Women You Wanna Know: Selena
I went to the internet to do some research on Selena. I opened my browser, typed in the google search box “Selena” and pressed enter. I looked at all the results, and it wasn’t for the Selena I was looking for. All the images and articles was related to Selena Gomez. I had to go back and put in her full name Selena Quintanilla (Selena Quintanilla Perez, if you want to be technical about it) to find anything related to her. Although Selena Gomez is big, Selena is bigger. You could say that the reason why Selena Gomez came up as first in my search is due to the SEO optimization or how Google’s analytical scans operate. But it made me pose this question, has mainstream America forgotten about Selena?
I came in at the tail end of Selena’s historic rise to stardom. Tejano music wasn’t a staple in my home and we most often listened to the R&B station. I had no exposure to Tejano music or Selena, until 1997 when Jennifer Lopez starred in the bio pic “Selena”. The movie grossed $35 million in the U.S. alone and was a commercial success. And rightfully so, as the acting combined with her life story was an immaculate combination. I fell in love with Selena through that movie. She was beautiful, talented, and everything a young woman would strive to be. When they played actual video clips of her at the end of the movie, I knew that I had to learn more about her. This was not an easy task as the internet had just became the new thing and you had to pay to be online. Plus, my research time was often cut in half since the dial up made using the house phone inoperable. As I researched her, I learned so many of her songs. Songs like Amor Prohibido, No Me Queda Mas, and Bidi Bom Bom. She had English hits as well, but I was more intrigue about her Spanish songs. It was because of her that I wanted to improve my Spanish speaking abilities. During one of our Spanish classes, the teacher expressed her fondness for Selena and played her tape during class. I am proud to say I was the only black kid in the class that knew her Spanish songs word for word. I ask the teacher how could I buy that tape and she gave me the tape with new songs I didn’t know she even had!
I spent weekends in the basement of my townhome with towels on my head pretending to be the world-famous Selena. I would put the tape in the surround sound system, turn it up and get lost in a world where I was la reina de musica Tejano.
Si vienen a bailar, pues vamos A gozar Si vienen a dormir, salgan fuera De aqui
I’d show my dance skills to my imaginary audience, then I would do my version of singing a heartfelt song to my former lover.
Yo sé que tienes un nuevo amor Sin embargo, te deseo lo mejor Si en mí, no encontraste felicidad Tal vez, alguien más te la dará
-Como la Flor
Through it all, I would continue to smile big. Like Selena. She always smiled. When she was sad, happy, or unsure, she always smiled.
At the time of death, Selena had created a legacy that most 23-year-olds were too busy partying to create. Her father was a part of the group Los Dinos and strongly encouraged Selena to take up music due to her natural pitch and vocal ability. Reluctant at first, Selena grew to embrace the music. Her family traveled around the country singing for Quinceaneras, weddings and even on street corners. The road to stardom is rough and there were times when the Quintanillas had to live out of their bus for shelter. The great thing about bad times however, is that they do not last. Originally ignored by the Tejano music industry due to being an all-inclusive boys club, Selena’s music began to make head way leading her to win multiple awards including a Grammy nomination and win for best Mexican/American album. Selena’s presence exploded the Tejano genre creating a larger fan base to the music and her brand. She branched out into movies, television and the natural path of fashion design. Her music ruled the Latin billboard charts and Amor Prohibido became among the bestselling albums of 1995.After conquering the Spanish speaking music market, Selena set her eyes on the English market and began working on her smash album Dreaming of You. Released posthumously in 1995, Dreaming of you debut at the top of the Latin and English Billboard charts. Selena had proved that her talent was the real deal.
Unfortunately, that’s where we stop.
Selena was murdered by the president of her fan club and at one time, a close friend. It would have been amazing to see where she could have gone. It’s been 20 years since her death and some still feel the pain of her murder til this day. Yes, they may not have personally known her, but her voice and down to earth demeanor made it seem like she was that amazing big sister we always wanted but never knew we needed. To see someone so young be taken away from us knowing her full potential was yet to be realized. Her memory lives in on her parents, her husband Chris, her siblings AB and Suzette, and the millions of fans whose lives she touched.
Selena’s legacy is more than her ending. Her legacy created an opening for women to join the Tejano music game and be musical powerhouses. When you remember Selena, remember her music, her soul, and among all else, her smile.
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