Latin America & Caribbean

Selena Quintanilla: The tragic Latin pop icon who still inspires

Selena Quintanilla performs during a concert in Corpus Christi, Texas in November 1994 Image copyright AP
Image caption Selena Quintanilla, pictured in 1994, is an icon to millions of Latin music fans

On 31 March 1995, at the age of 23, rising Latina superstar Selena Quintanilla-Perez was shot dead by the manager of her fan club at a motel in Corpus Christi, Texas.

A full 21 years later, on 1 October 2016, women who were not even born in her lifetime were left distraught when a MAC make-up line released in her name sold out completely within 24 hours of its launch.

MAC is a cult brand, and it is not uncommon for well-hyped celebrity make-up ranges to sell out online within a day - but for that to happen when the pop icon has been dead for two decades is a striking testimony to her legacy.

Image copyright MAC
Image caption On its website, MAC said it was working to restock the sold-out make-up collection
Image copyright Gabe Hernandez
Image caption The MAC Selena make-up collection comes in purple packaging with her signature on it

Those unfamiliar with Tejano (Mexican-American) music may never have heard of Selena, who was just hitting the US mainstream when she was murdered.

But for many Latina women, she is an inspiration - the first Tejano singer to debut at the top of the Billboard chart when her posthumous crossover album, Dreaming of You, was released in 1996.

Grammy winner

In 1990, her second album, Ven Conmigo ("Come With Me"), was the first Tejano record to achieve gold status, meaning it sold more than 500,000 copies. And in 1993, the album Live! won her a Grammy Award for Best Mexican/American Album.

Her story was brought to life in the 1997 film Selena, which gave Jennifer Lopez her break-out acting role.

It depicts the flamboyant singer's rise from 10-year-old star of her family's band, Selena y Los Dinos, and how she learned Spanish to connect with the Latino community. Though her father was not keen to include the scene where 20-year-old Selena eloped with her lead guitarist Chris Perez and married him the same day, he was talked into keeping it to reflect their love story honestly.

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Media captionWitness: The day my pop star wife was murdered

While the film focuses on her life, it includes how she was lured to a motel and shot dead by Yolanda Saldivar, the former president of her fan club, when the Quintanilla family found evidence Saldivar had embezzled $60,000 from Selena's fan club and boutiques.

The film became the 11th highest-grossing musical biopic of all time, taking $35,281,794, enabling Jennifer Lopez to become the new highest-paid Latina actress, netting a million dollars.

Determined to do the role justice, Lopez moved in with the Quintanilla family to understand Selena's life better. A stadium scene depicting Selena's final concert featured an astonishing 35,000 extras - many of whom were fans.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Before going online, the MAC collection was launched in Selena's home town of Corpus Christi, Texas

As of 2012, Selena had sold over 60 million albums worldwide. Her ongoing relevance was underlined in July, when the Hollywood Hall of Fame confirmed she would get her own star in 2017.

Eva Longoria, the Latina actress who became a household name with the TV show Desperate Housewives, was nominated at the same time. Writing on Instagram, she said she was especially overjoyed to share the honour with Selena.

"The same year I receive my star, so does my idol, my inspiration, my fellow Tejana, my fellow Corpus Christi native, Selena Quintanilla. She was the reason I even dared to dream that a better life was possible," Eva wrote.

"She blazed the way for all of us and I will be forever grateful to her for not only that but for the pure joy I felt when I got to see her perform."

Image copyright Eva Longoria/Instagram
Image caption Actress Eva Longoria said she was "forever grateful" for Selena's example

Selena's family helped create the MAC line in her name. Her sister Suzette Arriaga said: "I wanted the colours to be about her personality, what she wore on and off-stage. She has been gone for 21 years already, and for this collaboration to happen, it's pretty much incredible. It just shows the love her fan base has even though she's passed. It's a great honour to have MAC collaborate with Selena's name and her fans."

At the Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2015, Jennifer Lopez took to the stage for the most talked-about moment of the night: A medley of Selena Quintanilla's best-loved hits, including "Como la Flor," "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," "No Me Queda Mas," and "I Could Fall in Love".

'She moved the world in a different way'

The MAC Selena collection includes lipsticks, lip gloss, eye shadows, mascara, liquid eyeliner, and a powder and blush combination. The products are named after her biggest hits - including a lip gloss called 'Bidi Bidi Bom Bom' and a lipstick, 'Dreaming of You'. But for those she inspired, the influence of the "Mexican Madonna" goes far beyond what they put on their faces.

Jennifer Lopez summed up her enduring appeal in an interview with Billboard Magazine, saying she was "special" and "moved the world in a different way".

"That's why we're still talking about her 20 years later," she added. "People like that don't come along every day. There is never going to be another Selena."

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