Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was already known as the “Queen Of Tejano Music” and was preparing for a crossover career in mainstream pop when she was shot and killed by the former president of her fan club on March 31, 1995. Quintanilla was confronting Yolanda Saldívar at a motel about money Saldívar allegedly embezzled from her business and presumably firing Saldívar from her position as manager of Quintanilla’s boutiques. One fatal shot in the back killed Quintanilla. “The bullet shattered her right shoulder, tearing one lung, her veins and a major artery,” Univision reported. Her official autopsy stated, “Selena Quintanilla, a 23-year-old woman, came to her death as a result of exsanguinating internal and external hemorrhage” (via Univision).
Though Quintanilla was just beginning to crossover into the English-language market, the Mexican-American singer has risen to “beloved icon” status posthumously in part because of the popular 1997 biopic Selena that shared her story and spirit with the world. We’ve learned so much about the singer after her death, thanks to stories shared by her loved ones and people inspired by her music. We are not done unraveling her story, but here are some of the things we learned about Selena after her death.
Queen Bey met the Queen of Tejano
Music royalty meets and mingles all of the time, but it’s less common that two future icons would meet before they both reached mainstream pop icon status. That’s exactly what happened with Beyoncé and Selena Quintanilla. Thanks, in part, to the Mexican population there, Quintanilla was more famous in her home state of Texas than anywhere else in the country. A young Beyoncé (also a native Texan) once described meeting Quintanilla at a mall for MTV.
“I did actually meet Selena in the Galleria mall in Houston,” she said. “But I didn’t say much to Selena because I wasn’t a celebrity. I just saw her and said hello and kept it movin’.” Is it us, or is it really hard to imagine Beyoncé too intimidated to start a conversation with someone?
Queen Bey also shared that when she did start recording her own hit songs, listening to Quintanilla’s music surprisingly helped her. “Growing up in Texas, I heard her on the radio, and I think listening to her album, even though I didn’t know exactly what she was singing, it helped me in the studio with my pronunciation.” Quintanilla’s influence on other artists is wide-ranging and surprising.
There is a lot of tension between Selena's father and her widower
Selena Quintanilla’s relationship with now-widower Chris Pérez and his tension with her father Abraham Quintanilla is well-documented in Selena the movie and Netflix’s first installment of Selena: The Series. The drama that occurred is made for movies and TV, but fictional adaptations may not even do the stress of the situation justice. So, it’s not something Selena would’ve had fun talking about in interviews.
“I saw him as a threat,” Abraham admitted in Texas Monthly. “What if they got married and he pulled her out of the band? All the work we did all those years would go down the tubes.” When Abraham saw the couple hugging on the bus in the middle of the night one night, he immediately kicked Pérez out of the band. “I dropped him off in a Whataburger parking lot and said, ‘You find your way home.'”
Selena and Pérez were still determined to see each other secretly until Selena decided that the only way her dad would accept their relationship is if they eloped. Per The Oprah Magazine, Pérez wrote in his book To Selena, With Love that he was reluctant to agree because Selena had dreams of a big wedding, but she insisted. “After that, I accepted him as part of the family. What else could I do?” Abraham told Texas Monthly. But there is tension between Pérez and the Quintanillas. In 2016, Abraham sued Pérez for trying to develop his book into a TV series.
Selena loved Extreme
Selena’s favorite song was “More Than Words” by Extreme. We know this thanks to scenes in both Selena the movie and 2020’s Selena: The Series. But people who loved her revealed just what the song meant to her after her death. “We used to listen to ‘More Than Words’ from Extreme quite a bit,” her husband Chris Pérez told ABC. “And there was a moment back in the day where she actually, we actually sat down and played it together while I was on the guitar. She sang the vocal parts, so that will always be a special song for me.”
Her brother A.B. Quintanilla even felt the need to go on Twitter in 2012 to clarify the version she liked. “SELENA’S FAVORITE SONG WAS MORE THAN WORDS BY EXTREME ORIGINAL VERSION NOT THE WHACK REMAKE!!!!” We’re not sure what remake he’s referring to, but that sure is a lot of exclamation points. We get it, A.B. Selena was loyal to true originals.
She's not just the Queen of Tejano music
One of Selena Quintanilla’s biggest dreams was to release an English language crossover album. She was in the middle of recording it when she was killed. 1995’s Dreaming Of You was released posthumously on July 18, 1995, and sold 175,000 on its debut day, per Latin Times. Her single “I Could Fall In Love” achieved the highest debut of an English language title on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Tracks chart since 1988 (via Latin Times). Per Mental Floss, she’s considered the “first major performer to record in both English and Spanish” and has sold 30 million records to date.
“Oh, she would have been—undoubtedly—one of the biggest stars in the world,” Daniel Glass, the former president and CEO of EMI Records, told Texas Monthly. “Selena was going to be huge not only in Latin music but in the mainstream market. She would have been up there with Mariah Carey, with Madonna, with the great ones.”
It’s amazing that Selena got to live one of her biggest dreams, but so sad that she didn’t get to see her hard work pay off. Many people in the US only learned Selena’s name after her death, but they love her and her music. She was robbed of a chance to make an even bigger impact, but the one she’s made so far is quite impressive.
Selena's final moments
Upon being shot by Yolanda Saldívar, Selena Quintanilla, bleeding to death, ran to the lobby of the Days Inn. Carlos Valdez, the district attorney of Nueces County in 1995 who persecuted Saldívar for Quintanilla’s murder, told Texas Monthly that Quintanilla said, “Lock the door! She will shoot me again!” before passing out. An employee was able to wake her up and ask her who shot her. The final words she’d ever speak were, “Yolanda Saldívar in room 158.”
Per AP News, a Corpus Christi paramedic testified in court that when he was trying to save her, she had something clenched in her fist.”When I opened it, a ring fell out,” Richard Fredrickson said. “It was covered with blood.” Phillip Randolph was the owner of Phillip Randolph Jewelry, where Saldívar bought the ring. “It was a fourteen-karat gold ring topped with a white-gold egg, encrusted with 52 diamonds. The letter S was incorporated into the band design three times on each side,” he told Texas Monthly.
“This was a friendship ring that Selena had been wearing, and Selena took it off during their argument. I think that’s what set Yolanda off,” Valdez told Texas Monthly. “[Saldívar] knew that once Selena walked out of that room her world was over. She would either go back to being a nobody, or she would go to prison for embezzlement.” Quintanilla had no pulse when she arrived at the hospital and was pronounced dead at 1:05 p.m. on March 31, 1995.
Selena dreamed of a family and a farm
Chris Pérez had gone with his wife Selena Quintanilla to meet Yolanda Saldívar previously when things between the songstress and the Saldívar started going sour. But he told Texas Monthly he didn’t have a chance to that day. According to the outlet, Saldívar set a trap for Quintanilla by falsely claiming she had been raped. Quintanilla took Saldívar to the hospital on the morning she died. “I had no idea that she was going to pick up Yolanda and take her to the hospital. She got up before me and didn’t tell me where she was going.”
Shortly after his wife’s death, Pérez spoke to VH1 about the dreams they had that died with her. He said Quintanilla wanted five kids and a farm where she would raise horses. They were building a home on 10 acres of land so they could live out those dreams. “Basically, what I had to do was let go of a lot of those dreams,” he said. “But it wasn’t that hard because she’s not here. That’s the hard part … To be honest, I don’t want the land without her. I don’t want that house without her.”
Selena sells more than music
Selena Quintanilla began singing to fulfill her father Abraham Quintanilla’s dreams. But perhaps her biggest individual dream was to be a fashion designer. She was well on her way to fulfilling that when she died. She had two salons and boutiques opened in Texas called Selena Etc. Both are now closed.
But upon her death, we learned that her legacy reaches beyond her music, too. Of course, the 1997 biopic Selena launched Jennifer Lopez into a new level of stardom. But she’s also had dolls made in her image, and she has a wax statue at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Perhaps one of the biggest collaborations the Quintanilla family has participated in after her death to keep her legacy alive is with the cosmetics company, MAC. The first collection in 2016 sold out so quickly that a second one launched in 2020. “Clearly, this line is a celebration of Selena’s legacy. This is for her fans,” Suzette Quintanilla, Selena’s sister, told Allure. Suzette — who is now president of her family’s production company Q Productions — has also been at the helm of partnerships with Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters to create Selena merchandise. A version of the Quintanilla story also came to the small screen in 2020 when Selena: The Series debuted on Netflix.
Selena Quintanilla's killer has no remorse
This piece celebrates Selena Quintanilla, but sadly, her killer Yolanda Saldívar, will now always be part of her story. What we learned about Saldívar after Quintanilla’s death is that she has no remorse because she has always claimed she shot the singer by accident.
“I did not kill Selena,” Saldívar said on ABC’s 20/20 shortly after she was convicted of murder. “It was an accident, and my conscience is clear.” She claimed she threatened suicide, and when Quintanilla turned to shut the door to talk about it, the gun accidentally went off. She doesn’t do many interviews now, but in 2012 she participated in a Primer Impacto report about an alleged affair Quintanilla had with a doctor.
As recently as 2019, she filed a second writ of habeas corpus, meaning she thinks her trial was unlawful, San Antonio Current reported. She thinks that prosecutor Carlos Valdez withheld evidence like a baseball cap and shoes that would prove the shooting was an accident.
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