrities regularly recognize Selena and how her music transcended even after her death. Demi Lovato recently dressed up as Selena. Selena Gomez who was named after the icon has shared her feelings about her, and Jennifer Lopez who played Selena back in the 1990s performed some of Selena’s hits at the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Ask any new young artist about Selena, they will probably not only know her but describe how they were inspired by her.
On social media, there are many fan-based accounts that celebrate her life by sharing all content Selena. You can even find Selena’s “1990 album Ven Conmigo” in the Library of Congress. If that is not enough, you can also visit her home and even go to a Selena museum.
What Makes Selena a Black Sheep?
To this day, Selena Quintanilla-Perez continues to be a huge presence in the lives of her fans. She had to break through many cultural and racial barriers and worked extremely hard for her success. Her contributions to music, particularly in the Tejano genre, are unmatched. She has become a cultural icon. Someone who was proud of her roots and achieved her goals by working hard and staying true to herself. Throughout her career, she also did a lot of humanitarian work and she was kind to everyone she met no matter their station in life. All these qualities and achievements made her a role model to millions of people around the globe.
This is why she is March’s Black Sheep of the month.
Legends never die….
Till Next Time – Phan