It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was murdered by a woman she believed to be friend in Corpus Christi, TX … but today, March 31, is the sad anniversary of that tragic day. While I was unaware of Selena‘s immense talent when she lived, I came to know and become a fan of her work after her sad death when the film Selena was released in 1997 (Jennifer Lopez portrayed Selena in the film). Now, on the 15th anniversary of her death, I want to take a moment to remember Selena … because had she lived, I’m certain she would’ve been a major, international star:
Jenne Celine Madrid wasn’t alive when Selena, the most famous name in the world of Tejano music, was murdered March 31, 1995, inside a Corpus Christi hotel by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of her fan club. In fact, Madrid didn’t become familiar with the fallen singer until 2007, after seeing the 1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez. But she was immediately hooked. “I’ve watched it already, like, 10 times. I saw that she was young. I’m young, too,” says Madrid, who turns 12 in April. “I’m a Tejano singer. I want to get up there just like her.” Madrid lists Selena as a “favorite” alongside current names Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez (who was named after the Tejano icon). “I like her personality most. She’s a great performer,” says Madrid, who has been dubbed “la princesita de Tejas” (the little princess of Texas). She performed during Go Tejano Day on the RodeoHouston grounds, sang the National Anthem at a Houston Rockets game and won a competition at Sam Houston Race Park. Madrid, much like Selena did, has a preternaturally powerful, emotive voice. She’s equally adept at Spanish cumbias, rancheras and English pop tunes. It was a world Selena seemed destined to bridge just before her death. Selena’s posthumous 1995 album, the bilingual Dreaming of You, sold 4 million copies and hinted at her potential. She would have likely broken through the rote pop trappings that diluted crossover bids from Thal ía, Paulina Rubio, Shakira and Ricky Martin. “I loved the freedom of what she was doing. She was just so sure of herself,” says Tejano singer Stefani Montiel, a former labelmate who became friends with Selena and spent time with her offstage. “I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be like her.’ ” Subsequent posthumous albums, including the Selena film soundtrack and Live: The Last Concert (recorded at the 1995 RodeoHouston in the Astrodome), have passed the 1 million mark. The 2005 Selena ¡Vive! tribute concert, broadcast live from Reliant Stadium in Houston, is the most-viewed Spanish-language TV program in history. “She was definitely ahead of her time. She took a lot of the old-school influences, conjunto bands, and brought them into her modern sound,” says Nina Diaz, vocalist for San Antonio-based rock trio Girl in a Coma. “It will never go out of style. You’ll hear it in 30 years, and it will still seem fresh” … Fans are indeed still hungry for Selena music, even if it’s recycled hits. La Leyenda was released earlier this month in single, double and four-disc formats. It debuted in the top 10 on Billboard’s Latin Albums and Regional Mexican charts, despite featuring no new songs. “Selena is an icon. Just like people still jam to the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Madonna and Michael Jackson — no matter how the times change, Selena’s music will never be forgotten,” says Stephanie Tunchez, a mariachi singer who accompanied Ana Gabriel at the Selena ¡Vive! concert. “Whenever one of her songs comes on, you are always going to hear people say, ‘Oh hey, I love this song!’”
Selena has been called by many the “Mexican Madonna” and while I don’t necessarily think that comparison is quite right, you cannot deny that she was and still is a very important figure for Mexican-Americas. Jennifer Lopez did such a great job portraying Selena in the film that it’s hard not to believe that mebbe she is now living the life that would’ve been Selena‘s had she lived. Before the film, J. Lo was still only a Fly Girl backup dancer … it was her work on Selena that inspired her to make her first album and act in other films. But … it’s a waste of time to worry about what could’ve been. In honor of this sad anniversary, I’d rather focus on what was … Selena‘s career was phenomenal in its scope and I’m so happy to know that she still wins new fans even today. She was a very special person … and hopefully she will be remembered for all time. I’m sure Selena is resting peacefully wherever she may be right now … it is my hope that she knows how much she is still loved and greatly missed.