Known as the “Queen of Tejano Music,” Selena was a beloved Latin recording artist who was killed by the president of her fan club. Although she was murdered very early in her career, she brought great exposure to Tejano, or Tex-Mex, music.

Selena Quintanilla-Perez was born on April 16, 1971, in Lake Jackson, Texas. Her parents were Abraham Jr. and Marcella Quintanilla. Her father had led a band in the 1950s and 1960s that played early rock and roll songs mixed with traditional Mexican music. This music, later called Tejano music, would become very popular throughout the southwest United States and Mexico. Abraham eventually gave up his music career to start a family. Selena was the youngest of the three Quintanilla children. She attended elementary school in Lake Jackson, a small town about fifty-five miles south of Houston, Texas.

Around the age of 10, Selena became the lead singer in her family’s band, Selena Y Los Dinos. The band featured her brother Abraham on bass guitar and her sister Suzette on the drums. They practiced almost every day. The musical group started out playing weddings and clubs in their native Texas. Her father, Abraham, managed and produced the group. Selena grew up speaking English, but her father taught her to sing in Spanish so she could resonate with the Latino community. She learned the lyrics phonetically at first, and eventually learned to speak Spanish fluently. Selena focused on her music but often missed classes and stopped going to school for good when she was in the eighth grade. To keep up with her schooling, she took courses through the American School in Chicago. She eventually earned her General Education Diploma (GED) in 1989.

Selena became very popular with Tejano music fans, and at the 1987 Tejano Music Awards, she won both “Best Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Performer of the Year.” Her 1990 album, Ven Conmigo, was the first Tejano record to achieve gold record status, meaning it sold more than 500,000 copies. The early 1990s included many bright spots in Selena’s music and personal life. On April 2, 1992, Selena married twenty-two-year-old Christopher Perez. He was the lead guitarist in her band. Together they shared in the success and in Selena’s growing popularity, particularly in Mexico. Her father was now writing more international-sounding songs for her. She won the Grammy Award (best Mexican-American album) in 1993 for her album Selena Live. In 1994, she and the band played numerous tour dates in New York, California, Puerto Rico, and Argentina.  Amor Prohibido was released that same year, and went gold.

Soon after Live’s release, Selena went to work on an English-language album that she hoped would put her on the top of the U.S. pop music charts. Unfortunately, she did not live to see its success. Selena died on March 31, 1995, in Corpus Christi, Texas, after being shot by Yolanda Saldivar, the founder of the Selena fan club. Saldivar had been managing Selena’s boutique in San Antonio, and was about to be fired for embezzling money. Selena’s murder sent shockwaves through the Latino community, and her fans around the world mourned the singer’s passing. Her last performance took place on February 26, 1995 at the Houston Astrodome in Texas in front of thousands of people.

Selena’s first English-language album, Dreaming of You, was released after her death and became a huge hit. Her music remains popular today. Since her untimely death, Selena’s life story has been the subject of a 1997 film, Selena, which stars Jennifer Lopez as the Tejano superstar and James Edward Olmos as her father.

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