11 Reasons Why: What Makes Selena Special For Us Latinos
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez will always be an important personality in Latino culture in the United States. Her music and the tragic circumstances of her death made her a pop culture phenomenon that escaped the niche Hispanic market. After her death, Hollywood studios furiously vied for the rights to adapt her incredible rags-to-riches story to the big screen. Selena is a fundamental Latino icon even 23 years after her death in 1995, at the tender age of 23.
Next time someone asks you at a party why you tear up listening to the late great Selena, lecture them with these facts:
1. She brought Tejano music to mainstream America… and showed girls can do anything
“Tejano music was hard for us because I was a girl. My dad had a lot of problems while trying to set up shows for us or presentations because there are a lot of men who don’t think that women can get the attention of the public. But . . . wrong!”
Before Selena Mexican-American music was considered an eccentricity and was definitely not played in non-Hispanic clubs and radio stations. Selena changed all that during her life and after her untimely death.
We are sure “Amor prohibido” is played at Latino and non-Latino weddings alike!
2. She valued family
“We went through a hard time, and we had to turn to music as a means to putting food on the table. And we’ve been doing it ever since. No regrets either.”
Familia is important for us Latinos and Selena never forgot her origins and the role that her family had in her success. This is a rare trait and certainly something that most mainstream celebrities lack.
She started her career as part of the Quintanilla family group Selena y Los Dinos, where her two older siblings also made pompas shake.
3. She was proud of her heritage
“I feel very proud to be Mexican. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Spanish when I was a girl, but . . . it’s never too late to get in touch with your roots.”
Many singers and actors of Latino origin change their names for a more English-sounding or a more neutral one. But not our Selena. She didn’t look for a fancy name and good on her: Selena is such a powerful, defining name that shines on any billboard.
Singing in Spanish is a daring act in itself if you want to break into the mainstream, and she was unapologetic.
4. Because real women have curves
“I’m very real, very sincere, and honest, and that’s how I’ll always be”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, but it is also defined by mass media. Which is unhealthy: there are hundreds of healthy body types and not all women are skinny like teenage models. Selena was proud of her curves. Eso mija, eres una fregona.
She was the precursor of proud curvy Latinas today, reinas like America Ferrara and Gina Rodriguez.
5. She had a unique style
“Always believe that the impossible is always possible”
It is hard for a Latino girl to reaffirm her identity. Selena did so with aplomb. Her wardrobe choices were interesting and daring in equal measure, which is probably one of the reasons of her success as a pop culture brand.
She was criticized by more conservative audiences for “revealing too much”. We say al carajo con sus juicios.
6. Because she showed that Latinas can be kickass celeb sponsors
“What I don’t like are arrogant people. We’re all equal. I don’t like it when a person assumes to be better”
Her posthumous campaign with cosmetics giant MAC demonstrated that Latino women in particular and women of color in general could and should carry campaigns. She was beautiful and the world needed to see that.
She also did work with Coca-Cola, one of the epitomes of American culture worldwide.
7. She was active in her community
“All I need to do is try and do the best that I can do”
As a minority, solidarity is key for the Latino community in the United States, particularly today. Selena embodied community values and never forgot her fellow Mexican-Americans. Certainly an example we should all follow.
She grew up in Texas, where migratory patterns and backwards thinking about race make various segments of the Hispanic population feel vulnerable. Power to the people!
8. Because even George W. Bush recognized her legacy and A-listers loved her (not that a proud Latina needs validation, but this proves she was a positive ambassador for multiculturalism)
“You shouldn’t care for somebody just because of the materialistic things that they have, and I’m a firm believer in that”
Before he was president G.W.B was governor of Texas. He declared Selena’s birthday National Selena Day, a day in which Latino identity and cultural legacy is celebrated.
She was bigger than Tejano music itself, and her death was a day for mourning all throughout her home state. In the picture we can see the Texan queen with legendary actor Marlon Brando.
9. Because she gave us another Latina star: J-Lo
Selena keeps giving even beyond the grave. In 1997 Warner Bros. released a much-hyped biopic in which the boricua diva Jennifer Lopez shined and became a star in her own right. The circumstances are sad but fate gave us two proud Latina queens.
And yes, we will never have enough Latina stars will we? Donde cabe una caben mil.
10. She urged children to stay en la escuela (don’t drop out, escuincles!)
“Music is not a very stable business. You know it comes and it goes, and so does money. But your education stays with you for the rest of your life”
Selena knew how important education is for minorities in the United States, and that hard work and academic development are the only way for the community to strive. She constantly visited schools and urged young chamacos not to drop out. Respect.
11. Because she was an independent self made woman
“If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away”
She was young but life taught her that all you have is yourself!
We can’t believe she was just 23 when she died. Truly wise beyond her years. She even eloped with hubby Chris Perez as a sign of independence.
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