The death of pop star Selena Quintanilla shook the musical world. Shot and killed by one of her own fans on March 31st, 1995, the Tejano singer left an indelible mark on the popular sound of both Mexico and the United States, making her one of the most influential Latin artists of all-time. As a result, fans have continued to mourn and celebrate the singer, who was just 23 years-old at the time of her death.
Selena’s musical legacy includes timeless classics like “Dreaming of You,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “I Could Fall In Love” and “Como la Flor” among many others. Her contributions in the worlds of fashion and clothing design also made her a positive role model for young women everywhere. So today, on the 22nd anniversary of her death, we have decided to celebrate Selena’s life with five fast facts about her career, her family, and her musical legacy.
1. Her Ex-Husband Chris Pérez Wrote A Book About Her
Chris Pérez first met Selena in 1989, when he was hired as a replacement guitarist for her band Los Dinos. Though he had a distaste for Tejano music, Pérez said that he wound up taking the job because of its decent pay. He and Selena would go on to have a heated romance behind the scenes that was forbad by Selena’s father (and manager) Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. He felt that Pérez was a troublemaker and a bad influence on his daughter’s fledgling career.
Still, the two would elope in 1992, as was recounted in Pérez’s 2012 memoir To Selena, With Love. “She was everywhere after she passed away, she was all over the TV and then there was the trial but the memories I had were my own,” Pérez told CNN, “I was very protective of those. With this book I was able to show her in a different light, the woman off the stage… I thought enough time had passed.”
Pérez currently records music under the moniker The Chris Pérez Project.
2. Her Brother A.B. Quintanilla Followed In Her Footsteps
While largely unknown at the time, Selena’s older brother A.B. Quintanilla was a big part of her success. As the bass guitarist for Los Dinos, Quintanilla would go on to co-write and produce the smash singles “Como la Flor,” “Amor Prohibido,” and “No Me Queda Más.” After Selena’s death, Quintanilla paid tribute to his sister by producing the Pedro “Pete” Astudillo song “Como Te Extraño (How I Miss You),” which earned him a Premios Lo Nuestro Award for Best Song of the Year in 1996.
In the subsequent decades, Quintanilla has continued this success with the Kumbia Kings, an experimental group that combines elements of cumbia and pop music. The group’s second album, Shhh! (2001), became the first number one album on the United States Billboard Top Latin Albums chart for six non-consecutive weeks. Quintanilla departed the group in 2006, but is currently touring with a new band called the Kumbia All Starz.
3. She Was the First Latin Artist to Debut At Number One on the Billboard 200
Selena’s final studio album, Dreaming of You (1995), was released five months after her death, and became an instant critical and commercial success. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making her the first Latin artist in U.S. history to do so. Dreaming of You sold over 175,000 copies its first day of release, setting another record for most single-day sales by a female vocalist, while its first four singles, “I Could Fall In Love,” “Tú Solo Tú,” “Techno Cumbia,” and the title track all charted within the top ten on the U.S. pop charts.
As of 2017, Dreaming of You has sold over five million copies worldwide. But more importantly, the album kicked open the door for other Latin artists to crossover into the American mainstream. In the wake of Selena’s stardom, artists like Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, and Enrique Iglesias were able to follow a proven path to success. One which would’ve been far more difficult had it not been for Selena and her ability to unite varying cultures and musical markets.
4. The Fiesta de la Flor Festival Is Held In Her Honor
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death in 2015, a two-day event called Fiesta de la Flor was started in Corpus Christi, Texas. The initial celebration included live performances from a lineup of Mexico’s finest musical talent, including Los Lobos, Little Joe y la Familia, Los Palominos, Chris Pérez, and the Kumbia All Starz. In total, Fiesta de la Flor had over 52,000 people in attendance from all over the world, including those who traveled from Brazil, Ecuador, and several other Latin American countries.
The celebration gave a massive financial boost to Selena’s childhood home of Corpus Christi, which, according to KIITV, had a total gross of $13 million. The lineup for this year included groups like Jimmy Gonzalez y Grupo Mazz, Las Fenix, B-Side Players, and A.B. Quintanilla & Elektro Kumbia.
5. Her Life Was Made Into A Hit Film In 1997
For those who were too young to witness Selena’s rise to stardom themselves, this 1997 film is ground zero. Put into production shortly after the singer’s death, the casting process for the film was so crucial to the public that over 21,000 actresses were auditioned, making it the second-largest audition process behind Gone With the Wind (1939). Director Gregory Nava ultimately settled on Puerto Rican actress Jennifer Lopez, who, after being heavily criticized for not being of Mexican heritage, would go on to give a star-making performance.
Selena became a box office hit upon release, receiving positive reviews from critics and renewing interest in the singer’s catalogue. Today, the film has become a staple of ’90s pop culture, accurately summing up Selena’s allure as an artist while honoring her in the same, loving breath. You can purchase the film on iTunes or Amazon.