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How Selena Quintanilla Empowers the New Wave of Latina Music Artists

By: Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Today, in honor of Selena Quintanilla, we unveil how her legacy continues to inspire and empower a new generation of Latina music stars, celebrating her enduring impact on the vibrant sounds of today.

On March 31, 1995, the world lost a rising star who, at the time, was breaking down barriers to musical fame for many Latinos who felt they had no place in mainstream music of the 1990s. Twenty-three-year-old Selena Quintanilla was in a unique position, bringing the traditional sounds of Mexico into modern contexts with a blend of jazz, R&B, and pop influences in her sound. Fresh off the first-ever Grammy win for a Tejano recording artist, her life was tragically cut short weeks before her April 16 birthday.

Well-remembered not just for her musical genius and generous heart, but also for her deep connection to her Mexican heritage, Selena’s legacy has inspired generations of women with these words:

“Our culture is very beautiful. It’s very romantic. Spanish is a very romantic language. It’s the language of love. I think it’s very sad if we forget where we come from. Because we are who we are. I think the color of our skin is beautiful. I think people should be proud of that.”

Selena Quintanilla, Latin Style Magazine

Many of our readers here at Brilla Latina have a special connection to her – myself included – as a woman who looked, sounded, and carried herself with an unapologetic energy that defied any mold. Nearly 30 years later, while we mourn her absence in Latinx culture, there are still moments when we see Selena everywhere – from art and fashion to TikTok and trending music. When listening to her music isn’t enough, here are some additional artists you can turn to in honor of the Queen of Tejano:

Jennifer Lopez

Of course, no Selena-inspired list would be complete without a mention of JLo. Having played the titular role of Selena in the 1997 biopic of her life, Lopez has often reflected on and paid homage to Quintanilla throughout her own career. “She is one of those very special types of artists that with her music, her spirit, her joy and her heart really touched people… I felt she had a sense to live in the moment, that you’re not promised tomorrow,” Lopez told reporters in an interview. “For me, that was the biggest lesson. That affected me in my life far more profoundly than the movie did in career terms.”

Their physical similarities as presented in the film aside, Lopez has a history similar to that of Quintanilla – a business owner, philanthropist, dancer, singer – and were born just two years apart. As Quintanilla rose to fame, so too did Lopez prepare to step out from her role as a backup dancer on In Living Color. In large part, Lopez’s portrayal of Quintanilla early in her career helped solidify who she is as an artist today.

Selena Gomez

By name alone, we already know that this Mexican-American Selena has been greatly inspired by Selena Quintanilla. The fellow Texas-born star has followed in her namesake’s footsteps in some very unique ways: “I grew up and I went to her grave,” Gomez told Teen Vogue. “I got to go to her house. It was really crazy. And then when I started working, I remember I got to meet her family and I just got super emotional because it’s so crazy to see how far everything… I don’t know where she’d be right now. It’s nuts.”

The singer, actress, and beauty brand mogul grew up connected to Quintanilla’s music not just by herself, but also alongside fellow Tex-Mex Disney child star turned music sensation Demi Lovato: “I was really young when she passed, so I didn’t know much about her until I got a little older,” Lovato told HuffPost, “and when I saw the movie there was just some sort of connection. There is something about the movie that was really inspiring to me.” Lovato has even channeled her inner-Selena for Halloween and suggested covering some of her songs.

Karol G

Currently, Karol G is having a HUGE moment in mainstream music – Latin Grammy winner, viral media sensation, certified queen of fashion – and it’s no secret that Selena Quintanilla plays an equally monumental role in Karol G’s career.

“I fell in love with Selena when I was 11 years old after watching her movie,” Karol G told ET. “[I loved that] she was always working with her father, because the same happened to me. My father was always with me, all the time. I started researching about her story, and todas las cosas que ella hizo [all the things she did]…

I want to be a legend like her, not a person that passes and people forget about. I think she is, she still has number ones on Billboard and she’s still being nominated for awards and it’s been over 20 years since her death. She’s a legend and that’s what I want. Entonces ella de verdad es mi mayor inspiración [she’s truly my biggest inspiration].”

Karol G, (2018, September), Karol G Explains How She’s Modeling Her Legacy After Music Idol Selena Quintanilla, ET Online

The “anything for Selenas” love runs strong for the Colombian singer, down to a tattooed remembrance of her inspiration.

Additionally, since we’re currently in the middle of Coachella season, in 2022 Karol G gave an April birthday shout-out to Selena Quintanilla with her own rendition of ‘Como La Flor’ saying,

“Tonight I feel so happy and so proud to represent my country and my Latina community around the world. Now I just want to have a moment in my show to honor the Latina songs that were number one in the world but were never played on this stage – but they have the opportunity here.”

Karol G, Coachella, 2022

And just last year, Karol G dedicated one of her songs – “Mi Ex Tiene Razón” – to Quintanilla, writing on Instagram: “This song is my baby… a musical style that I have followed and admired all my life and with a special dedication to an artist who made me believe that one day everything that happens to me today could be possible. Selena Quintanilla, I love you!”

As we approach three decades of missing, loving, and honoring Selena Quintanilla, it’s a comfort to know that regardless of our age, cultural background, or knowledge of Spanish, her beauty, grace, and talent live on in so many ways. Today, Selena, we’re thinking and dreaming of you.

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About the author: Wandy Felicita Ortiz

Cathy-Nuestro-Stories-Writer-Image-200x275

I am a trilingual writer and content analyst with a passion for creating and sharing engaging stories across platforms and audiences. I have over ten years of experience as a freelance digital media content creator and copyeditor, working with clients and outlets such as Fortune Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Penguin Random House, Reader's Digest, Button Poetry Publishing, and Grammy-nominated artist Mike Posner. I have also contributed to various online publications, including Fierce by Mítu, Huffington Post, Refinery29 and Yahoo, covering topics such as culture, education, entertainment, politics, science and socioeconomics.

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