Who could ever forget the bubbly, beautiful, humble, talented Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez? Selena Quintanilla-Pérez is the epitome of the musical balance between two worlds. Born April 6, 1971, in Lake Jackson Texas, Selena Quintanilla was the second generation Chicana daughter of Abraham Jr. and Marcella Quintanilla. At the young age of six, Selena’s father (ex-musician of Los Dinos) recognized her talent and immediately started the journey of her rise to fame. What I want to emphasize about Selena is that she was a Chicana: an American woman or girl of Mexican descent, born in the United States. From my own experience, and many other chicanas around the country it is often very difficult to find your place, we are constantly stuck between not being “American enough to be an American” or not “Mexican enough to be a full Mexican” we struggle to find a place to fit in and completely relate to. Selena’s life is a perfect example of having to deal with this and how she brilliantly overcame it and became a role model for all women around the world.
Selena was born into a family with conservative Mexican values, however, in efforts to avoid the violence and humiliation her father faced for being Mexican her parents raised her and her siblings to speak English. Many times Selena was torn between two worlds. She was a feminist icon and broke many of the standards so many women, musicians, and Chicanas are forced into. She was confident and a symbol of leadership and women power, she carried herself with pride, something many girls forget they have in them. But at the same time, she was holding onto her heritage and shedding light to the beauty of her impeccable Mexican culture through her music and her colourful clothing. Despite what many critics and her father thought about her provocative style Selena still wore what she wanted and in fact, her group Selena y Los Dinos were named the 3rd Best Dressed Group in 1994. Her edgy clothing designs were symbols of breaking free from many common conservative beliefs of wearing subtle clothing.
During her time it was seen as more of an American tradition for women to stay at home and begin a family rather than go on to college and have your own career. Selena went against that common belief and became the only Latin and female artist ever to place five consecutive albums in Billboard 200 top Selling albums in the U.S. and the U.K. and was named by Billboard Magazine as the Best Selling Latin Artist of the Decade (the 90s), selling approx 18,000,000 albums.
She also advocated heavily for education for all so that you could make something out of yourself and do what you love rather than what is expected of you. According to Abraham Quintanilla after completing high school through courses she took while on tour, Selena started a business degree through correspondence with a California university. Not only did she become a successful singer but added onto that, she began designing at the age of ten and opened two boutiques, one in San Antonio and the other in Corpus Christi. Selena Etc. Inc. boutiques not only sold the star’s signature line of fashions and accessories but had salons that offered customers hairstyling and manicures.
As a philanthropist, Selena often gave back to the community and donated to organizations such as D.A.R.E and Toys for Tots. She spoke out during interviews and visited multiple schools to inform them about the importance of education. Selena Quintanilla one said,
Your high school diploma is one of the most important things you’ll accomplish in life, so use your heads, my friends, and stay in school.
We could never forget her infamous educational video “Mi Musica” where she wore the bright red jacket that screamed Chicana pride worn during her 1994 stay-in-school campaign that was the start of American Education Week at Cunningham Middle School. In this video she emphasizes on how there are multiple styles of Mexican-American music, not all listen to the same type which is incredibly important. It is important to understand that Mexican-Americans are not all the same, we have different tastes in music, different styles, different stories and reasons what we listen to, but in the end we all tie back to one common thing, the Mexican cultura. “All Mexican-Americans have different taste depending on our family, our history, and our environment.” This video spoke volumes and educated us about the roots and the evolution of Mexican-American music.
This Queen of Tejano music was named the fastest selling female artist in history back in 1995. In a time where everyone at school was listening to purely songs in English, it often felt uncomfortable to speak upon our love for Spanish music in the fear of being made fun for our culture, of or seen as an outcast. Selena changed that, millions of people from all different backgrounds all around the world fell in love with her music and in the time span of six years sold approximately 20,000,000 albums. At last we had someone who was able to use her platform to voice and show the beauty of our culture many had been ashamed of for far too long, and it was all thanks to a small town girl from Corpus Christi who loved Whataburger, the color purple and to make others laugh’s love for her culture that made it all happen. Selena was the first Tejano artist ever to win a Grammy Award and had the first ever Tejano album “Ven Conmigo” to hit gold, putting Tejano music on the map.
Before Selena there were no female, Mexican-American icons to look up to, she is the ultimate symbol of Mexican-American empowerment and that was something that for years we didn’t have. Selena went against all odds, she balanced two worlds perfectly and did not allow for society to control or limit her from what she could do. She was a self-taught musician, fashion designer, businesswoman, actress, feminist and educational advocate, but overall she was a proud Chicana. Twenty-three years later and her spirit lives on and her light still shines through the hearts and smiles of each and every one of her fans. She’s admired for countless reasons but the most being that she was herself. Her bright and vivacious personality was shown through the clothes she designed. Her motivation and determination were shown through the songs she sang in Spanish which was a language she only learned after she had already sung and performed countless songs in Spanish. Her humbleness and honesty were shown through each of her interviews when she took every chance she could to speak about the importance of education and her humble beginnings and the situations she and her family overcame in order to motivate others. Selena did not allow for the stereotypes to define and shape her and she was never ashamed of who she was, she went against what was seen as the social norm for women and created her own empire that to this day continues to grow.
Selena’s legacy will live on forever, shortly after her death she was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, the Hard Rock Cafe’s Hall of Fame, the South Texas Music Hall of Fame, and the Tejano Music Hall of Fame. This incredible woman made history.
Selena was, and still is the Chicana heard around the world. Everywhere we see people feeling stuck, feeling lost and unable to find balance. Whether that be your mixed ethnicity, your parents’ morals as opposed to yours or the entire world around you restricting you. Selena gave hope, she showed strength, balance, perseverance, and success. She was able to be loved by both the listeners of her Spanish songs and her English songs. Her voice continues to guide us whether it be on the dance floor, in a classroom or through a long path called life. Both physically and mentally, 22 years later Selena continues to guide us.
Selena, para mí fue lo más bello.