It is not an everyday occurrence that an individual is born who is destined to touch the lives of millions. But, on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas, such an individual was born. Her name was SELENA. The youngest of three children born to Abraham and Marcella Quintanilla, Selena and her family eventually moved to Corpus Christi. By 1980, at the early age of nine, Selena had already begun working alongside her family, taking her place as the lead singer of the their band, Selena Y Los Dinos. More than a weekend hobby, the band became the family’s livelihood. With her brother A.B. on bass and her sister Suzette on drums, the young group, managed by their father, toured the state of Texas performing for weddings and small clubs. Initially thrust into the music industry out of necessity, Selena and her family focused their energies into making their dreams come true. Recognized for their talent and lively stage performances, Selena Y Los Dinos signed with EMI Latin, and in just a few short years the group had expanded and become one of the Tejano industry’s most sought after acts. Known for her powerful voice, sexy dance moves, and unique costume designs, Selena Quintanilla was the No. 1 female Latino star in the United States and Mexico before her untimely death on March 31, 1995, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
By April 1995, Selena became the first recording artist to place five Spanish-language albums simultaneously on the Billboard 200. Her Grammy-nominated 1994 release AMOR PROHIBIDO went platinum, as did her 1993 Grammy Award winning album SELENA LIVE! and her 1992 album ENTRE A MI MUNDO. It quickly became evident that Selena and her music had reached far more people than anyone could have imagined. The New York Times praised Selena as a “young artist with unlimited possibilities.” And, according to TIME magazine, Selena “was the embodiment of young, smart, hip Mexican-American youth – wearing midriff-baring bustiers and boasting a tight-knit family and a down-to-earth personality, a Madonna without the controversy.” At the time of her death, Selena was in the process of realizing one of her biggest dreams, crossing over into the English-speaking market. She had already recorded four English-language tracks that were to be included on her EMI Records premiere later that year. Dubbed by her fans as the “Queen of Tejano” many of Selena’s hits were, and are still, rotated heavily on radio stations of every format. Although Selena’s prospects for stardom in the English-speaking music world have been much debated since her death, the posthumous release of the album DREAMING OF YOU gave a clear indication that Selena was, in fact, on her way to becoming a star in the English market as well. Since her passing, Selena’s life has inspired a hit movie, a Broadway bound musical, and a successful clothing line. So deeply felt by the Hispanic community was the tragedy of her death, that People magazine’s commemorative issue of Selena, which sold a record number of copies, ultimately spurred the creation of the now-popular magazine People En Espanol.
Today, Selena’s music continues to top Latin and pop charts throughout the world, and many of her records still stand unbroken. Selena currently holds the #1, #2, and #6 position for the highest attendance records at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, held each year in the Houston Astrodome. And recently, Billboard Magazine declared Selena the “Latin Artist of the Decade.” What Selena accomplished by the age of 23, others could spend a lifetime trying to achieve. For that, one cannot help but feel respect and admiration for this Corpus Christi role model that inspired and represented the hopes and dreams of millions of followers who collectively identified with her. And so Selena’s legacy lives on, in our cherished memories and in everyone that has been touched by her music.