Do you remember the first time you saw Selena? I do, like it was yesterday. I was so excited to see a film starring a Latina that I practically RAN to the theater. I knew who Selena Quintanilla Perez was, of course, but I learned so much more about the iconic Texan singer through watching the film. Previously, I only knew a few of her bigger radio hits and as a Puerto Rican growing up in the Northeast, I wasn’t aware of how huge Tejano music was across the Southwest or what a trailblazer Selena was until I saw the film.
Selena has continued to hold a monumental place in pop culture for Latinas here in the U.S.A. Not only because her music was fantastic, but also because she was a woman who took charge of her own life and her own image. She made it because she decided to do things her way, not in spite of it. Everything from her skintight, sparkly jumpsuits to her dramatic deep red lips made a lasting impact on the way we see ourselves. That’s why MAC released an entire makeup line dedicated to her memory and why there are little girls still asking to celebrate their birthdays with a Selena theme.
But Selena also managed to launch the career of another Latina, Jennifer Lopez. Her performance in the musical biopic was critically acclaimed and even earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Did you know that Jennifer Lopez was the first Latina to get paid one million dollars for a film role? Because of the film, she landed her first magazine covers and eventually became one of the most powerful singers, actresses and producers in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, it was because of this very role that Lopez decided to pursue a career in music and she recorded her first album shortly after wrapping Selena.
All because of one trailblazing Mexican American woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. March 31 marks 22 years since Selena Quintanilla Perez was brutally shot and killed and this week marks 20 years since the release of the film, but no matter how much time passes, Selena’s legacy will never be forgotten.