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Tejano Singer Selena Quintanilla's Legacy Endures Through Her Music and Fashion
Before her death at the hands of her former fan club president, Selena planned to expand her empire.
In one of Selena Quintanilla's final interviews, she took cameras on a walk through of the Corpus Christi space that would soon be transformed into her dance studio, sewing room, boutique, spa, and more.
"It's taking shape," she told KHOU 11 in 1994. "Right here, they're going to make a recording studio, so we don't have to go out of town to record."
The renovation took place as Selena's career was growing. Only 23, she had just won her first-ever Grammy award and her fourth studio album, Amor Prohibido, would later debut at the top of Billboard's Latin Albums chart. And this was only the beginning for Selena, who was in the middle of recording her first English-language album. Music industry executives had high hopes for the Tejano musician, believing she would make it big as a solo pop star.
"She would have been up there with the Janets and the Madonnas,” EMI Latin President Jose Behar told the Los Angeles Times in 1995.
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But no one could've predicted what came next. Instead of celebrating the release of Selena's English-language album that summer, fans mourned the pop star's death at the hands of her former fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar, who shares her perspective in the upcoming Oxygen documentary Selena and Yolanda: The Secrets Between Them — premiering with back-to-back episodes Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and concludes Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Episodes will be available to stream on Peacock the day after they air.
Selena Quintanilla's Songs
The pop star's career in music started early on, when she was a mere kid performing alongside her siblings, A.B. and Suzette, at rodeos and restaurants across Texas under the name of Selena y Los Dinos. "We played a lot of weddings and anniversary parties. We played at my father’s restaurant. We played dinner clubs. We did a lot of talent shows just to win money. We went through a lot," she told Latin Style Magazine, via SelenaForever.com, in 1995.
At first, the siblings played covers of other famous hits before writing their own music, finding success with songs "Baila Esta Cumbia" and more. Their third studio album Entre a mi Mundo brought further acclaim, with critics and fans loving "Como la Flor" and "La Carcacha."
But it was her fourth studio album Selena Live!, recorded at the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi in February 1993, that took Selena all the way to the 36th Annual Grammy Awards. Nominated for Best Mexican/American Album, Live! beat out the likes of established artists Los Tigres del Norte and Vicente Fernandez.
Selena accepted the award in a stunning white halter-neck gown, her hair piled atop her head in a chic updo.
"I remember thinking, 'Selena, if you fall, you're going to be so embarrassed. Don't fall.' It had this fish tail on the back of it and I was trying to be all cool walking up there," she shared in an interview, via Youtube. "But it was great. Thinking back now, it's an experience I will never forget."
Her following album, Amor Prohibido, released in March 1994, featured the singles "Amor Prohibido" and "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." The two songs remain some of her biggest hits, alongside "Como La Flor" and "Si Una Vez."
Selena's English-Language Album, Dreaming of You
At the time of her death, Selena was planning the upcoming release of her untitled English-language album, produced by her brother Abraham "A.B." Quintanilla III, as well as acclaimed musicians Rhett Lawrence and Keith Thomas.
The album was far from finished when Selena died on March 31, 1995, but her family and label resolved to share with the world the four English songs she had completed, alongside a mix of new and popular hits. The result was Dreaming of You, a 13-track album released in July 1995.
"We created a retrospective that will allow people who are buying a Selena record for the first time, because of the English-language songs, to hear the hits that got her where she was,” EMI President Behar said to the L.A. Times.
But the album's release was bittersweet. Selena's husband and guitarist, Chris Perez, told the newspaper that he was overjoyed to see his late wife's dream come to fruition, but added, "at the same time, she’s not here to see it and enjoy it, so it’s not the same.”
Selena's Fashion Boutiques
While her music career was a family endeavor, Selena's costumes and wardrobe were her creations alone. The pop star would step out onto the stage in jackets before shedding her outer layers to reveal her now-iconic bustiers and other stunning ensembles.
"She had a sketchbook that she was always sketching in when we were on the road. A lot of the outfits she wore onstage were her own design," said her sister, Suzette Quintanilla, in a 2010 interview with Texas Monthly. "Remember the white outfit she wore at the 1994 Astrodome show? She beaded the boots before we got to Houston, but she was still sewing beads onto the bustier backstage right before the show started."
Fans loved the flashy looks, which took inspiration from Madonna and other stars, but her father, Abraham, reportedly did not view fashion as Selena's top priority.
"From Abraham’s perspective, she was a singer and a performer first; designing clothes was her hobby. I don’t know if he realized how invested she truly was in being a designer, but it wasn’t a hobby. Having her own fashion line was her dream," Martin Gomez, a Selena, Etc. Designer explained to Texas Monthly.
Together, she and Gomez worked to open two Selena, Etc. Boutiques, the first located in San Antonio and a second in Corpus Christi, Texas, where fans could buy merch and clothing, or be pampered at the salons on-site. "They’re not big businesses but they’re functioning very well," she shared with Latin Style Magazine.
She gave KHOU a look at the styles being sold in her shops, highlighting a red leather jacket with gold studs. The fashions were similar to ones she wore onstage, though Selena told the reporter that normally she's dressed in sweats and a sweatshirt, "just like anybody else."
"This is more for show," she said, pointing to the flashy jacket.
In the months leading up to her death, Selena was working on opening a third boutique in Monterrey, Mexico, telling the outlet, "I hope to see Selena clothing all over Mexico, and here in the States."
Shortly after she died, the San Antonio location was shut down. The Corpus Christi storefront was eventually closed in 2009, with Abraham citing the economic downturn, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Fans continue to emulate the singer's iconic fashion, with Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato, and other stars wearing their own versions of the purple jumpsuit Selena sported for her performance at the Houston Astrodome Livestock Show & Rodeo in February 1995 — her final televised performance.
To learn more about Selena's final moments and her relationship with Yolanda, tune in to Selena and Yolanda: The Secrets Between Them when it premieres with back-to-back episodes Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and concludes Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Episodes will be available to stream on Peacock the day after they air.