12 Surprising Facts About Selena
By the time of her tragic death at the young age of 23, Selena Quintanilla—better known simply as Selena—was already an American icon. Born in Lake Jackson, Texas, on April 16, 1971 and raised in Corpus Christi, Selena began her professional career at the age of 10, when she performed with her siblings in Selena y Los Dinos, a band that was managed by her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. Given her obvious talent for music, Abraham—much to the disappointment of some of Selena's teachers—decided to take his daughter out of school when she was in the eighth grade in order to focus on her musical career full-time.
In 1989, EMI Latin signed Selena to their label, Capitol Records, offering her twice the regular signing fee. Unfortunately, her career was cut tragically short just six years later when she was killed by Yolanda Saldívar, an obsessive fan-turned-employee. More than 25 years later, Selena's impact is still being felt: She has sold more than 30 million records and continues to be referred to as the “Queen of Tejano Music.” Earlier this year, a Selena-inspired collaboration with MAC cosmetics sold out in a matter of hours and on December 4, Netflix dropped Selena: The Series—all of which indicate the extent of Selena's continued success in both Spanish- and English-speaking markets.
1. April 16, 1995 was Selena Day in Texas.
Just a few weeks after her death, George W. Bush, Texas's then-governor, officially declared April 16, 1995—which would have been Selena's 25th birthday—Selena Day in the Lone Star State. More recently, Dallas Democrat Ana-Maria Ramos sought to make the date an annual remembrance. In February 2019, Ramos introduced House Bill 2492 in the Texas state Legislator, which would designate April 16 as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez Day in Selena's home state. Unfortunately, the bill was never passed.
2. Singing was only one of Selena's many talents, or professions.
Aside from singing, Selena was a composer, producer, fashion designer, and model. At the time of her death, she owned two clothing boutiques in Texas, named Selena Etc, each housing a full-service beauty salon. Her signature dark lipstick, big hair, oversized jeans, and glitzy jumpsuits earned Selena the nickname “Tejano Madonna.” Many of her costumes can now be viewed as part of the Selena Museum’s permanent collection in Corpus Christi, Texas.
3. In college, Selena majored in business administration—a skill that came in handy in her multifaceted career.
After earning her high school diploma from the American School of Correspondence at 17, Selena enrolled at Pacific Western University as a business administration major. Though she originally left school in the eighth grade to focus on her career, she graduated from high school before turning 18, and had also been accepted into Louisiana State University.
4. Selena is the first major performer to record in both English and Spanish.
Selena is considered the first major artist to sing in both English and Spanish, which is one of the elements that made her quintessentially “Tex-Mex.” However, she did not grow up speaking Spanish; she learned it as a teenager—at the request of her father-manager—in order to record her first songs.
5. Selena is credited with spearheading a bilingual genre of music.
Selena is known as the “queen of cumbia” because she was one of the first musicians to sing in a tecnocumbia style, which incorporated hip-hop beats and disco-style dance movements. Many music historians and critics believe that, without Selena, the success had by today’s bilingual reggaeton artists would not have been possible. Indeed, Selena was the first major recording artist to sing in both English and Spanish.
6. Selena's album Amor Prohibido has received some serious accolades.
In addition to being a singer, Selena was also a songwriter and wrote her own hit, “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”—one of the four No. 1 singles from the album Amor Prohibido (“Forbidden Love.”) NPR ranked Amor Prohibido as No. 19 on its list of the 150 greatest albums made by women.
7. Selena was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
In 2011, the United States Postal Service paid homage to Selena by issuing a memorial “Latin Legend” postage stamp with her image. This is an honor Selena shares with four other Latino musicians: Tito Puente, Carmen Miranda, Carlos Gardel, and Celia Cruz.
8. Selena has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
9. San Diego State University's School of Journalism and Media Studies offers a class on Selena.
Dr. Nathian Shae Rodriguez, assistant professor at San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies, teaches a class called “Selena and Latinx Media Representations.” The class description reads as follows: "Mediated representations of intersectional Latinx identities by analyzing the Tejano singer Selena. Latinx media, audiences, and niche marketing. Historical and contemporary issues of Latinx representation and identity formation/maintenance on digital media."
10. Selena was killed by a fan-turned-employee whom she trusted.
On March 31, 1995, Selena visited the hotel room of her former assistant, Yolanda Saldívar, who had been managing the Selena Etc. clothing stores in Corpus Christi and San Antonio and working with Selena's fan club. Selena and Saldívar had been experiencing some personal and professional issues, as it was believed that Saldívar had embezzled more than $60,000 from Selena's businesses. Other guests at the hotel where Saldívar was staying reported hearing an argument between the two women, with Selena reportedly telling Saldívar she could no longer be trusted.
Saldívar then brandished a gun she had purchased two weeks earlier and fired at Selena, who had been attempting to flee the room. As she collapsed in the lobby, Selena was able to identify her shooter, sharing Saldívar's name and room number with the police.
Former friends and associates have since stated that Saldívar’s love for Selena was “obsessive,” describing her apartment as practically “shrine-like.” Saldívar initially came into Selena’s life after she approached the singer’s father-manager about founding a Selena fan club.
11. Selena's father has spent years fighting against gun laws in Texas.
Since Selena's murder, her father has openly advocated against Texas’s concealed-weapons bill. In a 1995 profile about his daughter in Texas Monthly, Quintanilla said, “We live in a dangerous world. Why make it worse? My God, everyone’s armed to the teeth. Anybody is liable to kill you for a minute thing.”
12. Selena's impact is still being felt today.
Even today, Selena is still a major force in the entertainment industry. In addition to being the only female artist to have five albums on the Billboard 200—all at the same time—she is still one of the all-time best-selling female artists in Latin music. Her 1995 album, Dreaming of You, which was released posthumously, debuted on the Billboard 200. In 1997, Jennifer Lopez starred in a biopic about the singer and the new Netflix show Selena: The Series is just the latest tribute to the singer.