Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, most often referred to by just her first name, was born April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas. The Mexican-American started singing at the age of six, and by age nine was performing with the band her father created, Selena y Los Dinos. After the family went bankrupt and was evicted, they moved to Corpus Christi, where Selena continued to perform on street corners and at local events. At the age of twelve she recorded her first album, but it was never sold in stores, and her father bought all the original copies.
Selena’s father, having always believed his daughter would become famous as a singer, pulled her out of school in the eighth grade so she could continue to sing on the road. It would pay off, as the band would release several albums. The world first began to take notice in 1987, when Selena won the award for Best Female Vocalist at the Tejano Music Awards. She would win that award for the next seven years in a row.
In 1988, Selena met Chris Pérez, a musician who would later play with the band. Despite her father’s objections, Selena would begin dating Pérez and would marry him in 1992. During this time, she continued to develop worldwide fame and would win numerous awards. She would also open up several boutiques and start her own clothing line under Selena Etc.
In 1990 Yolanda Saldívar, the aunt of a childhood friend, volunteered to start a fan club for Selena. The Quintanilla family accepted her proposal, and Saldívar became president of the fan club and later become a paid employee as manager of Selena Etc. She quickly had difficulty working with many other employees, and it was soon discovered that she had been stealing money. The family confronted and reportedly fired Saldívar over the accusations in March of 1995.
Selena went to Days Inn in Corpus Christi on March 31 to pick up paperwork from her former employee. As Selena was leaving the room, Saldívar shot her in the back. Selena was chased into the lobby, where she collapsed and died while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. She was just a few weeks shy of her 24th birthday. Saldívar was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Selena.
Sixty thousand people attended Selena’s funeral. Two weeks later the governor of Texas, George W. Bush, named her birthday Selena Day in Texas. Selena’s album of both Spanish and English tracks was released that summer, and posthumously Selena became the first Hispanic singer to debut at number one on the Billboard charts. Her husband Chris Peréz and her brother A.B. Quintanilla now play with the Kumbia All Starz.
In 1997 Jennifer Lopez played the singer in the movie based on her life, Selena. Despite protests that Lopez, a Puerto Rican, was chosen over a Mexican singer or actress, the film was very successful and Lopez was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical.