Selena Quintanilla's death remains one of the most discussed tragedies in the music industry – on par with deaths of John Lennon and Elvis — but she's better remembered for her massive accomplishments. Selena's array of unforgettable outfits earned her the title "Mexican Madonna," and she paved a path for future generations of biracial artists like Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lopez, the last of which played the late Quintanilla in a 1997 biopic.
It's undeniable that Selena Quintanilla is one of the most inspiring artists on the planet. The Texas-born singer quickly rose to fame in the male-dominated Tejano music scene, and was soon dubbed the "Queen of Tejano" after she began selling out arenas. With her family by her side, the late singer broke boundaries in the early '90s as the first Latin artist to have a record debut at number one the Billboard 200 chart.
Before Selena's shocking murder at the hands of Yolanda Saldívar — her number one fan and fan club president — the singer left a massive mark on both the Latin American community and the world at large. The shining star of Tejano still burns brightly in the hearts and minds of her fans.
Selena's Killer Was The President Of Her Fan Club
At 23 years old, Selena seemingly had it all. However, her fairytale would quickly come to a tragic end, one that the world would never fully recover from.
On March 31, 1995, the singer was set to record at Q-Productions — her family's studio — only Selena never showed up. The superstar had been murdered by her biggest fan: Yolanda Saldívar, founder and president of Selena's San Antonio fan club.
Saldívar had been caught embezzling money from Selena's clothing boutique, "Selena Etc." and had recently been fired. Following her dismissal, Selena asked her to turn over some of the boutique's financial documents. The pair agreed to meet at a Days Inn parking lot in Corpus Christi, but Saldívar refused to hand over the financial information.
Instead, she shot Selena with .38 caliber revolver, launching a nine-hour standoff with police, where she held a gun to her head while sitting inside of her pickup truck. Saldívar was later apprehended and convicted.
Saldívar Was Trying To Cover Up The $200,000 She Stole From Selena
The Queen of Tejano lost her life over 20 years ago, but her killer only recently admitted to the crime. According to Televisa (via The Latin Times), Yolanda Saldívar confessed to killing the singer after trying to pass off her crimes of embezzlement as armed robbery.
Saldívar was trying to avoid serving jail time for stealing $200,000 from Selena's boutique, and "felt used by the singer" which is what "set her off." Yolanda admitted that everything spiraled out of control during the encounter, and instead of framing a robbery like she originally planned, she tried to make it look like an assault instead. Yolanda even had a self-inflicted gun wound to corroborate her fake story.
Selena Cut Her Teeth Playing Her Father's Restaurant With The Family Band
Selena's father, floored by the young singer's immense talent, formed a family band to support her musical endeavors. He enlisted her older brother A.B. to play bass, and her sister Suzette to play drums. They were called Selena Y Los Dinos (or Selena and the Boys). The band were featured performers at her father's restaurant Papagallos and eventually ventured out to play birthday parties and family functions.
After Her Father's Restaurant Went Bankrupt, Selena Sang To Put Food On The Table
When Selena was nine years old, her father's restaurant went bankrupt as the Texas oil industry collapsed. The family was forced to move from Lake Jackson, Texas back to Corpus Christi. Without a business tying him down, Abraham Quintanilla became his daughter's manager. This is when the family band first hit the road and started playing at weddings, festivals, and cantinas. Selena had yet to hit puberty, but her voice was already taking her around the country.
Though the band loved to travel (and even gained a few members on the way, including Selena's future husband), their lifestyle was hardly glamorous. Selena had to sing out of necessity as the family struggled to put food in their mouths and gas in the tank of the tour bus. In an interview, the singer later admitted:
The only way for us to put bread on the table was to try to do music professionally, and make a living off of it.
- Video: YouTube
Selena Started Singing At Age Six
Selena started making music at a young age. When she was just six years old, her father, Abraham Quintanilla, heard her singing "I'm in the Mood for Love" by Nat King Cole, and instantly knew she was destined for fame. She had perfect pitch and timing, gifts that seemed to come naturally to her.
Selena's father had a musical background, having played in a band throughout the late '50s and early '60s. He left the group when he got married and took a job at Dow Chemical, but when he realized that Selena could sing, he knew it was the perfect opportunity to get back into the business. Abraham told The Houston Chronicle:
I always wanted to go back into the music business, but I felt like I was already getting too old, and my kids were growing up. When I found out Selena could sing, that’s when the wheels started turning in my mind. I saw the chance to get back in the music world through my kids.
What he didn't realize was that a future bankruptcy would actually give him the freedom to pursue his family's musical dreams.
Selena's First Recorded Album Wasn't Sold In Stores
Selena said in an interview that she recorded her first album right before she hit the road when she was just eight years old. Though there's no album professionally released by Selena Y Los Dinos that year, it is possible that she recorded a bunch of demos to help book gigs, or that she started work on what would later evolve into her debut album.
Nevertheless, many people credit the 1984 album Selena Y Los Dinos (which was re-released as Mi Primeras Grabaciones in 1995) as the band's debut. The first single "Se Acabó Aquel Amor," was released by a small South Texas label ahead of the album in 1983. At the time of the single's release, Selena was just 12 years old. Though the full 10-track CD wasn't sold in stores, her father used it as part of his pitch to music executives at their shows.