The Life and Death of Selena Quintanilla

Selena Quintanilla was a beautiful Latin singer who rose to stardom at a young age. She was mostly known for her Tejano music, a combination between country and folk. It didn’t take long for her to become well-known and recognized, specifically with the Hispanics in the American South. She landed a record deal when she was 17 and became a famous star and household name. She had a clear talent, a distinct sense of style, and a stage presence.

Selena at the Grammy Awards in 1994 holding her Grammy. / Chris Perez, A.B. Quintanilla, Suzette Quintanilla, Marcella Samora, and Abraham Quintanilla Jr. at Selena’s honored with a star on the Walk of Fame.

Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/ Shutterstock

Selena made her recording debut in the ‘80s, and her albums like Amor Prohibido and Selena Live, quickly made her an award-winning musician in the Latin music scene. The incredible singer even won a Grammy. Thanks to Selena Quintanilla’s talent and popularity, Tejano music became a mainstream music genre. She had so much to give the world, but she was sadly murdered by her friend, employee, and the president of her fan club.

This is the life and death of Selena Quintanilla. Plus, we added some fun facts you may have never known about her.

A Star is Born

Selena Quintanilla-Perez was brought into this world on April 16th, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas. The future “Queen of Tejano Music” was raised in a Mexican-American family, but she only spoke “Kitchen Spanish.” Selena originally learned Spanish to expand her singing career, but she continued to take intensive classes to sharpen her pronunciation and vocabulary of the language.

Selena as a young girl.

Source: Twitter

Selena was the third and youngest child of Mexican-American parents, Abraham and Marcella. She was raised in a musical family, and her dad formed a band with Selena and both of her siblings. Selena was just six years old at the time, but her talent was apparent. Her father knew right away that she was destined to be a star.

Selena Y Los Dinos

When Selena was just a young girl, she and her siblings started a band and called it Selena Y Los Dinos. Her sister Suzette played the drums, and her brother Abraham played bass. The group practiced in the garage and sometimes got booked to play at events, including parties and weddings. Wow, that’s pretty impressive for young children.

Selena Quintanilla in a black leather jacket and a white lacy top.

Source: Twitter

I mean, I had a band with my siblings when I was a kid, but we never got to play weddings. To be fair, we were never really that good. Their father was a former musician, so he took Selena and the rest of his kids seriously as their talent grew. He was involved in their musical dreams, and he managed and produced the group.

The Family Band

When her dad was younger, he was a vocalist and performed with “Los Dinos” (“The Boys”). He opened a restaurant called Papagallos, and just a few years later, the new band, Selena Y Los Dinos, were the featured performers. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t do so well, and when they went bankrupt, they moved to Corpus Christi, Texas.

Selena with the members of her family band.

Source: Twitter

That’s when the band hit the road and started to perform at cantinas, festivals and even weddings. When Selena was in the 8th grade, her parents decided to take her out of school so that she could stay on the road and continue performing. However, she did complete a high school equivalency test through a correspondence school.

Early Career

When the band, Selena y Los Dinos, originally started, it comprised of Selena, her sister Suzette, and her brother A.B. But over the next several years, they added a few members, and they began recording music for a small local label. In 1984, their first album came out, but it wasn’t sold in stores.

Selena in a white button-down shirt tied on her stomach.

Source: Twitter

Selena’s father took the album with him everywhere so that he can pitch it to record executives whenever the group performed. The band ultimately recorded five albums in this manner, including Preciola in 1986, and Dulce Amor in 1988. One year prior, Selena won the Tejano Music award for Best Female Performer and Best Female Vocalist. She was only 15 years old.

Work Hard, Play Hard

The band was talented, but Selena had to work really hard to gain recognition. In 1984, Selena released her first album with her band, “Selena y Los Dinos,” and was titled, “Mi Primeras Grabaciones.” However, the group wasn’t noticed right away. It wasn’t until 1989 when she finally landed a record deal with Capitol/EMI.

Selena and her guitarist Chris Perez.

Selena and her guitarist Chris Perez. Photo by Gilbert Perez / Courtesy

In the years leading up to the record deal, Selena continued to win award after award. She then made several albums with record companies Ven Conmigo, Entre A Mi Mundo, and Baile Esta Cumbia. Her album, Selena Live, won the Best Mexican-American Album Grammy, making Selena the only Tejano musician with a Grammy Award.

Her Fan Club Founder

On March 31st, 1995, Selena was tragically murdered in Corpus Christi, Texas. She was shot by Yolanda Saldivar, which was shocking, considering Yolanda was the head of Selena’s fan club. However, she was a little unstable and showed signs of troubled behavior. For starters, she had a criminal record for embezzling money.

Selena and Yolanda standing together while Yolanda speaks into a microphone.

Yolanda and Selena after the Tejano Music Awards. Source: Associated Press, 1994

On the day of the devastating murder, Selena met Yolanda at a hotel to discuss money that went missing. Instead of having a rational conversation, Yolanda showed up with a gun and fatally shot Selena. After her death, approximately 60,000 mourners came to the convention center in Corpus Christi, Texas, for the public viewing of her body.

Meeting Yolanda

The family tried to avoid fan clubs, but that all changed in 1990 when Selena met Yolanda Saldivar. It turns out; she was Selena’s childhood friend’s aunt. At that point, Yolanda was a complete stranger, but she managed to convince the family that a fan club would be a good idea, considering the number of people who admired the singer.

A black and white photograph of Selena.

Source: Twitter

Salvador became the president of the fan club. It was an unpaid position, but the club eventually reached over 9000 members. In 1994, Selena and Yolanda grew closer, and she decided to promote her fan club president to a paid position. Her job was to oversee Selena Etc. Inc. (Selena’s company). Unfortunately, that’s when everything started to go wrong.

You’re Fired!

First, the designer of the company quit, claiming he couldn’t work with Saldivar. Then, items that were paid for didn’t get delivered, and finally, there were accusations of missing and misused funds. At this point, Selena and her father thought it was time to confront Yolanda. However, it has been reported by Washington Post that Yolanda got fired over the phone on March 29th, and her response was, “OK.”

Selena performing with her hair in braids.

Source: Tumblr

The next day, Yolanda called back and set up a meeting with Selena so that they can deal with some paperwork. On the fateful morning of March 31st, 1995, Selena and Yolanda met at Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas. We can only speculate how the conversation went…

Cold-Blooded Killer

What we do know is that as Selena was leaving the room, Yolanda shot her. Her former friend and employee literally stabbed [shot] her in the back. Maybe Yolanda was upset about losing her job, but that’s obviously not an excuse to shoot somebody. Clearly, Yolanda was mentally unstable and had her own issues to work out.

Selena with her niece and nephew.

Selena photographed with her niece and nephew. Source: Pinterest

I mean, Yolanda used to be a nurse. How can she kill someone in cold blood? Selena managed to make it to the lobby before she collapsed. Sadly, the world lost one of its brightest stars that day. She ultimately died in the hospital just a few hours later. The world was shocked, and thousands of fans mourned the loss.

Premature Death

What is even more devastating is that this all happened two weeks before Selena’s 24th birthday. She was so young, but even though her life ended prematurely, she continued to sell records and win awards. After her untimely death, her last unfinished album was released, and Selena’s popularity continued to grow. As soon as it came out, the album went quadruple platinum.

Selena walking around dressed up for a show.

Source: Twitter

Yolanda has been in prison ever since, but it wasn’t until 2017 that she admitted why she killed the singer. According to Univision, “She killed her because she wanted to stimulate an assault to avoid going to jail and above all, not to play her the almost $200,000 she had stolen during her administration of clothing stores and the fan club.”

Jail Time

I don’t know how she thought killing someone would help her avoid jail time. This is desperate and senseless behavior. Yolanda clearly has some serious psychotic problems, especially if that was her reasoning. Yolanda also made some other outrageous claims since her time behind bars. She said that prison had violated her rights.

Yolanda Saldivar’s mugshot.

Source: Caller-Times Archives

She also claimed that Selena was pregnant at the time of the shooting, which would only make it worse. She just loves the attention because the pregnancy rumors were debunked by Selena’s widow and the rest of her family. The things she says are ridiculous, but I think she is aware that nobody believes a word that comes out of her mouth. You can’t trust a murderer.

Selena Day

In 1995, George W. Bush was Governor of Texas. After Selena passed away, he announced that April 16th (the singer’s birthday) should be Selena Day to honor the talented musician’s life. Since she was taken away far too soon, celebrations take place annually to commemorate her birthday and legacy.

Selena in a white top and pants turning and smiling for the camera.

Source: Twitter

There is also a museum which includes details of Selena’s achievements and her life, located in Corpus Christi, Texas. The museum even features some of the singer’s favorite clothes and her collection of Faberge eggs. Yes, you read that correctly. Selena owned over 500 Faberge eggs, and they are still presented in the museum the exact way she originally displayed them herself (we’ll get to that later).

Talented and Influential Woman

It’s no secret that Selena had a major impact on the popularity of Tejano music at the time. She was an essential part of bringing it into mainstream pop. She has been considered a main musical influence to many other artists, such as Kat DeLuna, Becky G, and of course, Jennifer Lopez.

Selena in all black performing.

Source: Pinterest

Jennifer Lopez has a particularly strong connection with Selena after she famously played her in the 1977 movie, ‘Selena.’ Although she never met the singer in person, Lopez needed to embody her characteristics to portray her character perfectly. Not only did J-Lo name Selena the key influence in her work, but she said how she completely identifies with her as a singer and as a woman.

People Magazine Tribute

After Selena’s devastating murder, a special tribute issue of People Magazine was dedicated to the singer. The reason this was so significant was that it was extremely rare. She was only the third tribute edition ever to be published, which says a lot about the singer. She was a pretty big deal. I mean, the earlier issues were dedicated to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn, other notable figures.

The People tribute edition with Selena on the cover.

Source: People

Selena’s tribute issue flew off the shelves and was quickly sold out. The issue was an instant success, and after the publishers saw how popular the Selena edition of their magazine was, they decided to introduce a Spanish version, called People en Español.

Tex-Mex

Tejano music is also known as Tex-Mex music. It’s folk-based music that basically bends with some country and pop sounds. It was originated in Texas and is predominantly popular with Mexican Americans around that region. As we mentioned, she was instrumental in bringing this genre into the mainstream music scene.

Selena in a purple sparkly outfit.

Source: Twitter

She was able to popularize Tejano by giving it a pop-based edge and also because of her own appeal as a beloved singer and feminine role model. She made the music fun with her incredible performances, style, and talent. Thanks to Selena Quintanilla, the Tejano genre has a much broader audience for people outside of Texas to enjoy. No wonder she was named the Queen of Tejano Music.

Stay in School, Kids

Selena Quintanilla was known to be active in her community, and she was happy to dedicate her time to several civic causes. She was appointed by Coca-Cola to be their spokesperson in Texas, and she felt strong importance when it comes to education. She spent a lot of time speaking about how important it is to get a High School diploma.

Selena getting a power nap in between work.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

As someone who valued education and learning, Selena took a lot of opportunities to express the importance of staying in school, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and, most importantly, pursuing dreams. Back in 1993, Selena performed a free concert for Texas students and also donated money to school programs.

Her First Language was English

Selena Quintanilla was a Latin musician who was famous for singing in Spanish. That’s why it may be surprising to hear that Spanish wasn’t Selena’s first language; English was. After all, she did grow up in Texas, and even though she was raised in a Hispanic community, she spoke in English.

Selena posing in front of a sign for herself.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

Apparently, it was Selena’s dad who encouraged her to sing in Spanish to widen her notoriety in the Mexican American community. It worked, considering she is now known for it. Not only was Selena raised speaking English, but she didn’t even speak Spanish until later on in life. Selena worked on the words phonetically before learning how to speak the language.

Madonna Comparison

It is not uncommon for Selena to be referred to as the Mexican American version of Madonna. This is primarily because of her incredible stage presence, and her clothing style resembled Madonna. This was especially prominent in the earlier stages of Selena’s career. Being compared to Madonna (especially at that time) was a good thing.

Selena at a Grammys party. / Madonna in Vogue magazine in April 1990.

Source: Instagram, A.B. Quintanilla / Shutterstock

Selena’s style of clothing was very distinctive, using her sexuality and femininity. She obviously had a powerful stage presence, and it was clear that she enjoyed performing. Although she was dubbed as the Tex-Mex Madonna, Selena has her own identity that can be reflected in her unique sense of style. Billboard magazine named her the top Latin artist of the 1990s.

Selena: The Movie

Selena Quintanilla’s life ended early, but her memory and legacy will live on forever through the 1997 film, Selena, based on her life and tragic death. Jennifer Lopez stars as Selena beautifully. Although she was already acting, Selena was undoubtedly J-Lo’s breakout role and put the actress on the map. James Edward Olmos played Selena’s father.

Jennifer Lopez was performing as Selena in Selena, 1997.

Photo by Moviestore Collection / Shutterstock

The movie begins with a performance and then flashes back to Selena and her siblings forming a band. It gives you a deep dive into Selena’s personal life, career, and includes exciting moments like live performances and the awards she received. The film was directed by Gregory Nava, and it was produced with the entire family’s cooperation.

Other Passions and Dreams

Selena was born to be on stage. Her singing talent made her famous, but she was also recognized for something else – her sense of style. Selena was known for her eccentric style and unique look. She loved fashion and made her own clothes or added some accessories to existing items to change them up a bit. She even created a clothing line.

Selena in Houston in 1994.

Source: Facebook

If she wasn’t a singer, she definitely could have been a fashion designer, but that wasn’t her only passion aside from music. Selena and her husband Chris, bought 10 acres of land in Texas. They hoped to build and live on a farm. Unfortunately, she was killed before she even had the chance.

Personal Endeavors

Selena met Chris Perez when he was hired to join the band in 1992. They married against her father’s wishes but ultimately moved to the house next door. Even now, Perez is still in the family business and performs with his brother A.B.’s Kumbia Kings/Kumbia All Starz. Selena also capitalized on her fame in other ways.

Selena and Christ posing when they were younger.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

Since people were so interested in Selena’s style, she opened Selena Etc. Inc. The company owned a few boutiques that sold her clothing line. As we know, Selena had a knack for fashion and loved to sew and accessorize. Unfortunately, this was the company that Yolanda was in charge of before fatally shooting the singer.

A Humble Home

When Selena was growing up, her family was often facing financial difficulties but tried to hide it from other people. Abraham, Selena’s father, made sure to go to the grocery store late at night to avoid people that he knew. He didn’t want anyone to know that his family was living on food stamps.

Selena and her father on stage performing when she was a young girl.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

The family home contained a large extended group living together. At times, there were up to 13 people living there – with only one bathroom! Thankfully, this difficult period of poverty didn’t last forever. As soon as Selena made it big, she was able to help her family, and they were all able to live more comfortably. This may be part of the reason Selena was such a humble celebrity.

Faberge Egg Collection

Selena loved Faberge eggs! If you don’t know what a Faberge egg is, it’s basically a jeweled egg made by the House of Faberge in Russia. Selena started to collect them and ended up with over 500 of the designer eggs. Each egg came with a specific memory about the time she bought it. There was a lot of sentiment behind this interesting collection.

Two shelves filled with Faberge eggs from Selenas collection.

Source: Pinterest

Selena proudly displayed the eggs in her living room, but as we mentioned, they are now exhibited in the Selena Museum in glass cabinets. They are arranged the exact same way Selena had them in her living room. It’s just another tribute to the beautiful fallen star.

Married Her First Love

Selena Quintanilla was lucky enough to marry her first love. Chris Perez was Selena’s first boyfriend and later, her husband. In 1992, the couple got married secretly. Like many fathers, Selena’s dad was protective of his daughter and didn’t approve of her boyfriend. Selena was so scared that her dad wouldn’t support their union and that he would try to stop the wedding.

Selena and Chris.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

Selena met Chris when he joined her band, Los Dinos, and the two fell in love instantly. At least they got to spend a few years together, but unfortunately, their happily ever after came to an end in 1995, when Selena died. In 2012, Chris wrote the book To Selena With Love, where he described their life together.

Selena’s Murder Has Been Compared To JFK’s

When the news of Selena’s death came out, shock waves flew across America, especially in Texas, where she was predominantly loved and the place she could always call home. At the time, many people compared Selena’s death to the murders of JFK or John Lennon. Even years later, people remember exactly where they were when they heard the devastating news.

Yolanda Saldivar behind bars.

Source: Pinterest

Over 60,000 people attended Selena’s funeral, and many traveled from outside of the United States to be at the public viewing of her body. Thousands of people mourned the singer’s tragic death, and some fans brought her final album to commemorate her life, as well as her untimely death.

Dreaming of You

In 1995, Selena made pop history when Dreaming of You instantly became the fastest-selling album by a female artist. In the first week of its release, the album sold over 400,000 copies and made it to number one on the charts. The album ultimately sold over five million copies and managed to surpass Mariah Carey’s record sales.

Selena Quintanilla in a pink shirt posing with her hair down and curly.

Source: Tumblr

Selena’s death may have been a contributing factor to the album sales, but she already had considerable album sales before all of this. Nevertheless, Dreaming of You sold 175,000 copies on the day it came out! The album sales further prove that was revered as an artist, performer, and had an essential impact on pop culture. Even though her life ended, her voice can never be silenced.

Famous Nicknames

We already mentioned her first nickname. She was referred to as the Mexican Madonna by the media and was often compared to her. This was mainly due to their sexy outfits, dance moves, and commanding stage presence. These are all important characteristics to becoming a star, so I’m sure Selena didn’t mind the comparison and took it as a compliment.

Selena and her cousin Sarah.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

That wasn’t the only famous nickname Selena had throughout her career. She was widely known as the Queen of Tejano. Considering she did a fantastic job of popularizing that music genre, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. She was the main performer for that specific genre, and the nickname was a testament to that.

Coca-Cola Contract

When Selena was just 17, she earned a $75,000 contract with Coca-Cola to become their spokeswoman in Texas. She even appeared in the Coca-Cola Classic commercial, which you may remember. The singer was known to work with a range of English and Spanish language adverts throughout her career.

Selena dressed in gold, holding a coca-cola bottle.

Source: Twitter

Ruben Cubillos worked with Selena on these adverts, and he has since become the president and executive creative director of a San Antonio advertising agency called A Big Chihuahua. We can only imagine how far Selena could have gone. With such an impressive resume at the tender age of 23, I think it’s safe to say she was going places. Sadly, her life was cut too soon for us to see.

Supporting the Family

After Selena’s dad had to close their restaurant in the 1980s, Selena was often the primary breadwinner for the family. Selena even dropped out of school to make money through her music (but she did eventually earn a high school diploma through correspondence studies). Country music was featured on a lot of her early performances in the Houston area.

Selena with her two siblings.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

However, it didn’t take long for Selena to focus on her signature music style. It was a reflection of the diverse influences in Mexican-America culture during that time. According to Entertainment Tonight, Selena had her band, Selena y Los Dinos, backing her up, which included family members and her future husband, Chris Perez.

Selena Gomez

On July 22nd, 1992, Selena Gomez was born. She is obviously an incredible performer, but she always was destined to be a star. Both of her parents were huge fans of Selena and decided to name their daughter after the singer. Selena Gomez was just a baby when Selena died, but she still feels a connection to the late singer. Plus, they are both Texas natives.

Selena Gomez performing at the American Music Awards in 2019.

Photo by Chelsea Lauren / Shutterstock

Selena told Sacramento’s NOW 100.5, “My parents loved Selena’s music. So, they just named me after her.” She went on to say, “I grew up, and I went to her grave, I got to go to her house. It was really crazy. And then when I started working, I remember I got to meet her family, and I just got super emotional.” I think it’s safe to say that she lived up to her name.

Life Sentence

After Selena’s tragic death, Yolanda Saldivar was sentenced to life in prison (deservedly so) for the heartless murder. The San Antonio Current reported that Yolanda filed multiple appeals, and unsurprisingly, they have all been unsuccessful.

Yolanda Saldivar in an orange jumpsuit walking behind an officer.

Source: Facebook

Yolanda will finally be eligible for parole in 2025, which is in just a few years. But considering the passion Selena fans have, she will probably be safer behind bars. TMZ reported that she is allegedly in solitary confinement for her own safety. Selena’s dad even said prison would be easier for her to deal with than the real world. If you ask me, none of that matters. She deserved to stay locked up because she is a cold-blooded killer.

Locked Up

Yolanda Saldivar reportedly complained about her life in prison. “Saldivar said that she is locked up behind bars 23 hours of the day and is only given a one-hour recreation break a day. She said that once she is allowed to be outside, no other inmate is permitted to be outside with her at the same time, Saldivar also said that the inmates aren’t allowed to go near her or speak to her. She’s in full seclusion,” according to Vivala.

Yolanda in a tan jumpsuit being interviewed.

Source: YouTube

I, for one, am not at all surprised. Not to sound unsympathetic, but she deserves it. I have way more sympathy for Selena’s family, who lost their precious girl than I ever will for Yolanda.

Shrine to Selena

She was devoted to Selena, but there were still noticeable signs that something was off about Yolanda before she turned murderous. Texas Monthly reported, “She was possessive and controlling… she was a loner who had lived with her mother until recently and had few friends. She had once been accused of embezzling funds from a previous employer, and she had defaulted on a student loan.”

Selena and her brother A.B. Quintanilla.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

Somehow, none of that surprises me. She acted in criminal and psychotic behavior. In retrospect, they are all huge red flags. If you thought things couldn’t get creepier, think again. According to Texas Monthly, Saldivar had turned her apartment into a shrine of Selena. Yeah. Stalker much?

Fun Facts

Selena was a normal happy 23-year-old musician before her death. She had a good sense of humor and always saw the good in every situation. She named her tour bus, “Big Bertha.” It had no air conditioning, no power steering, no heating, no electricity, no running water, the windows wouldn’t go down, AND there was no bathroom.

Selena and her grandfather.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

When Selena’s mom was pregnant, her parents were convinced she was having a boy. The name they chose was Mark Anthony. Her favorite food was double pepperoni, thin-crusted pizza. On April 16th, 1994, Selena received the “Key of the City” in Houston. Plus, the USPS honored Selena with a “Latin Music Legends” Forever Stamp.

Forever Missed

The music video for her song “Amor Prohibido” was filmed in Southern California, at Joshua Tree National Park. When Selena was asked what she would be doing if she wasn’t a musician, she said she would most likely be working at Whataburger.

Selena and her brother performing in purple jackets.

Source: Instagram / A.B. Quintanilla

Before Beyoncé was the Queen B we know today, she had the honor of meeting Selena once in a Houston mall. In the months after the death, over 600 baby girls were named after Selena in Texas alone. That only further proof of how inspirational she was. Even though she died far too soon, she will live on through her music forever.