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Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez didn’t have much time for dating during her short yet impressive life, but she did fall hard for one man in particular.
The star — widely known simply as Selena — and her complicated relationship with Chris Pérez was explored in the 1997 biopic “Selena” and is further explored in Netflix’s new nine-part series “Selena: The Series.”
Selena (played by Christian Serratos) first lays eyes on the long-haired rocker Pérez (played by Jesse Posey) in episode six, and she is immediately smitten. Their love proves to be a complicated one when he joins the family band Selena y Los Dinos as a guitarist. Selena's overprotective father, Abraham Quintanilla, doesn’t exactly approve of his bad-boy image.
It wasn’t just an image. Pérez was arrested for driving under the influence in 1991, according to Pérez’s 2012 book “To Selena, With Love.” Soon after, he contributed to the trashing of a hotel room, which was depicted in the 1997 film.
The bad-boy image only drew Selena in and they began dating. They tried to keep it a secret from Selena’s dad, but, as the series depicts, no secret can remain hidden forever. Once Abraham figured out what was going on, he tried to separate the two, fearing that Pérez would be a bad influence on his daughter. Pérez even told CNN in 2012 that Abraham once referred to him as a "cancer to his family."
He even kicked Pérez out of the band. Still, the two couldn't be kept apart and they secretly eloped in 1992. Their marriage didn’t remain under wraps long: the media announced their nuptials hours later, according to Pérez’s book. The family did not fully accept Pérez into Selena’s family until 1993.
Their romance would prove tragically short-lived, however. Selena was gunned down in March of 1995 by Yolanda Saldívar at a Texas motel, just days before her 24th birthday, and as she was skyrocketing toward superstardom. Saldívar, the founder of Selena’s fan club who went on to work for the singer, was fired after Selena’s family accused her of embezzling money. A few weeks after her firing, Saldívar asked to meet with Selena and ended up shooting her in the back. She was convicted of Selena's murder in 1995 and remains in prison, though she'll be eligible for parole in five years.
Following his wife’s death, Pérez was stricken with grief. He wrote in his book that he was unable to eat for days, that he self-medicated with substances, and that he retreated into isolation.
He eventually remarried in 2001 to a woman named Venessa Villanueva. The couple had two children, Noah and Cassie, before they divorced in 2008, according to Pérez’s book.
Pérez continued making music and he formed a group called the Chris Perez Band, which won a Grammy Award in 2000 for best Latin rock/alternative performance. The band broke up later that year, and after a few other musical projects, he created the Chris Pérez Project by 2011, My San Antonio reported at the time. He joined Kumbia All Starz in 2006, a group founded by Selena’s older brother A.B. Quintanilla. The group became the Elektro Kumbia in 2016, though Pérez is no longer active in it.
Is Pérez still a bad boy? Well, he does still like life a little spicy. He launched his own hot sauce company — Pérez Pepper Sauce —last year. For those who watched the 1997 film, his character kept a bottle of hot sauce in a holster.
“They can’t make food hot enough for me,” he said in that movie. Pérez told Austin360 that it took him nearly 20 years to actually watch that movie because the subject matter remains difficult. As for the new series, he's not sure if he'll be able to watch that either.
“It’s a touchy thing for me, and I’m sure her family feels the same way,” he told the outlet. “There’s going to be some difficult moments, and not having seen the script, I don’t want to be caught off guard. I know for a fact that the story I know is inspiring, having been told by Selena herself.”
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