Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the Queen of Tejano music, was on her way to becoming one of the most famous singers in the world. Then at 23, her life was tragically cut short. The president of her fan club fatally shot her at a Corpus Christi motel 25 years ago.
Jennifer Lopez played her in a 1990s biopic. Now Selena’s life is being celebrated again. “Selena: The Series” debuts on Netflix on December 4. It was produced with the help of the singer’s family. It shows how Selena became a star (partly thanks to her parents), and the relationship she had with the band that included her brother, sister, and husband.
“Her music continues to inspire to this day. I mean, The Weeknd was just singing ‘Como la Flor’ about two weeks ago. This is a world icon,” says Jaime Dávila, one of the executive producers on the series.
How family members influenced Selena’s career
Selena performed with the band Los Dinos. Her brother A.B. played the bass guitar in the band, and her sister Suzette played the drums.
“A lot of people … don’t know that her brother wrote all of her biggest songs. Her sister was the drummer of the band,'' Dávila says. “It's such a beautiful story of family unity and pushing each other to achieve the best of each other.”
Her parents also pushed Selena to write and perform music in Spanish.
In the series’ first episode, a scene shows Selena’s father Abraham flipping their radio to a traditional Tejano station, and a young Selena asks him why she needs to sing in Spanish. (She learned how to speak the language fluently later in life.)
He replies, “Because people will pay to hear music that speaks to them. … My family came from Mexico. You came from me. Both countries Selena, they come together in you.”
Selena and her music stays relevant
Dávila says Selena’s story can resonate with Latinos today. “There was a push and pull to sort of keep [Selena] in one lane. And I think a lot of Mexican Americans relate to this. We're in two lanes, and that's okay. We don't have to pick one.”
He says Selena’s multicultural duality helped propel her into the mainstream. “What's really cool about Selena is that she was an American that was able to conquer Mexico, the U.S., [and] the world. It's a legacy that continues to this day.”
In the months following her death, Selena’s music fully hit the mainstream. Her album “Dreaming of You” was released posthumously in July 1995 and debuted at #1 in the U.S. Billboard 200.
Members of Selena’s family also went on to find success. A.B. formed the Latin Grammy-winning band Kumbia Kings. Suzette manages the Selena Museum and Fiesta de la Flor, a multi-day festival that honors the singer.
Dávila notes that Selena’s legacy is far-reaching some two decades after her death.
“I think it is a testament to the family and their ability to sort of reconnect with new generations, and their ability to understand that Selena's story is special and is unique, and has to be protected and taken care of. There's not a lot of people like Selena for Mexican Americans, period. … It's a testament to the family that she's still as vital as she is today.”