Known as the queen of Tejano music and one of the first pop stars to popularize Latin American music, Selena was murdered by the president of her fan club in 1995. Despite her short life (she was only 23 when she died) and career, she left behind a strong impact of kindness and generosity.
Selena’s Rise to Fame
Other than her extraordinary talent, one of the many things that made Selena so popular and influential was that she had strong values young girls could relate to and aspire to. She first hit the music scene in 1981 as the lead singer of “Selena Y Los Dinos,” a band with her siblings A.B. and Suzette. Managed by their father, Abraham, the band was wholesome and promoted family values.
Despite being the star of a band at such a young age, Selena was humble and kind. Her laugh and kindness were infectious, leading to a devoted fan base of young Latina girls. This is important to note because young female pop singers are often considered to be divas and are rude to their fans. If anything, Selena was the anti-diva. Selena’s warmth and kindness have lingered since her death.
Despite being the star of a band at such a young age, Selena was humble and kind.
Her sister, Suzette, who runs the Selena Museum, says that you can feel her warmth in the museum. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, she said, "When you walk in through that door, you feel [Selena]. You get a sense of who she was as a person and as an artist. It feels personable, just like she was. When you walk in here, you can feel her in here."
Though Selena’s devotion to her fans helped make her a star, it also led to her downfall.
In 1991, Selena met Yolanda Saldivar, one of her biggest fans, who suggested that she should form a fan club in San Antonio, Texas. Yolanda became a close and trusted friend to Selena and her family and became president of her fan club.
In 1994, Selena opened two boutiques in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas. Due to the success of the fan club, Selena and her family asked Yolanda to manage the boutiques. As Selena’s fame grew, so did her workload and sales at the boutique. The more she relied on Yolanda, the more bizarre Yolanda’s behavior became. Martin Gomez, a designer for Selena, commented on Yolanda’s bizarre behavior in an interview with the Washington Post.
Gomez said, "She was very vindictive. She was very possessive of Selena. She'd get, like, very angry if you crossed her. She would play so many mind games, say people had said things they hadn't said. So many things would happen to the clothing I was working on. I knew that I had finished a certain piece, but I would come back from a trip to New York and the hems would be ripped out. It was very strange."
Yolanda Saldivar became a close and trusted friend to Selena and became president of her fan club.
When the rumors of Yolanda’s bizarre behavior became too much, Selena’s father launched an investigation. The investigation revealed that Yolanda was embezzling from the boutiques and fan club. Selena’s father confronted Yolanda in early March 1995, but Selena refused to believe that her biggest fan was capable of embezzlement.
On March 31, 1995, Selena went to Yolanda’s hotel room to find out if the rumors were true. Yolanda shot Selena in the right shoulder, and she died later that day. She was 23 years old.
Yolanda was charged with first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence in a women’s prison in Texas. She will be eligible for parole in 2025.
How Selena’s Legacy Lives On
Selena’s murder sent shockwaves through the Latin American community and music industry. Thousands of fans visited her vigil and continue to mourn and celebrate her to this day.
Selena’s death was very tough on her family, especially her sister Suzette, who has devoted her life to making sure her younger sister’s legacy lives on. Suzette manages the Selena Museum and also licenses Selena’s image. She’s behind the popular MAC X Selena collection, as she told Refinery 29, "When Selena passed away, one of the three things she was working on was her clothing line, a makeup line, and a perfume line. I promised myself that by the time I leave this world, I will accomplish what she started; what she held dear to her heart."
Suzette also helps organize tribute concerts for Selena and is a producer on Selena: The Series with her father.
Without Selena, there wouldn’t be Latin Pop icons like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Shakira.
Selena’s legacy is alive and well in the music industry. Without her, there wouldn’t be Latin Pop icons like Jennifer Lopez (who portrayed Selena in a 1997 biopic), Ricky Martin, and Shakira. One of the many reasons why Selena has had such a lasting legacy after such a short career is the kind of person she was. She was as kind and generous as she was talented, leading her to be the perfect role model for Latina girls for several decades. It’s a truly beautiful thing to see her legacy live on through so many after all of these years, but one of the best ways to honor her legacy is to live a life full of kindness like she did.
Though many pop singers come and go, very few have retained fame for a quarter-century after death. Selena’s legacy goes beyond her talent and into the beautiful person she was, proving that the best way to leave an impact on the world is to have strong values and be a good person. With the new Netflix series, a new generation of fans gets to experience Selena’s story and music, making sure her legacy will continue to live on for decades to come.
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