Selena Quintanilla, the “Mexican-American music and entertainment icon, fashion trendsetter, passionate entrepreneur” and community philanthropist, who transcended cultural boundaries and achieved crossover stardom after death, is honored with an October 17 Google Doodle.
Perla Campos, Google Doodles Global Marketing Lead, wrote in the biography on Selena that accompanies the special video Google Doodle – which was a project two years in the making – that Quintanilla is “one of the people who taught me growing up that no matter who you are or where you come from, anything is possible.”
In life and after her death in 1995, Selena “became a beacon of inspiration and hope for the Latinx, immigrant, and bicultural communities around the globe. Her story of embracing and celebrating all parts of her cultural heritage and persevering in the face of adversity forged an emotional connection with millions,” wrote Google.
Google has created additional content to educate the public about the life and contributions of the Tejano music legend, including an online exhibit. You can see it here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Selena Quintanilla Joined a Family Band Together When She Was Nine
Selena was “born in Lake Jackson, Texas on April 16, 1971,” notes Google. “Selena’s talent shone from an early age. Strumming Nat King Cole’s ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’ on guitar, Selena’s Father listened to his daughter sing along, and immediately knew the bright future before her.”
The family soon formed its own band.
“With encouragement from their father, nine year old Selena and her older siblings A.B. (guitar) and Suzette (drums) formed the beginnings of the Tejano sensation Selena y Los Dinos,” wrote Google.
According to Biography.com, “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.”
It was this “duality” that would help make her the first Tejano superstar, according to Texas Monthly, which noted, “Her music validated the cultural duality of the majority of her fans, proving you could embrace the traditions of the land you came from while still being hip and modern.”
In a book he wrote on her life called To Selena, With Love, her husband, Chris Perez, wrote movingly about Selena’s charismatic and warm personality.
“With the journalists, Selena was as personable as ever, giving each media personality a warm hug and a big smile, winning them over before she ever had to say a word. As a third- generation Texan who had to learn Spanish phonetically, with her father coaching her on her accent, she knew that there was a chance that the Mexican fans might dismiss her,” he wrote.
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“Instead, they adored everything about her, from her dark hair and brown eyes to her curvy figure. The fans saw Selena’s sincerity and generosity, and felt her love for them. Selena appealed to everyone from excitable preteen girls who wanted to dress and dance like her, to abuelas who loved those heart- wrenching ballads like ‘Como La Flor.’”
2. Selena Was Known as the ‘Queen of Tejano Music’
Selena was an icon in the world of Tejano music, although she was on the cusp of national stardom with English-speaking pop songs too. As Texas Monthly explained, to “the five million Texans of Mexican descent,” Selena “was more than a celebrity. She was an icon. Her status as an entertainer who was a millionaire at age nineteen; her positive personality; her devotion to God, family, and home; and her willingness to talk to kids about staying in school and avoiding drugs made her a hero to brown-skinned people—especially Hispanic girls—who had precious few role models.”
According to Biography.com, Selena “was considered the ‘Queen of Tejano,’ a type of Mexican music that incorporated other styles, such as country. She was also sometimes referred to as the ‘Mexican Madonna’ for her sexy outfits and dance moves.”
This rare footage of Selena from 1994 captures her vibrant and genuine personality.
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“Born in Texas, Tejano music (or “Tex-Mex”) blends Mexican and American sub-genres like pop, polka, ranchera, and cumbia. Widely popular across the TX/Mexico border since the 1800s, Selena y Los Dinos’ infectious brand of Tejano music popularized the genre to audiences globally,” Google explained.
Selena had a string of hits, including “Dreaming of You,” “I Could Fall in Love,” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”
According to Time Magazine, “She spent many of her teenage years on the road and landed a contract with recording giant EMI in 1989. Her album Live earned her a Grammy for the Best Mexican-American Album category in 1994.”
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Biography.com notes, “Her 1990 album, Ven Conmigo, was the first Tejano record to achieve gold record status, meaning it sold more than 500,000 copies. In 1992, Selena took enough of a break from her hectic schedule to marry Chris Perez, the band’s lead guitarist, that April.”
3. Selena’s Sister, Suzette, Assisted in Making the Google Doodle, Which Took Two Years
According to Forbes Magazine, “the idea of a Selena doodle was first submitted two years ago.”
The Selena Google Doodle was a labor of love that involved Google coming together with Selena’s family.
The magazine quoted Perla Campos, Global Marketing Lead for Google Doodles, as explaining, “This is someone I looked up to my entire my life and I wanted to create something special.”
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The Selena doodle, noted Forbes, “is animated to the tune of the popular ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,’” which Campos told the magazine “embodies her power and how talented an artist she was.”
“Special thanks to the Quintanilla family who played an integral role in making every part of this project possible. Below, Suzette shares some thoughts about Selena and the Doodle,” wrote Google.
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Suzette’s statement, provided on the Google website, said:
My family and I are honored and extremely excited to have worked with Google on this Doodle and exhibit launch, not only as a way to celebrate Selena’s life and the dreams she achieved, but as a tribute to Selena’s fans around the globe. This project is just yet another testament to the power of Selena’s legacy, which is still going strong 22 years later. Selena has always transcended cultural boundaries and having this Doodle featuring a strong, Latina woman on the homepage of Google around the world is a perfect example that. We hope that everyone – both fans and people learning about Selena for the first time – enjoys this celebration and feels the positivity and hope Selena embodied and still continues to represent today.
Campos told Time Magazine that video seemed the best medium for the Google Doodle; many Google Doodles are simply an artistic drawing, although some of them also involve animation and even games. “For the people who don’t really know her, this was an opportunity to really tell her story,” she said to Time. “Pretty early on, we decided that video was the right way to go.
The Selena Google Doodle involved an entire production team: Art Lead – Kevin Laughlin; Art Support – Alyssa Winans, Olivia Huynh, Juliana Chen; Marketing, Partnerships, & Licensing Lead – Perla Campos; Engineering support – Jacob Howcroft; Music licensing support – Jennifer Rosen, Jay Komas, Joy Edgar; PR – Susan Cadrecha, Jesus Garcia-Valadez; Selena exhibit support – The Selena Museum; Translation support – Patricia Romero, Birgitte Rasine, Carina Jimenez, Mariella Sanchez-Vargas; Content licensing & Legal support – Madeline Belliveau, Ethan Bodenstein; Music support – Kevin Burke; and Amor Prohibido album photo – courtesy of Maurice Rinaldi.
4. Selena Was Murdered in 1995 by the Former President of Her Fan Club
Selena left the world way too soon, with so much more to give it. She was murdered in 1995 by Yolanda Saldivar, who had been the president of her fan club. She was shot to death by Saldivar in a Texas motel room at age 23, according to CNN.
According to Latina.com, it took Saldivar 22 years to reveal the motive behind the murder. She told Televisa, according to Latina.com, that “she killed her because she wanted to feign an assault to avoid going to jail and, above all, not have to pay her the almost 200 thousand dollars she had stolen during her administration of clothing stores and the Selena fan club.”
According to Texas Monthly, although devoted to Selena, there were signs that something was amiss before Saldivar turned murderous. “She was possessive and controlling…She was a loner who had lived with her mother until recently and had few friends. She had once been accused of embezzling funds from a previous employer, and she had defaulted on a student loan,” reported Texas Monthly, adding that Saldivar had turned her apartment into “like a shrine.”
Saldivar is incarcerated, but she can request parole in 2025, according to Latina.com.
Jennifer Lopez played Selena in a Hollywood movie on her life and death.
In spring 2017, 22 years after her death, Selena’s father spoke emotionally about her to KSAT-TV, saying, “In my mind she’s still alive. You get involved with doing things for her every day that sometimes I forget that she’s not here with us anymore. So, in a way, it’s hard to explain, but in my mind, she’s alive.”
If he could say something to her one more time, he told the television station, “I would just hug her. I wouldn’t let her go.”
5. Selena Quintanilla Was a Trailblazer
In a special report on the 20th anniversary of her death, CNN noted how unusual Selena was in the world of music at the time she lived. “When Selena was breaking concert attendance records at home and abroad, there weren’t a lot of crossover pop stars who looked like her in the United States.
There was Rita Moreno and Gloria Estefan and … well, that’s about it,” CNN noted.
The network added that Selena’s death turned her into the crossover sensation she was on her way to becoming anyway, as English-speaking fans learned about her music and life.
At the time she died, Selena’s “first English-language album was months from release. Her death made international headlines,” noted CNN.