Selena was born in Lake Jackson, Texas and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she began her musical career. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., was a singer with the original Los Dinos from 1957-1972, and nurtured the burgeoning musical talent of his children. Selena, her brother Abe III (bass), and their sister, Suzette (drums), were a second generation of Los Dinos. Its other two members who started in the band were Ricky Vela on keyboards and Roger Garcia on guitar.
Selena made her first public appearance at her father's Mexican restaurant in Lake Jackson at eight and recorded her first record at nine. Throughout her adolescence Selena was constantly on tour. She completed her education via correspondence courses. The singer signed with Capitol EMI in 1989, and released several albums with that label, including 1994's wildly popular Amor Prohibido.
Chris Perez replaced Roger Garcia as guitar player. A romance budded between Perez and Selena, and the two married on April 2, 1992. Even as Selena's career skyrocketed she remained very close to her family, choosing to live next door to them in Corpus Christi.
In 1994, Selena won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album for Live. She holds the record of drawing the biggest concert crowd in the history of the Houston Astrodome, for her February 1995 performance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The greatest irony in Selena's musical career is that she became a star singing in her second language. Her first language was English, not Spanish.
Aside from her singing, Selena was an avid clothing designer. Boutique shops with the Selena name opened in Corpus Christi and San Antonio in the 1990s. She also dabbled in acting, making a cameo in the Johnny Depp film Don Juan de Marco.
A woman named Yolanda Saldivar worked her way into the singer's inner circle, becoming president of Selena's fan club and manager of the boutiques. In 1995 the Quintanillas found out Saldivar had embezzled money from these ventures and decided to fire her. Selena agreed to meet Saldivar at a Corpus Christi Days Inn on the morning of March 31, 1995 in order to retrieve paperwork for tax purposes. At the motel an argument ensued over the embezzlement and Saldivar shot the singer once in the back. Selena died at a local hospital at 1:05 pm, hours after she was shot.
Selena's death shocked and saddened Tejano fans in Latino communities throughout the United States and in the north of Mexico (Selena was not particularly well known before her death either in Mexico City or in the southern region of the country). Numerous vigils and memorials were held in the singer's honor. That summer her album Dreaming of You, a combination of Spanish language hits and new English language tracks, debuted at #1 on the Billboard music charts in the US.
In October of 1995 a Houston jury convicted Saldivar of murder and sentenced her to life in prison, with parole eligibility in thirty years.
There is a museum to honor Selena's memory and a bronze life-sized statue of her on Ocean Drive in Corpus Christi. In 1997, Jennifer Lopez played Selena in the movie of the same name. The movie is the basis from which Lopez rose to superstardom.