Selena Biography

Described as the "Tex-Mex Madonna," the Tejano singing sensation became an icon in the Hispanic community paving the way for future Latina stars like Jennifer Lopez who would play her in a 1997 biopic. Born Selena Quintanilla (some sources cite as Quintanilla-Perez) in Lake Jackson, Texas, on April 16, 1971, the future star's major influence was her father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. A member of the doo-wop group Los Dinos ("the boys") when he was a teen, Quintanilla quit the band in 1969 to devote his energies to his three children-Suzette, Abraham ("AB"), and Selena. Recognizing his children, especially Selena, possessed musical talent, Quintanilla organized them into a garage band with "AB" on bass, Suzette on drums, and six-year-old Selena fronting the band as singer. By 8, Selena was already winning area talent shows and performing with her siblings at birthdays, weddings, and parties. In 1980, Quintanilla opened a family Tex- Mex restaurant in Lake Jackson, Papa Gayo, as a venue where his children could perform. The business failed in early 1981, but not before the family band, Selena y Los Dinos, became wellknown in South Texas and generated interest among record labels in Corpus Christi where the family settled. For the next several years, Quintanilla kept the band (now with additional members) on the road performing Tejano music (a lively blend of Texas and Mexican rhythms) in the area all the while releasing albums on regional labels. Though forced to drop out of school in the eighth grade to maintain the grueling schedule, Selena earned her high school equivalency degree through correspondence courses. In 1986, the 15-year-old performer scored two regional hits with the songs "Dame Un Beso" and "A Million to One." Bolstered by regional radio play and a nonstop touring schedule, Selena won the best female vocalist and performer of the year at the Tejano Music Awards in 1997. Although unable to speak Spanish, Selena learned the lyrics phonetically to the songs principally written by her brother, AB. In 1989, her cover of "La Bamba" again led to recognition at the Tejano Music Awards and she was honored as female entertainer and vocalist of the year. In 1990, Selena signed with Capitol EMI Latin Records and released her debut album, Ven Commigo, again with songs mainly written by AB. The album and Selena's memorable stage shows in which the sexy, but wholesome, soprano wore jeweled bustiers, skin - tight leather pants and a bare midriff made her a sensation in the Latino community. Her 1994 album, Amor Prohibido, showcased various musi - cal styles (reggae, mariachi bolero) and spawned three hit singles ("Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," "No Me Queda Mas," "Techno Cumbria"). The Grammy nominated album sold 600,000 units in the United States, and the hit, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," won song of the year at the Tejano Music Awards in 1995. Remarkably, at the same show Selena won 5 of the 15 awards presented. Her Selena Live album released in 1994 sold two million records and was awarded a Grammy in the Best Mexican American Performance of the year. Also in 1994, the versatile performer made her feature film debut as a singer in Don Juan DeMarco starring Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando. Recognizing Selena's potential crossover appeal, SBK Records signed the artist to an English language album deal in early 1994 and teamed her with top producer K.C. Porter. The album, Dreaming of You, would be designed to introduce English speaking audiences to what Latino's had known for years- Selena's phenomenal singing voice, beauty, and unlimited show business potential. At 4' 9", the frumpy Yolanda Saldivar was the physical opposite of her idol, Selena. For years the registered nurse had attended all of the performer's concerts in top San Antonio clubs like Tejano Rose and Tejano Rodeo screaming like a teen (she was then in her late twenties) throughout Selena's sets. Since the mid–1980s Saldivar had pestered Abraham Quintanilla by phone in an attempt to infiltrate the superstar's world by offering to form and operate a Selena fan club in San Antonio. Worn down by Saldivar's stubborn persistence and obvious devotion to his daughter, Quintanilla caved in and gave her the go ahead in 1991 to set up the fan club. Not only would the nonprofit organization donate a portion of its pro - ceeds to Selena's favorite charities, it would also publicize his daughter's career and sell her cloth - ing line. Inspired by the sequined stretch pants, spiked heels, and bejeweled bustiers that she favored onstage, the singer had opened her own clothing line and boutique, Selena, Etc., in Cor - pus Christi and San Antonio in the early 1990s. Selena hired fashion designer Martin Gomez in 1993 to design a line of clothing targeted to the youthful Hispanic women who idolized her. Selena, Etc., was envisioned as a one-stop boutique and beauty salon where women could receive make-overs and leave wearing Selena's signature clothes. As Saldivar became increasingly useful to the singing sensation and her family, she was given a larger role in Selena's business dealings. Unknown to Abraham Quintanilla and Selena, however, Saldivar was the last person who should have been given access to any sort of business. In 1984, Aetna Casualty and Surety Company took civil action against Saldivar after a San Antonio dermatologist accused her of "manipulating account books" to the tune of $9,200. The case was dismissed after the litigants settled out of court. In the early 1980s, Saldivar left her job as a nurse's aide at San Antonio's University Hospital under mysterious circumstances administrators refused to discuss. After earning a nursing degree in December 1990, a law firm in Austin, Texas actively continued to try to collect a $5,361 student loan. Though renewing her nursing license in October 1992, Saldivar spent the early part of the decade making herself indispensable to Selena. Under the woman's singleminded stewardship, the Selena fan club grew to an impressive 5,000 members, but more importantly for Saldivar, gave her unlimited access to the object of her obsession. Soon she was a permanent fixture on the band's bus and her continual praise of Selena as her mija ("daughter") ultimately earned her the role of the singer's "personal assistant." In mid–1994, Saldivar's infiltration of Selena's world became total after the singer fired the manager of Selena, Etc. and chose her "personal assistant" to manage the boutiques in Corpus Christi and San Antonio. Problems began almost immediately. Newly installed fan club president Irene Herrera informed Abraham Quintanilla that several new members reported not receiving their promised tee shirts, cassettes, and membership packets. Quintanilla's review of the fan club books uncovered gross accounting irregularities. Saldivar had written a $3,000 check to herself on the fan club bank account and instructed fans to make out their checks to her not the club. Digging deeper, Selena's father learned Saldivar had deposited checks written from the fan club account to herself under fictitious names in at least four different San Antonio banks. Nor did Selena, Etc. escape Saldivar's financial mismanagement. Head designer Martin Gomez quit claiming he could not work with the mean and manipulative Saldi - var and warned Selena problems lay ahead if she kept the woman in the top position. Medical insurance for boutique workers and clerks went unpaid. Employees complained that hair care products were not being restocked, and models and hairdressers for a December 1994 fashion show went unpaid. The New York vendors who sup - plied the disastrous show lost a collective $20,000. Abraham Quintanilla, seeing his starmaking work of 15 years undone by Saldivar, forcefully confronted the woman in a March 9, 1995 meeting. He laid out the various discrepancies in the fan club and Selena, Etc., and demanded her resignation. Saldivar remained composed and fended off the allegations of disgruntled fan club mem - bers as made by malcontents who wanted free Selena merchandise. Allegedly frightened of Quintanilla, the 34-year-old Saldivar purchased a Brazilian-made .38-caliber Taurus revolver the next day for "protection." Finally convinced by her father that Saldivar was ruining her business reputation and stealing from her, Selena agreed to fire the woman. On the morning of March 30, 1995, the 23-year-old singer phoned Saldivar in Monterrey, Mexico where she was overseeing the proposed opening of another Selena, Etc. store. Saldivar drove back to Corpus Christi that day, later phoning Selena to report her car had been stolen and she had been kidnapped and raped. Concerned, Selena took the distraught woman to a local hospital where she ultimately retracted her story after doctors could find no evidence of a sexual attack. Selena checked Saldivar into Room 158 of the Days Inn Motel off Interstate 37 on the city's northside promising to come see her alone later that evening to pick up all the business records for the fan club and boutiques. Instead, she brought husband Christopher Perez (the bass player in her band she wed in 1992) and informed Saldivar that she was no longer her personal manager. Saldivar handed over the bank records, but it was determined later that evening not the ones documenting October–December 1994, a crucial time of her suspected malfeasance. Saldivar called Selena later that evening to report she had the missing records and could give them to her tomorrow morning. Selena phoned her father to inform him she would be at the family's recording studio at 10:00 A.M. the next day to continue to lay down tracks for her crossover album after picking up the business records. On March 31, 1995, Selena and Saldivar were concluding a contentious meeting when the older woman pulled a gun and shot the singer in the back of the right shoulder (bullet exited the chest) as she was leaving the room around 11:50 A.M. Mortally wounded, Selena stumbled to the nearby manager's office and uttered, "Yolanda-158," before collapsing. The 23-year-old Latina performer with the unlimited future was later pronounced dead on arrival from massive blood loss at Memorial Medical Center at 1:05 P.M. Saldivar left the room and for 91?2 hours sat in a red 1994 GMC pickup in the Days Inn parking lot periodically threatening suicide with the murder weapon pressed to her temple while Corpus Christi police negotiators tried to talk her out of the vehicle with a cell phone they provided. During the audio - taped marathon negotiation, Saldivar accused Abraham Quintanilla of raping her a month-anda- half ago and further violating her with a stick. According to the woman, Quintanilla threatened to kill both her and her family if she spoke of the attack. Saldivar only bought the gun to protect herself and them from Quintanilla. No proof of the attack was ever offered nor did Saldivar report the alleged incident to authorities. Learning of Selena's death over the radio, Saldivar expressed a desire to kill herself and inferred that the gun discharged when she was attempting to do so following the devastating meeting with her beloved friend. Saldivar finally surrendered to authorities after they convinced her she would not be shot by them after relinquishing the weapon. As Saldivar sat in jail awaiting trial for the firstdegree murder of her friend and former employer, the Hispanic community honored the martyred singer in scenes reminiscent of the outpouring of grief and love accorded ex–Beatle John Lennon. Celebrities including Julio Iglesias, Madonna, Gloria Estefan et al. sent condolences while thousands of bouquets, rosaries, and votives were sent to the Quintanilla family. A vigil for the singing star at the Bayfront Plaza and Convention Center drew 1,500 mourners. The star's funeral, held at Corpus Christi's Memorial Coliseum where she had recorded the smash album Selena Live, was attended by 10,000 mourners who filed past her coffin. Likewise, memorial services were held in Tejano music strongholds like Los Angeles and in separates sites in San Antonio. Immediately after Selena's death, sales of her existing cassettes and CDs sharply spiked. Dreaming of You, her highly anticipated English language crossover album released posthumously in the summer of 1994, became the first Tejano album to reach Number One in America and, on the strength of the hit single "I Could Fall in Love," went double platinum by the end of the year. Amid the sad - ness, loss, and unprecedented record sales the Quintanilla family announced that during the five-month period between September 1994 and January 1995, Saldivar had embezzled $30,700 from the singer's businesses. Yolanda Saldivar's defense team faced an uphill battle representing a suspected embezzler who had signed a murder confession in police custody hours after the shooting of a beloved rising star. Following a change of venue from Corpus Christi to Houston, a six man, six woman jury was impaneled in the Harris County Criminal Courthouse in October 1995 to hear the first-degree murder case against Yolanda Saldivar. Maintaining the shooting was accidental, Saldivar's attorneys characterized the fatal incident as accidentally occurring when the older woman waved the weapon around during an attempt to take her own life. The prosecution painted a simpler case-Selena was shot at the height of an argument over Saldivar's criminal mismanagement of the star's business affairs. The testimony of three hotel employees who witnessed the aftermath of the shooting bolstered this theory of the case. After hearing a loud "pop," they saw Saldivar pointing the gun at the singer's back as she painfully escaped. Afterwards, the woman lowered the revolver and calmly went back into Room 158. One witness reported that the business manager called Selena "bitch" after shooting her. Jurors listened to six hours of the standoff tape in which Saldivar first accused Quintanilla of raping her then expressed a desire to commit suicide after learning Selena had died. A weapons expert testified the .38-caliber revolver was not defective, as the defense claimed, but rather the trigger had to be pulled in order to make the gun discharge. On October 23, 1995, the jury finally received the case and left the courtroom to deliberate Saldivar's fate. The accused murderer seemed unconcerned and honored dozens of requests from media and spectators to autograph their courtroom passes. Two hours and twenty minutes later the jury returned and announced Yolanda Saldivar was guilty of murdering Selena. In the penalty phase of the trial Saldivar was given a life sentence with the stipulation she must serve 30 years in prison before she can be considered eligible for parole consideration in 2025. In August 1999, a Texas Court of Appeals declined to consider Saldivar's request for a new trial based upon a claim that her confession had been coerced. Two years earlier, another Latina performer of incredible promise, Jennifer Lopez, realized the widespread stardom denied to the young singer by Saldivar's murderous act, by portraying the Tejano sensation in director Gregory Nava's motion picture, Selena, co-starring Edward James Olmos as Abraham Quintanilla.

Tags: USA, Singer, 1970-1979

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