Culture & Literature



Twenty-five years after her death, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez remains one of the most influential and beloved Latin artists of all time. PEOPLE's new special edition celebrates her life and career, from her most memorable performances and stage looks, to the close bond she shared with her family. A new exclusive interview with her parents and siblings reveal how they are keeping Selena’s legacy alive. Plus: Today’s performers share what her influence meant to their lives and careers and how Jennifer Lopez captured her spirit, brought her to a new audience and launched her own career in the process. We also include an inside look at the 2020 series, “Selena,” coming from Netflix.

United States
Meredith Corporation
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4 min.
a song in her heart

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE the shocking and untimely death of Tejano singing star Selena Quintanilla. Vibrant, magnetic and fiercely talented, at 23, Selena was already revered in Hispanic communities across the nation and seemed on the cusp of far broader popular acclaim. Instead her brilliant flame was brutally snuffed out when it should have burned brightest. And yet Selena is very much with us, as if the luminously joyful spirit she displayed in life has outshone the dark and lurid circumstances of her death. Glance at a photo of the singer beaming in one of those signature flashy outfits—a spangled crop top, or a gold lamé jacket she designed herself—and her innate exuberance still jumps out and grabs you. The music lives on, of course, in that powerhouse voice,…

12 min.
“she really is timeless”

THE QUINTANILLA COMPOUND IS an L-shaped structure with beige walls and burgundy awnings on a commercial strip in Corpus Christi, Texas. It might be easy for a visitor to miss if not for the Selena Museum sign and the stream of cars coming in and out of its parking lot. The massive building also houses a recording studio, a soundstage and the headquarters of Q Productions, the company founded by Selena’s father, Abraham, in 1993, when the then 22-year-old singer was nearing the peak of her fame. Today the family business is devoted to keeping Selena’s memory alive, a calling that can be both gratifying and, at times, still painful. “I cherish the memories I have of her; I always carry her with me, on the daily,” says Suzette Quintanilla, 52,…

7 min.
born to sing

FROM THE TIME SELENA STARTED PERFORMING in public at just 9 years old, audiences loved her. “People would come and say, ‘We want to hear the little girl sing,’” her father, Abraham Quintanilla, said in 1995. Abraham launched his daughter’s career at Papagayo’s, the Mexican restaurant the family owned in Lake Jackson, Texas, a small town about 55 miles south of Houston that was originally built for workers at the Dow Chemical Company. At age 6, Selena, the youngest of three kids, peeked in as her father was teaching her brother Abraham III (called A.B.) to play the bass. “I was jealous,” Selena would later recall. “He was getting all the attention.” So she grabbed a music book and burst out singing. “She was this little girl with such a…

9 min.
selena: homegrown superstar

CHARGED WITH THE CHALLENGE OF DISCOVERING the next Gloria Estefan, then Latin music’s biggest breakthrough with English-language hits like “Conga,” EMI Latin head Jose Behar was certain he’d found his next crossover star as soon as he saw Selena perform at the Tejano Music Awards in 1989. “There was something magical about her,” he told Texas Monthly in 2010. “She was 17, and she already knew how to captivate a crowd.” He signed her and Los Dinos almost immediately, and the label released the album Selena that same year. But soon Behar realized something. “The world wants Selena; they don’t want Selena y Los Dinos,” he recalled thinking. “Selena knew she had to evolve. Her dad went nuts. But once we started making Selena the focus, things really took off.” With…

5 min.
gone too soon

IN EARLY 1995 SELENA STOOD on the verge of potentially enormous mainstream success. But before the release of her first English-language album, the vast majority of Americans had never heard the singer’s name, much less thrilled to her soaring soprano. Sadly many would learn about Selena only after March 31 that year, the day she was shot by a fan-club employee. Meanwhile the bullet that ended her life tore through the heart of the Texas Tejano community and left Latinos from coast to coast reeling with grief and shock. Nowhere was Selena’s death felt more deeply than in her hometown. She died on a Friday afternoon, when most kids were still in school, blithely awaiting the weekend. When news of the slaying broke, Danny Noyola, then principal of Corpus Christi’s West…

6 min.
the love of her life

It was an unbearable loss for a young man who was virtually still a newlywed. Selena died two days before what would have been her third anniversary with husband Chris Perez, a guitarist in her band. Now 50 and a divorced dad of two kids (he remarried in 2001), Perez is a San Antonio-based musician. (He’s also become a condiment entrepreneur with the 2019 launch of his Perez Pepper sauce.) His self-named band, whose album Resurrection won a 2000 Grammy, has plans to release new music this year, in honor of the anniversary of his wife’s death. Soon after the tragedy, Perez, just 25 at the time, spoke with People correspondent Betty Cortina. These were his words then. I remember I used to tell Selena, “When I get old, in my…