Did you know that pop sensation Selena Gomez was named after the “Queen of Tejano” Selena Quintanilla, better known just as Selena? Both women are Texas natives with Mexican heritage, and the younger Selena was born at the height of the elder’s fame in 1992.
I wonder if our little witch of Waverly (Disney channel sitcom The Wizards of Waverly Place) wanted to follow in the footsteps of her namesake, a woman who was primed to become the biggest Latina star of the decade before being tragically killed in 1995 by her friend and founding member of her fan club. I still weep every time I watch Selena.
As an artist, Selena blew open the door for Spanish/English language crossover artists, paving the way for stars like Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera, until finally the world was prepared to receive our young starlet Selena Gomez (who, unlike the other three has yet to make a Spanish language album—next career move, Sel?) and inspiring many others such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga (remember the bustier look from Gaga’s second album? Most definitely inspired by Selena—anyone else hear echoes of that classic argument over the bustier between Selena’s family and her father from the film? “It’s a BRA! She can’t go out there in a BRA!”).
If it’s been a while since you immersed yourself in the glory of the original Selena, I suggest you immediately listen to this pop synth masterpiece of ‘95.
And then watch the biopic that arguably launched Jennifer Lopez’s career—have tissues on hand (something J-Lo’s discussed recently if you’re interested).
Let’s look at a few of the similarities and differences between the two Selenas, to try and discover just how far apart they really are:
Could a similar look be all these ladies have in common? Both wore long glossy dark hair and a lip stained sultry pout (Selena was famous for those beautiful red lips—look out for a special edition lipstick called “Como La Flor” from MAC after one of her hit singles to be released in October). Catch a preview here.
Clearly both ladies have amazing pipes. But Selena Gomez, perhaps more in the vein of a celeb like J-Lo, is on track to become the “triple threat artist” (actress, singer, and dancer), while her namesake was solely a singer. Despite this, being the same age her predecessor was when she died, Selena Gomez hasn’t yet made the impact that Selena Quintanilla made (and is still making) in her short career.
Both women started their careers as children—Selena Quintanilla started singing in her family band Selena y Los Dinos at the tender age of nine, before going on to win the Tejano Music Award for best female vocalist at only 15. By the time she was in her early 20s, it looked as if she was on her way to superstardom, being called by many the Tejano Madonna.
Selena Gomez began acting on Barney and Friends at age ten, before becoming a household name on Disney’s popular children’s sitcom The Wizards of Waverly Place. She left the show to dive into the world of Hollywood and pop-stardom. At this moment in time, her back and forth love life with fellow pop star bad boy Justin Bieber, might capture our attention more than anything else, but appearing in big name films like The Big Short and Neighbors 2, and having her last two singles “Good For You,” and “Same Old Love” chart at #5 in the Billboard Top 200, make it seem as if Gomez is ready to demand that we take her seriously, both musically and as an actress. Check out this article on GQ called “The Emancipation of Selena,” if you’re interested in reading more about Selena’s struggle to maintain a normal life, and to be taken seriously as an artist.
Apparently, the connection between these two women is stronger than I initially thought. Watch this YouTube link, and see Selena Gomez discussing how much it means to her to record a vocal on “Bidi Bidi, Bom Bom” with Quintanilla’s father Abraham, who apparently hand-picked Gomez to sing the vocal on the remix album of Quintanilla’s hit singles released in 2012 called Enamorada de Ti.
Selena Gomez’s drive to follow in the footsteps of the former Selena demonstrates her thirst to make an impact on the music world. I think she’s got the talent and the chops to make a real impact on the business (I’ve loved almost all of her singles, especially the early ones). And hopefully Gomez, as well as many other artists, will continue to be inspired by and honor the legacy of Quintanilla.