Selena Quintanilla: Five things you didn't know about 'the Queen of Tejano'

Latina pop star whose life was tragically cut short when she was murdered by the president of her own fan club in 1995 is remembered in today's Google Doodle

Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 18 October 2017 10:37 BST
Selena Quintanilla
Selena Quintanilla (AP)

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Louise Thomas

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On this day in 1989, Capital EMI Records released the eponymous debut solo album by Latina singing sensation Selena Quintanilla (1971-1995), an occasion commemorated in today’s Google Doodle.

Selena was a hit and popularised the Tejano (or "Tex-Mex") genre in the early 90s, a seamless blending of contemporary American pop with the passionate vocal approach of Mexico’s folk tradition.

Quintanilla went on to become a beloved crossover artist and sex symbol, adored by both American and Mexican audiences and hailed as multicultural role model, until her tragic death - aged just 23 - brought an abrupt end to a promising career.

Here are five things you may not know about Selena.

1. Her first band was managed by her father and included her brother and sister

Born in Lake Jackson, Texas, on 16 April 1971 to a family with Mexican, American and Cherokee heritage, Selena impressed her father - Abraham Quintanilla Jr - with her voice at a young age by singing Nat King Cole’s ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’.

When his restaurant business went bankrupt in 1980 in the wake of the state’s oil glut, Quintanilla Jr formed a band around his youngest daughter and her older siblings - Selena y Los Dinos - serving as manager. Selena sang, her brother A.B. played bass and her sister Suzette was on drums. The group hit the road, against the advice of Selena’s teachers, and her musical career began.

2. She learned Spanish phonetically to pay homage to her roots

Continuing to tour throughout her education – and risking exhaustion – Selena nevertheless enrolled at Pacific Western University aged 17 to study Business Administration.

Selena y Los Dinos recorded their first album in 1984, with Selena encouraged by her father to sing Tejeno, a Mexican genre melding elements of polka, jazz and country, rather than English language pop songs.

This involved her learning Spanish phonetically under her father’s guidance, an arduous and difficult process but one that ultimately enabled her to bring a powerful new female voice into a traditionally male-dominated scene.

As recognition grew, Selena released five further records before making her major label bow as part of Capital’s EMI Latin line-up.

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Selena’s success brought stardom and she was soon known as “the next Gloria Estefan” and “the Mexican Madonna,” courted by Coca-Cola as a spokesperson.

Her best known songs from the period remain ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom’, ‘Techno Cumbia’, ‘Como La Flor’, Si Una Vez’ and ‘Amor Prohibido’.

By the time of her third album, Entre A Mi Mundo (1992), Quintanilla had begun a relationship with new guitarist Chris Perez, a match her father disapproved of for fear it would destabilise her career. The couple were eventually forced to elope to evade her family’s objections and married in secret.

4. She was murdered by the president of her own fan club

Selena was killed in Corpus Christi, Texas, by her business partner Yolanda Saldivar on 31 March 1995. The latter ran Quintanilla’s chain of merchandise boutiques and was known to be fiercely devoted to the pop star, firing anyone she took exception to. When Abraham Quintanilla Jr confronted Saldivar over the mismanagement of the family’s retail operations, it emerged that she had embezzled $30,000 – taking fan club membership fees from young girls and sending nothing in return.

Selena eventually confronted Saldivar over the return of the business's financial records. In the argument that followed, Salvidar shot and killed Selena before fleeing, inspiring a dramatic police chase before she was eventually arrested.

Such was the public outpouring of grief at the news that then-Texas Governor George W. Bush declared 16 April – her birthday - Selena Day in her honour.

5. Jennifer Lopez starred in her biopic

Selena Quintanilla’s life was celebrated in a Warner Brothers biopic starring Jennifer Lopez in 1997, directed by Gregory Nava.

Just prior to her death, she had filmed her own movie debut, taking a small cameo role in Jeremy Leven's Don Juan DeMarco, starring Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway. The movie was released posthumously.

Selena Quintanilla is fondly remembered for her music to this day and stands as an icon of positive US-Mexican relations, a vivacious personality whose legacy is utterly at odds with Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall in her home state to keep the two countries apart.

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