I’ll forever be thankful I was a teenager in the 90s. Rose-tinted glasses aside, the era was groundbreaking: fashion for young women totally transformed, turning “street but sweet” with a sexy new tomboy look. The urban film industry was king, with what felt like a new box office smash packing cinemas weekly. Best of all, we had artists like Selena and 2Pac, iconic superstars in life and especially (tragically) in death.
Selena Quintanilla-Perez came to my attention when she burst onto pop charts with 1995’s Dreaming Of You, her first English language album and last set of music before being murdered at just 23 years old by her fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar (currently serving a life sentence). Dreaming Of You topped the Billboard 200 chart and the Latin charts for nine months after her untimely death, selling more than two million copies. At home in Sydney I was experiencing what I thought was love for the first time, so my best friend at the time and I sang songs like “I Could Fall In Love” and the album’s title track at the top of our lungs for days on end. Being curious about artists from an early age, I researched Selena to find out she’d been recording Tejano music (as a female she was a pioneer in the genre) and singing in Spanish for years prior to her mainstream debut. And just as I was finding out about the beautiful woman this young talent was inside and out, she was killed. With the world still in mourning, just two years later her tribute movie was made. Starring Jennifer Lopez in her breakout role, Selena is a favorite film of mine to this day. Like many fans, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to watch it from start to finish. I’ll sing and dance to the music, laugh at the funny scenes and bawl my eyes out at the end.
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Selena’s death. She’s posthumously sold over 60 millions albums and continues to be adored by fans worldwide. Selena was the original natural beauty: curves in all the right places (with a booty to die for before Lopez and Beyoncé hit the scene), a mane of thick black hair and a pretty face with the most magnetic smile. Her legacy includes redefining Latin music (she’s known as the “Queen of Tejano Music”) with Dreaming Of You the highest-selling Latin album of all time. Her death is believed to have sparked an interest in Latin music and thus opened the doors in the late 90s for stars like Lopez, Ricky Martin and Shakira to be born.
Fans continue to hold up Selena’s work and honor her memory, while her family (who are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses) plans to do otherwise.
"It's crazy. It grows every day with events everywhere, but we're not organizing them," Selena's father Abraham Quintanilla told the Associated Press about the numerous events surrounding the anniversary of her passing. "Our family never got together every year on the day of her murder, because there's nothing to celebrate, and this year won't be the exception. We remember our daughter every single day. We don't need a special day to remember her."