NEW YORK (PIX11) – The story of Selena Quintanilla Perez is legendary in the Hispanic community.
A young Mexican-American singer from a humble background wins the hearts of millions, becoming an international success, and winning a Grammy. But at the height of her career, she is murdered by the president of her fan club.
Selena’s story has been told over and over again: in true crime stories, in docuseries examining her life, and most famously by Jennifer Lopez in the 1997 biopic “Selena,” which will be showcased at the Empire State Building on the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month.
More than 25 years after her death, the Tejana singer’s legacy, accomplishments, and representation are still a point of pride among fans, especially in Hispanic communities.
“There is an identification through her film and music,” Dr. Dennis Bixler-Márquez said.
Marquez is a professor and the Director of Chicano Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is also the father of another Grammy Award-winning musician: Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the frontman of At the Drive-In and Mars Volta.
“Selena’s film and music grasp at representation. There is a sense of community in one of us making it to the top. Her music is transgenerational, enduring, and resonates with many who also want to reach up to her status,” Marquez added.
Regarded as an icon in Hispanic and Latino communities, her music has been passed on from generation to generation. Selena’s music has also gone on to inspire many artists who have charted on the Billboard. Becky G, Ivy Queen, Solange, and Jennifer Lopez have all performed covers of Selena’s work.
Karol G, a super fan of Selena, made headlines earlier this month when she took the opportunity to sing two of Selena’s songs while performing in San Antonio.
“Just like you, I have an idol, but I’ll never be able to know her or sing a duet with her,” Karol G said before belting out two Selena songs. “I just want to say, still after so many years, she is still present in the hearts of many and inspires.”
The Quintanilla family was in the audience while Karol G performed “Como La Flor” and “Si Una Vez.”
However, the singer’s music career was not one of instant success.
There was a time when “The Queen of Tejano music” was performing at weddings, quinceaneras, and birthday parties. At 15, Selena was rising through the ranks of the male-dominated and heavily machismo world of Latin music, and on her way to becoming the legendary artist the world would come to know.
After her debut album “Selena,” she went on to release two of her best-known and critically acclaimed albums, “Amor Prohibido” and “Selena Live!” The latter was recorded at a free event in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, and earned her a Grammy for best Mexican American album, beating out fan favorites and Hispanic heavy hitters Los Tigers Del Norte and Vicente Fernandez.
At this point, Selena was pushed into the limelight, being the first Tejana to win a Grammy. This prompted her record company, EMI, to give her a chance at recording a crossover album with New York’s SBK Records.
Known for her beauty, down-to-earth personality, and great voice, Selena was on track to take over the world. With millions of adoring fans, a string of businesses, and her debut crossover album set to launch, the young Mexican-American singer had blossomed into an international Latin superstar.
Sadly, on March 31, 1995, months before the debut of her heavily anticipated crossover English album, Selena was shot and killed by a former employee who was accused of embezzling money from the fan club.
In the time since her tragic death, Selena’s music, artistry, and life have been immortalized with five records, a movie starring Jennifer Lopez, dolls, a makeup line, a star on the Walk of Fame, and impersonators just like Elvis.
“Dreaming of You,” the album released after Selena’s death, is the first and only Spanish-English album to enter the Billboard chart at No. 1.
Decades later, Selena’s life and music still impact fans, and many cannot help but pay homage to the late star every year on the anniversary of the singer’s death.