It’s almost impossible to overstate Selena Quintanilla’s significance, both as an artist—she’s Tejano’s most successful recording artist—and as an icon for young women. The vocalist was born in Lake Jackson, TX, in 1971, and she started singing at around age 10 in the family band, Los Dinos, at her family’s restaurant. (Though raised speaking English, she learned to sing in Spanish and eventually became fluent.) She won the Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year at age 15 and landed a deal with Capitol Records soon after. For a young artist, such early success could spell disaster, but Selena was fiercely original and driven—and playful—and she had a vision. She toured relentlessly, releasing a string of albums produced by her brother A. B. Quintanilla that injected Tejano with other influences, including reggae, pop, and techno—a tacit acknowledgement of the family’s bicultural upbringing that many Latino and Hispanic people could relate to. She carved a space for herself in a traditionally macho genre, designed her own costumes, began a clothing line, and crafted a body of work that remains beloved and in rotation on Latin-pop stations to this day, including the innocent and lighthearted “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and the unforgettable “Como la Flor.” Selena’s life was cut tragically short at age 23, when her friend (and founder of her fan club) Yolanda Saldívar shot her. But her fame has only grown since her death: Thanks to a hit 1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez, her life story has crossed over into the American mainstream.
HOMETOWNLake Jackson, TX
BORNApril 16, 1971