Selena life and biography

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Selena biography

Date of birth : 1971-04-16
Date of death : 1995-03-31
Birthplace : Lake Jackson, Texas, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-09-13
Credited as : Pop singer, Song of the Year "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" 1995, Selena Forever musical

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Selena began performing with siblings as Selena y Los Dinos in late 1970s; recorded for small regional labels, 1980s; signed to EMI Latin label, 1989; released debut album Selena, 1989; released Selena Live, 1993; established retail and clothing marketing venture, Selena Inc., 1994; recorded first album primarily in English, Dreaming of You, 1995.

Selected: Tejano Music Awards for best female vocalist and performer of the year, 1987; Grammy award for Best Mexican American album, 1993, for Selena Live; Grammy nomination, 1995, for Amor prohibido; Tejano Music Awards, 1995, for Song of the Year ("Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"), best female entertainer, best female vocalist, album of the year (for Amor prohibido), tejano crossover song, and record of the year.

Early life


Born Selena Quintanilla on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, TX; Died on March 31, 1995, in Corpus Christi, TX; daughter of Abraham and Marcella Quintanilla; married guitarist Chris Pérez, 1992.

The violent death of beloved Tejano vocalist Selena on March 31, 1995, brought to an end more than just a promising musical career. Selena had become an icon in the Hispanic community, a beloved figure to whom Mexican-Americans attached their aspirations and their feelings about their cultural identities. Among them, her murder evoked an outpouring of grief comparable to that experienced by other Americans after the deaths of such major cultural figures as President John F. Kennedy.

Selena Quintanilla was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, near Houston, on April 16, 1971. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla, who worked in the shipping department of a chemical plant and later opened a restaurant, had fronted a moderately successful band called Los Dinos ("The Guys") as a young man. Selena was the youngest of three children. She grew up speaking English; although she understood her parents' Spanish, she had to learn Spanish songs phonetically when she first began to perform and record. Later she studied the language, and by the time she became a star she spoke it fluently.

Sang at Family Restaurant


Abraham Quintanilla spotted his daughter's musical talents when she was six years old and envisaged a show-business career for her, sometimes bringing her on stage to perform at the family restaurant. Economic hardship accelerated her career, however, for the recession of the early 1980s hit the Quintanillas (and Texans in general) especially hard. The restaurant closed, and at times Selena became a key family breadwinner. "We were literally doing it to put food on the table," she told Texas Monthly. Selena dropped out of school, but later earned a high school diploma through correspondence studies.

Those early performances around Houston often featured country music, but after the Quintanillas moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, Selena began to focus on the musical style known as tejano. Tejano music is a hybrid form whose musical diversity--encompassing traditional Mexican ballads, rock, R&B, polka, country, and even contemporary styles such as hip-hop and techno--reflected the diversity of influences present in modern Mexican-American culture. All of those styles were reflected in Selena's body of recorded work, which began with a series of albums recorded for a small independent label in Texas.

Los Dinos featured Selena's brother, Abraham, on bass; he also composed many of Selena's songs. Her sister, Suzette, played drums, and the band's lead guitarist was Chris Pérez, whom Selena married in 1992. The elder Abraham Quintanilla served as manager. Gradually Selena's audiences grew in size, and she began to appear in the large ballrooms that were the central venues of tejano and northern Mexican musical performances. In 1987 Selena, only 15 years old, won Female Vocalist of the Year and Performer of the Year honors at the annual Tejano Music Awards.

Signed to EMI Latin


Those awards propelled Selena to a major-label contract with the EMI-Latin imprint; her first album for EMI, entitled Selena, was released in 1989. Her contract was reported to be worth six figures, unprecedented in the cottage industry that tejano music had been up to that time. EMI's investment paid off handsomely, however, for by 1995 her recordings had sold an estimated three million copies. The 1993 album Selena Live received a Grammy award for best Mexican-American album, and the following year's Amor prohibido reached gold-record levels with sales of a reported 600,000 copies in the United States alone. Selena now performed to arena-sized crowds such as those at Houston's annual Livestock Show and Rodeo.

A sexy image was nothing new in the world of Latin female vocals, but Selena pushed the trend to new extremes. Sometimes she would elicit wild reactions from male fans by tossing undergarments into concert crowds. Some dubbed Selena the Latin Madonna (in reference to the raunch-inclined pop vocal star), but there was always a more wholesome side to her persona as well; she was noted for spearheading anti-drug efforts, and her demeanor in media appearances off stage was pleasant and idealistic.

Selena's music had enough variety to complement the subtleties of her image-making. Her 1992 album Baila esta Cumbia fused tejano with the Colombian dance genre of cumbia, which was popular all over the Spanish-speaking Western hemisphere, but she was equally at home with sentimental ballads, with exuberant traditional dance tunes, and with the self-composed 1994 novelty hit "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." Sometimes overlooked in discussions of Selena's personal charisma and of her way of connecting with fans was her purely musical creativity; she took tejano music into new stylistic realms. Among her last recordings was a duet with Talking Heads lead vocalist David Byrne, made for the film Blue in the Face--probably an unthinkable stretch for any other mainstream Latin artist of the day.

In 1995 Selena made film and television appearances and laid plans for the release of Dreaming of You. Partly recorded in English and released in EMI's main (rather than Latin) product line, the album was considered likely to spark a crossover to the U.S. pop mainstream that would equal or exceed any other achieved by a Hispanic performer. The singer opened a pair of eponymous clothing stores in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and a Selena-branded clothing line was also in the discussion stages. In charge of these new enterprises was the president of Selena's fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, whom Selena had hired as an executive the previous year. Saldivar's apartment was said to be a miniature Selena shrine, virtually covered with images of the singer.

Confronted Fan Club President


Both the fan club and the Selena boutiques were financially mismanaged from the start, however; fan club members complained of undelivered merchandise, and record-keeping for the growing retail enterprises was lax. Selena and her family uncovered evidence of various abuses, and Selena moved to ease Saldivar out of her position. When she went to confront Saldivar in a room in a Corpus Christi Days Inn motel on March 31, 1995, Saldivar shot her in the back with a .38-caliber handgun. The singer survived for several hours, but massive transfusions failed to save her life.

Saldivar claimed that the shooting had been accidental and that she had planned to kill herself, not Selena, but police discovered that when Selena and her husband had come on a similar mission the previous day, Saldivar had postponed the meeting on the pretense of having forgotten to bring the needed documents; she seemed to be waiting to meet Selena alone. According to Texas Monthly she described Selena as "the only friend I ever had." As she staggered out of the motel room and called for help, Selena named Saldivar as the shooter, and at the trial, motel employees told of an argument followed by a gunshot and Selena's screams. Saldivar was convicted and given a life sentence.

The mourners at Selena's Corpus Christi funeral numbered more than 30,000, and fans gathered for services in several other cities as well. In San Antonio alone two separate memorials were held. One of many manifestations of grief that appeared within the Hispanic community was a campaign to discredit the controversial talk-show host Howard Stern, who had joked about Selena's murder.

Selena became one of the many figures in American entertainment whose career loomed larger in death than it had while she was alive. Dreaming of You sold 175,000 copies on its first day of release, making its debut at number one on Billboard magazine's pop chart and eventually selling over 2,000,000 copies. The 1997 film Selena grossed an estimated $35 million domestically; directed by Gregory Nava, it also elevated Latina actress Jennifer Lopez to a new level of recognition. The year 2000 brought a touring musical about Selena's life, Selena Forever.

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