April 16 is Selena Day, a holiday to honor singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who rose to fame in the 1990s as the “queen of Tejano music,” and was tragically killed at just 23 years old by the former president of her fan club. April 16 is Selena’s birthday and has been celebrated by fans as an unofficial holiday, though a Dallas state lawmaker is trying to turn Selena Day into an official Texas Recognition Day (similar to a state holiday).
In 2019, Texas Representative Ana-Maria Ramos introduced legislation to honor Selena Day, saying, “Selena represents an important figure to Texans and to Mexican-Americans all over the country. She crossed musical, cultural and linguistic barriers in a way that appealed to people here in Texas and globally.” Ramos also reflected on the impact Selena had on popular culture and on the Latinx population, saying, “It was the first time little Latina girls, including my daughter, got to see someone who looked like them. Her story represents the experience of balancing both worlds, the American culture of the United States and the Latin culture of her roots, with grace and talent. I’m proud to carry this bill that recognizes an icon of Texas culture and history.”
Now, in 2021, Ramos is once again trying to get this bill honoring Selena passed. She said of the new effort, “Selena Quintanilla Peréz Day may be regularly observed by appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Back in 1995, just after her untimely death, then-Governor of Texas George W. Bushed declared her birthday Selena Day in Texas.
Selena was a trailblazer and a powerhouse, selling over 65 million records and serving up seven number-one hits on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart, according to Hip Latina. A posthumous tribute album, Enamorada de Ti, featuring artists updating Selena’s music to fit modern musical styles, was released in 2012 and features Selena Gomez, who was named after Selena, singing “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”
Her legacy has lived on, with celebrations of her life happening annually on Selena Day. Back in 2018, the Hard Rock Cafe hosted a contest during National Hispanic Heritage Month to crown one person the ultimate Selena fan. The winner, Carmen Valencia, sang and danced as Selena, and told channel KHOU-11, “I love Selena. I’m a fan. I’m a true fan and, as a true fan, we have to keep it going, keep the legacy going.”
Fiesta de la Flor was an annual music festival organized by her family via Q Productions in her hometown, Corpus Christi, that began in 2015, but was canceled in 2020. The festival drew 55,000 people in 2016, with people attending from as far away as Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru. The 2019 Fiesta de la Flor was headlined by Dominican singer and Latin Grammy winner Leslie Grace, who said of the honor, “Headlining Fiesta de la Flor will be such a full circle moment for me because, in a way, I’ll be able to officially say thank you [to Selena] for showing me, and so many like me, that our dreams are valid and worth fighting for by simply being who we are.”
While there won’t be a similar festival this year to honor Selena Day, there is a Selena Museum in Corpus Christi, also run by her family, for fans who want to know more about this popular singer whose life was cut short. The town also has a brown statue of Selena up. Another way to honor Selena is to donate to The Selena Foundation, established by her family after her death, whose mission statement is, “To offer the motivation that every child needs to complete their education, to live moral lives, to love their families, to respect human life and to sing whatever song they were born to sing. ” For those who want to see a fictionalized version of her life, there’s the 1997 movie Selena starring Jennifer Lopez as the iconic singer. Lopez watched extensive footage of Selena’s performances and spent time with her family in Corpus Christi to best play the role. “I slept in her bed at home. I talked to the whole family. I spent time with them. It can be melancholy and beautiful at the same time,” Lopez said in an interview with Apple Music’s Beats 1 radio show.
Netflix launched season 1 of Selena: The Series in 2020, exploring her start as an eight-year-old forming a band with her siblings through her signing with a record label, rise to worldwide fame and romantic relationships. Selena is played by actress Christian Serratos, known for her role as Rosita Espinosa on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Of the role embodying such a powerhouse singer, Serratos told Elle, “I’m so overjoyed that the people who love her so much are now going to get this entire new person to fall in love with, because there’s so much of her that we don’t know.” Asked about her favorite performance of Selena’s, Serratos said, “When she performed ‘Que Creias’ at a baseball game—it was just so badass. She has so much confidence. She loves her fans and you can tell in how she plays with them and has a great time with them. I wanted to mimic that. She was such a strong and powerful woman.”
In addition to her the legacy of her own releases, Selena has also influenced many other musical superstars. According to E! News, Selena had an impact of artists ranging from Lady Gaga to Beyoncé, who told People en Español, “I grew up in Texas and one of my good friends from there is Mexican and she was so excited when she heard that I was doing songs in Spanish. She turned me on to Selena’s album when I was growing up and I listened to it all the time.” In the world of makeup, Selena continues to inspire, with official MAC collaborations inspired by the star released in 2016 and 2020. Of her sister’s lipstick preferences, Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga told E! News, “What I feel Selena—the artist performing—would’ve chosen from the line is the Retro Matte Lipsticks, the deeper red. But if you’re asking me, as Selena, my sister, what she would’ve liked, it would definitely be the lighter tones. If you look at her older pictures, where she’s got her hair pulled back, she’s got the lighter, normal, everyday makeup on. That was her everyday look.”
During the 2021 Grammy Awards, Selena was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, but some fans were disappointed that the tribute to her wasn’t more elaborate. Her sister, Suzette Quintanilla, thanked the Recording Academy on Instagram, but noted her frustration as well, writing, “I also feel they should’ve shown more love and acknowledgment to Selena and to all the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. But I will not allow that to over shadow what this award represents!” Selena won one Grammy while she was alive, for Best Mexican or Mexican-American album for Live! Selena would have turned 50 this year. Though her life ended tragically, her music, message and example live on.