It’s been 23 years since the passing away of Mexican-American singer, songwriter and fashion designer Selena Quintanilla Perez. She is known as a fashion icon, the queen of Tejano and cumbia, and an influential artist who broke barriers, but she impacted the world so much more.
Like Selena, I grew up in Texas with a Mexican-American family and am a proud Tejana. To me, being Mexican-American is the best of two worlds. It is switching from speaking Spanish to English in the same sentence, watching American football one day and another watching soccer, enjoying Tex-Mex food, but another night, traditional Mexican food.
It’s all part of the Mexican-American Culture.
Selena is a true inspiration to Tejanas everywhere, including myself. I remember when I first watched the Selena movie. After I watched it once, I couldn’t stop.
One part that has always resonated with me the most is where Selena's dad tells her and her brother, “being Mexican-American is tough. Anglos jump all over you if you don't speak English perfectly; Mexicans jump all over you if you don't speak spanish perfectly. We gotta be twice as perfect as anybody else.”
The whole scene Selena’s dad explains how being Mexican-American is tough because you have to be Mexican enough for Mexicans and American enough for Americans. That is something that I was able to relate with at such a young age, and I thought to myself, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Selena broke barriers and became the idol for Tejanas to look up to and we still look up to her today. Selena and her siblings were a tejano band with a female lead singer.
She is the queen of Cumbia and Tejano.
Selena was able to dominate the Cumbia music industry -- which was very popular in Mexico — and dominate the Tejano music industry. Tejano music is a strong part of Mexican-American Texas culture. It’s a genre that is dominated in central and southern Texas.
Tejano music is dominated by males, but Selena changed that.
Selena brought Tejano music to Mexico and became the first female to really succeed in a male-dominated industry. A lot of people said a woman could never succeed in the Tejano industry, but she did.
She won so many awards at the Tejano music awards, including Album of the Year. Selena paved a way for Latin artists. She set a precedence that Latin artists could cross over from the United States to Latin American countries, and to Latin-American women artists that they could succeed in any industry they wanted.
Selena truly showed that the impossible was always possible.
Actress and businesswoman Eva Longoria is also a Tejana from Corpus Christi, Texas who was inspired by Selena. At Selena’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star reveal, she spoke about how Selena impacted her life.
Longoria stated, “She was the face I finally saw that looked like mine. She validated my existence and proved to the world that we existed, us Mexican-Americans. She straddled the hyphen of what it meant to be as American as apple pie and as Mexican as enchiladas.”
This is the exact feeling I felt when seven-year-old me saw the Selena movie on my bedroom television, and how I continued to feel as I grew up listening to her music, watching videos of her on Youtube, singing and dancing to her songs with my family.
Representation truly does matter in this world.
I am proud to be Mexican-American, Tejana, and of my heritage and my culture.
Selena is someone who has made an impact in my life where I have someone who comes from Texas and is Mexican-American I can look up to. She is a true inspiration to Mexican-American girls and women everywhere, and I hope to someday be as inspirational as she was.