25 Ways Selena Quintanilla Blazed a Trail for Latinas in Entertainment

Selena Quintanilla-Perez‘a legacy and memory lives on larger than ever, with generation after generation lifting her up by embracing her music, fashion, and essence


Photo: Flickr/hellboy_93

Selena Quintanilla-Perez‘a legacy and memory lives on larger than ever, with generation after generation lifting her up by embracing her music, fashion, and essence. Selena is an icon who cemented her place in the entertainment industry as one of the most successful Latin artists. Most recently her story was reintroduced to younger audiences with Selena: The Series on Netflixย and the biopic Selena is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Selena isn’t just a legend in the eyes of her fans, she paved the way for so many Latinx stars who came up after her. Selena inspired them, gave them permission to think “that the impossible is always possible,” and opened the door for their success with her trailblazing career. Here are the many ways in which Selena Quintanilla-Perez paved the way for future Latinxs to dream big and reach for the stars.


She is one of the best-selling female Latin Artist in history

The Queen of Tejano Music is the best-selling female artist in Latin music history, selling over 65 million albums (as of 2015). Dreaming of You sold 175,000 copies in a single day, setting a record (then) for a female vocalist. This success came after years of performing with Selena y Los Dinos with siblings AJ and Suzette until she was signed to Capitol Records in 1989. She released five albums including Dreaming of You posthumously which went on to sell about 5 million records worldwide.


She had seven #1 hit songs


Be prepared to be impressed. Selena had not one, not two, but seven number No.1 hit songs. Those that topped Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart are:

– “No Me Queda Mas”
– “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”
– “Tu Solo Tu”
– “Fotos Y Recuerdos (Back on the Chain Gang)”
– “Amor Prohibido”
– “Buenos Amigos” (with Alvaro Torres)
– “Dondequiera Que Estes” (with Barrio Boyzz)

If you are a true superfan, you’ll recognize all these songs, and know the lyrics! If you don’t already, take a listen to these great Selena jams.


She created space for women in Tejano music


As Selena herself told the media, there wasn’t a very welcoming space for women in Tejano music. A genre largely dominated by men, Selena y Los Dinos encountered roadblocks to getting gigs because male promoters couldn’t fathom a female-led group could bring in the audiences. The group’s talent and persistence proved otherwise and made Selena not only the Queen of Tejano Music but its superstar face. Just learning about Selena’s career no doubt gives other Latinx artists the courage to tread in a musical genre, and own it.


She repped for Spanglish speaking U.S.-born Latinos


A really endearing thing about Selena is that although she was incredible, she wasn’t perfect. Just like so many of us, she struggled with Spanish as English was her first language. This led to the iconic statement to the press like “me siento muy excited” and the legendary interview with Cristina where she mispronounced the number 14 (“quatro y diez” instead of “catorce”). But she rolled with it, laughed at her mistakes, and represented Chicanxs and Latinxs everywhere who live between two worlds, cultures, and languages.


She started a fashion brand

In addition to singing and acting, Selena was also a fashion designer. Her boutique, Selena, Inc. which included a hair and nail salon, had two locations. The first store, which served as the headquarters, was opened in 1994 in Corpus Christi and a San Antonio location followed. Selena worked with designer Martin Gomez and designed and created several of her iconic on-stage looks herself. Nowadays, it is common for singers and other celebrities to instantly diversify their business by getting into fashion, but Selena did it first, and it was a true passion of hers.


She launched a perfume

One of the things we found out when researching Selena facts is that she was working on a perfume. Luckily, Selena’s family decided to release three fragrances from the three perfume samples she had picked out before her passing named after her songs, Amor Prohibido, Bidi Bidi Bom Bom and Como la Flor. There is said to be five official Selena fragrances in total with the release of Forever Selena Para Siempre Selena.


She envisioned her own cosmetics line

Photo: The Blast

In addition to planning a fragrance, Selena was also planning to create a cosmetics line. This is said to have been the inspiration for the online petition that led to the immensely popular Selena collection for MAC, the best-selling celebrity cosmetics line. It’s fun to imagine what cool colors and products would’ve been in her original collection, and how the packaging would have been designed.

The Blast has reported that Abraham Quintanilla, Selena’s father, has applied for a trademark for “Selena Vive,”ย  and “Selenaville” to use as part of a cosmetics line.


She recorded a “cross-over” English album


Before what was called the “Latin Explosion” of 1999 and beyond (although we have always been here creating great music), Selena had been working on an English crossover album before her untimely death in 1995, the album was released posthumously. Dreaming of Youย sold over 331,000 copies its first week (175,000 its first day), and became the second highest-selling debut album in 1995 behind Michael Jackson’s HIStory.


She achieved massive success in both languages


A Latin music artist can become huge in their respective country, and the rest of Latin America, but not be well known in English-speaking countries like the United States. Crossing over is a big deal, an opportunity to share your art with an entirely new audience. Selena Quintanilla-Perez was one of the big artists who was able to make this happen. Today, her music is known internationally, with even her Spanish songs being sung adoringly by those who don’t even know the language.


She was a triple threat: Actress, Singer, Entrepreneur

It’s common today for singers to have other career pursuits like acting, and fashion design. But Selena was making it happen in the ’90s. As an actress, she had a speaking cameo as herself in the popular 1990s novela, Dos mujeres, un camino, and appeared as a singer in the 1994 film Don Juan DeMarco.


She collaborated with artists outside of her genre

Photo: mi abuela jazzista

Before Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee were collaborating with Justin Bieber, and before Shakira collaborated with Wyclef Jean, Selena was the one doing Latin music collabs with English-singing artists. For the song, “God’s Child (Baila Conmigo),” she teamed up with David Bryne, and with “Wherever You Are,” Selena sings along with the Barrio Boyzz.


She’s the reason People en Espaรฑol launched

Selena’s life and legacy are both filled with amazing achievements and accomplishments. A fun fact a lot of folks don’t know is that when she passed, People magazine ran an issue with the singer on the cover. Both the first and second runs of this issue sold out; this prompted People to create and launch People en Espaรฑol.


She won a GRAMMY


A Grammy is a major highlight in the career of a musician. During her career, Selena Quintanilla was nominated for two Grammys, winning one. In 1994, she won for Best Mexican-American Album for Live, making her the first Tejana to ever win in that category (another Selena first!). The following year, Selena was nominated for Best Mexican-American Performance for Amor Prohibido. In 2021 she’ll be honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys.


She recorded diverse music across genres


Although Selena will always be known as the Queen of Tejano Music, she didn’t limit herself by only recording just in that style of music. She had fun with a variety of genres including covering Donna Summer’s disco jams, giving us some Mexican cumbia in “Techno Cumbia,” covering Pedro Infante’s mariachi/ranchera classic “Tu solo tu,” and dropping a dance pop/Hip Hop sound on “Donde Quiera Que Estes”/”Wherever You Are” with the Barrio Boyzz.


She mixed Mexican/Latinx and U.S. influences


Sometimes in music, or any other career that makes you a celeb, you are forced to choose an identity, or “pick sides.” Many singers and actors have changed their name to appear Anglo, while others solely stick to Latinx music and culture. Selena was like the poster child for Chicanxs and so many other Latinxs born in the United States to Latino parents. She naturally wanted to, and did mix influences from her Mexican and American identities and cultures, to create something fresh, cool, and relevant to so many people. Since then, other Latinx artists like Christina Aguilera, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato have fearlessly done the same.


She created and took charge of her image


In the music industry, so many artists are literally created by a huge team of people there to create a specific, artificial image. Not Selena. She created her own look, fashioned her own stage outfits (and those of her bandmates), and in the process started so many current trends. She was a prime example of a musician showing their art and themselves how they are, and how they would like to be portrayed, and remaining in control of that.


She was a spokesperson for MAJOR brands


What happens when two pop culture giants meet? You get an epic moment in history! Selena Quintanilla became a spokesperson for Coca-Cola in 1989 and continued reppin’ for the soda until her death. Being tied to such a big brand is evidence of what a megastar the Tejana was and still is. Other brands she worked with are Southwestern Bell/AT&T and Agree Shampoo.


She was kind, generous, and humble


Oftentimes, when people become huge stars, they adopt the divaย  attitude that is expected to come with this new lifestyle. Part of what makes Selena so likable is that she refused to follow suit. No matter how big she got, she never refused an autograph, loved to spend time with her fans, and didn’t even feel comfortable hearing people call her her true title of Queen of Tejano Music. Selena’s refreshing humility, accessibility, and realness showed stars after her that you can be massive famous but also massively kind.


She sang LIVE

Selena wasn’t lazy about her performances–they were epic. She endlessly danced across the stage and still had enough breath and control to flawlessly sing her lyrics live. That is so impressive, given that so many major artists automatically decide to lip-sync when they decide to include choreography in their performances. She set the bar for other Latinx artists to give it their all at their concerts, completely live.


She broke concert attendance records


Records are meant to be broken, and Selena’s career is all about breaking music records. She always had the dream to perform at the Houston Astrodome. Selena not only did that, but she broke attendance records–three years in a row (1993: 57,894, 1994: 60,081, 1995: 66,746+). This was about 25 years before another Latina, Cardi B broke attendance records at the Houston Rodeo.


She got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Selena was honored with her Hollywood star in the category of Recording, on November 3, 2017. In true Selena fashion, a record was broken at the star ceremony, when 4,500 fans showed up to celebrate with the Quintanilla family, widower Chris Perez, and Eva Longoria (also a Corpus Christi native). Selena’s is the 2,622nd star, and located at 1750 N. Vine Street, in front of the historic Capitol Records Building. Los Angeles officials named Nov. 3 โ€œSelena Day.โ€


She was the 3rd Highest-Earning Latina in the U.S.

Although her career continued to skyrocket after her passing, Selena managed to achieve great success while she was alive. In fact, at the time of her death, she was the third highest-earning Latin artist in the entire country. She proved to the Latin artists that would come after her that there wasn’t any limits when talent, hard work, and perseverance were part of the equation.


She has 2 Madame Tussauds wax figures

Madame Tussauds is a famous wax museum, with locations worldwide, where celebrities of all kinds are immortalized. Selena not only has a wax likeness of her in the Hollywood location, but also one in New York City.


She has her own official, government-recognized day


Weeks after her death, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush declared that April 16, 1995 (Selena’s birthday) was Selena Day. A state House bill, reintroduced earlier this year, would make April 16 Selena Day official in Texas.


She followed her dreams at a young age


As lead singer of Selena y Los Dinos, she and her siblings would sing at their father’s restaurant before eventually venturing out to bigger gigs.ย  She began singing at around the age of 10 and was signed to a professional record company in 1989 at age 18.


She was always HERSELF


Probably the most important thing about Selena, which we have all been inspired by, is that she was always truly herself. She didn’t change who she was to be famous, or when she became famous. She was stunning yet goofy, talented beyond belief but humble, and simply the superstar that was, and is–Selena Quintanilla-Perez. We hope that all celebs are taking several pages from her book on life and success.

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