Selena Quintanilla Biography and Quotes

Inside: Learn all about the famous Tejana singer with this Selena Quintanilla biography and famous quotes.

La reina de la música Tejana — the Queen of Tejano Music– changed the landscape of American music. She reached astonishing success in her short life, and was an inspiration to millions.

She was singer, performer, designer, and broke barriers in the music industry.

She was at once traditional and modern, a Mexican-American star who bound together both worlds in a singular way—and brought excellent Tejano music to a mainstream audience. Her untimely death splintered her rising profile and, as often happens when a bright, deeply genial star dies far too young, left many to mourn all the untapped potential. As a result, fans have been inspired over the years to dig in their heels even harder, working to ensure that her achievements will not be forgotten.

Vanity Fair

The story of Selena Quintanilla is fascinating, both to her devoted fans and those just learning about the Latina star. This post introduces her biography, as well as resources for teachers wanting to share her legacy.

Related: Famous Latinos & Hispanic Americans Home Page

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Here’s an index of what’s included in the post. You can click on any link to jump straight to that section!


Quick Facts About Selena
Selena Quintanilla Biography
Links and Printables to Learn More
Books About Selena Quintanilla for kids
YouTube Videos
10 Quotes from Selena Quintanilla

Selena Quintanilla Quick Facts

Fast Facts about Selena Quintanilla

Birth: April 16, 1971
Birthplace: Lake Jackson, Texas
Death: March 31, 1995
Family: Chris Pérez (spouse)
Education: Diploma from the American School of Correspondence in Chicago
Career: Singer
Famous For: Very successful career as a singer with 2 Grammys, called, the “Queen of Tejano Music
Solo Albums:

Selena Solo Albums:

– Selena (1989)
– Ven Conmigo (1990)
– Entre a mi Mundo (1992)
– Selena Live (1993)
– Amor Prohibido (1994
– Dreaming of You (1995)

Top Selena Singles:

– “Como la flor”
– “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”
– “Dreaming of You”
– “Amor Prohibido”
– “Tú Solo Tú”
– “Baila Esta Cumbia”
– “No Me Queda Más”
– “I Could Fall in Love”


Selena Quintanilla Biography


Selena Quintanilla was born in Texas on April 16, 1971. She was the third of three children born to Marcella and Abraham Quintanilla, and raised as Jehovah’s Witness. 

Selena’s father Abraham noticed her extraordinary talent for singing when she was still very young. He would have his children perform and Selena sing at the restaurant he managed. For the rest of her childhood, Abraham would arrange their life around making the most of Selena’s talent.

The family suffered from financial difficulties and moved to Corpus Christi after declaring bankruptcy. Abraham created a new family band, Selena y Los Dinos. Selena began singing in the band at just nine years old, accompanied by her brother Abraham (III) on the guitar and her sister Suzette on the drums. Abraham was a musician and managed the band, getting them gigs at weddings and local events or parties.

The band played música tejada, or Tex-Mex music. Selena needed to sing in Spanish, but had grown up only speaking English. Her father began to teach her to speak phonetically, so she could read and pronounce correctly even if she didn’t fully understand the words. 

The band began experiencing some success during Selena’s early teen years. They produced their first album in 1984 (My First Recordings). All the traveling affected her studies, however, and Selena dropped out of school in eighth grade to continue her studies by correspondence.

She earned her high school diploma at age 17, and began studying business at Pacific Western University.

Early Musical Success

Meanwhile, Selena was beginning to earn more widespread recognition. In 1987, she won top Performer of the Year and Best Female Vocalist of the Year at the Tejano Music Awards (a title she won successively for the next nine years). 

While Selena wanted to sing in English, they were releasing Spanish albums. Her success in the male-dominated genre of Tejano music surprised many people.

While performing at the Tejano Music Awards, she was spotted by José Behar from EMI Latin Records. Everything changed for Selena when she signed with the label EMI in 1989. 

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What is Tejano Music?

Selena Quintanilla-Perez was known as the Queen of Tejano because she single-handedly revolutionized the genre, fusing her Mexican roots with bold new sounds. With her brother A.B. Quintanilla, who produced her biggest hits, and her band Los Dinos, they made music on their own terms, adding a hint of pop and rock to the classic cumbia, mariachi, rancheras, and tejano rhythms.

– Billboard

Tejano music (or Tex-Mex) is a style of music that originated in Texas among Mexican-American communities in the early 1900s. It’s an interesting fusion of styles: traditional Mexican norteño music, brass sounds from local German and Czech immigrants, and influences from the U.S.

Tejano music is typically characterized by its lively rhythms, accordion and bajo sexto (a type of 12-string bass guitar) melodies, and Spanish-language lyrics that often focus on themes of love, family, and community. As Selena’s career progresses, she sought to incorporate more pop and English and produce a true crossover album.

Main Career

Selena debuted her first solo album in 1989, titled Selena. It was her first crossover albums, with three English songs on it. The album Ven Conmigo released in 1990. The track “Baila Esta Cumbia” became very popular. 

Selena also began dating her new guitarist Chris Pérez during this time. Though they kept their relationship secret for a while, they eventually eloped in 1999. Though Abraham Quintanilla opposed the relationship, he eventually accepted the marriage. 

Selena recorded the song “Buenos Amigos” with Álvaro Torres in 1991. This was her first single to hit number on the US Billboard Top Latin Songs chart, and gave her more exposure. 

The album Entre a Mi Mundo released the next year, and was her first one to top charts. She topped the US Billboard Regional Mexican Albums chart for eight months, was certified platinum 10 times, and was the second top-selling Mexican album at that time. 

Selena toured Mexico and garnered thousands of new fans, debuting the hit song “Como la flor.” The song hit number six of the US Billboard Top Latin Songs chart. Her concert in Monterrey drew a crowd of almost 100,000. 

Her 1993 album Live! won even more recognition, named Album of the Year by Billboard Latin Music Awards and certified gold. She won a Grammy Best Mexican American Album at the 36th Grammy Awards. 

The album Amor Prohibido came out in 1994 and again topped the Latin charts, becoming one of the best-selling albums in the United States. The songs “Amor Prohibido” and “No Me Queda Más” were the top Latin singles in 1994 and 1995.

“I want to be remembered not only as an entertainer but as a person who cared a lot, and I gave the best that I could. I tried to be the best role model that I possibly could.”

– Selena Quintanilla

Other Ventures

Selena loved designing clothing, and usually modeled the clothing for her performances. She was called the Mexican Madonna for her signature style, a fusion of American and Mexican styles. 

In 1994, she launched her own line of clothing and opened two successful boutiques in Texas, earning millions from her designs. 

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Selena also began acting, with some appearances in Mexican novelas, including Siempre en Domingo and Sábado Gigante. She also had a cameo in a 1995 film with Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp. She also appeared in a Coca-Cola poster.

End of Life

Selena’s life was tragically cut short when she was only 23 years old, by the president of Selena’s fan club.

Yolanda Saldivar was known to Selena and her family, and worked managin the fan club and the San Antonio boutique. She had secretly been embezzling funds, but asked Selena to meet in her at a hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas. When Selena confronted her about the missing money, Yolanda shot Selena in the shoulder. Selena tried to flee to the hotel lobby, but the blood loss was too great. 

Millions of fans the world around were shocked by the terrible tragedy. Major networks interrupted their programming to share the news and Selena was featured on the covers of People and The New York Times. George W. Bush– the then-governor of Texas– declared April 16th, her birthday, “Selena Day.”

Yolanda Saldívar was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced 30 years in prison (and up for parole in 2025). 

Selena had originally signed with SBK records to fulfill her dream of an English album. It was postponed, and the English album Dreaming of You released after her death. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and immediately sold millions of copies. It it still the best-selling album of all time in the United States. 

Billboard magazine named Selena Quintanilla the best Latina artist of all time. She was inducted into the Houston Star Trail of Fame, the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame, 

In 1997, Jennifer Lopez starred in the movie Selena, a biographical tribute to the singer’s life. Netflix also released a series based on her life in 2020, called Selena: The Series.


  • 2 Grammys
  • 67 Tejano Music Awards
  • 14 Latin Billboard Awards
  • 10 Lo Nuestro Awards
  • Star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Interesting Facts about Selena Quintanilla for Kids:

Growing up in Texas, Selena learned only English. When she began to sing for the band, her father taught her Spanish phonetically (so she could read and pronounce the words even if she didn’t know the meaning yet). She later did become fluent in Spanish!

Selena once said, “I feel very proud to be Mexican. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Spanish when I was a girl, but it’s never too late to get in touch with your roots.

Selena Quintanilla coloring page

There are some great ready-to-go printable and lessons for teaching more about Roberto Clemente. Check these out:

  • Free Selena Quintanilla coloring page
  • An extensive activity pack with a reading passage, graphic organizers, and writing templates for elementary students.
  • Printable Selena worksheet for young Spanish learners on TpT
  • Comprehension questions in Spanish to go with the video Selena from Draw My Life (video is 4min. 15s).
  • Short elementary reading passage about Selena in English.
  • A reading passage about the woman who killed Selena Quintanilla, in English. I am not sure if this is something you will want to investigate with your high school students or not, but here is the link.

More resources for learning about Selena Quintanilla:

Both English and Spanish, for Elementary Learners
In Spanish, for Middle/High School Learners

Books FOR kids to adults

These links are affiliate links.

  • Here is a PDF lesson plan to go with the book “Queen of Tejano Music: Selena.”

Videos About Selena Quintanilla

First, to get to know Selena, you have to see her perform and hear one of her most famous songs:

A short Selena Quintanilla biography in English (2min 43s):

A 12-minute biography in Spanish:

This bio in Spanish might be more comprehensible to Spanish students (5min. 34s):

10 Famous Selena Quintanilla Quotes

Here are some Selena Quintanilla quotes that give us a peek into how she thought about herself, her music, and her family.

1. “We went through a hard time, and we had to turn to music as a means to putting food on the table. And we’ve been doing it ever since. No regrets, either.”

– Selena Quintanilla

2. “I’m very real, very sincere, and honest, and that’s how I’ll always be.”

– Selena Quintanilla

3. “Tejano music was hard for us because I was a girl. My dad had a lot of problems while trying to set up shows for us or presentations because there are a lot of men who don’t think that women can get the attention of the public. But… wrong!”

– Selena Quintanilla

4. “I don’t feel pressure because I’m not trying to portray something that I’m not.”

– Selena Quintanilla

5. “The reason I’m really appreciative of everything that’s going on around me is because of the fact that I never expected it, and I want to keep that attitude.”

– Selena Quintanilla

6. “If you have a dream, don’t let anybody take it away.”

– Selena Quintanilla

7. “Music is not a very stable business, you know, he comes, and he goes, so does money. But your education stays with you for the rest of your life.”

– Selena Quintanilla

8. “The family that plays together stays together.”

– Selena Quintanilla

9. “We got laughed at. My father was told that we would never make it. It’s gradual, a growing process. It’s not like it came overnight.”

– Selena Quintanilla

10. “Anybody can be a role model. Anybody can.”

– Selena Quintanilla

I hope these ideas and resources were helpful to you! If you have more ideas for Selena Quintanilla lessons, let me know in the comments below!

Image Sources:

Selena_Quintanilla” (CC BY 2.0) by davi151098

Selena” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by hellboy_93

Selena Quintanilla (1994)” (CC BY 2.0) by davi151098

Selena at Alamo Candy” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by NoNo Joe

Selena Quintanilla” (CC BY 2.0) by davi151098

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