As I remember what would’ve been Selena’s 43 birthday, I can’t help but reminisce about the influence she had on me, and my culture. I can still remember being a 5 year-old fangirl watching the film made in her memory on repeat. As a 21 year-old, I still do that.
The film, Selena, was a huge part of my childhood. It gave me the inspiration to become whatever I desired. Some days that meant being a performer, a waitress, or even a poet. I endlessly nagged my grandmother to sew me cute outfits that matched the ones she famously wore. Because, of course, I needed costume changes during the movie. I would rummage through my grandma’s kitchen drawers, desperately searching for her tortilla roller to use as my microphone. How could I possibly sing along with the movie without a mic?
Every day we would go to my great-grandmothers house at 5, and I would gather everyone to watch me sing my little heart out to Selena songs, using my great-grandma’s walker as my microphone and her living room as my stage. She always exclaimed “mi artista.” I share many memories with my family from listening to Selena. Actually, her music is one of the reasons I picked up on Spanish, the comprehension and reading of it. I don’t speak Spanish as fluently as I’d like, but you can catch me passionately singing and saying “el chico del apartamento 512” quickly and eloquently.
She broke many cultural and gender barriers within the Mexican-American community and outside of it. Her music allowed the world to recognize our culture, and respect it. For women, she gave us the aspiration to accomplish our goals, even if that meant entering a male-dominated profession. Her breakthrough in Tejano music, which is predominately male controlled, paved the way for future female artists as well a proving that female singers could be just as successful as men.
She was not only a trailblazer in music, but with her entire persona. For me, at least, she taught me to be beautiful on the inside just as much as the outside. She taught me that being a business woman didn’t mean giving up your life, or changing into a completely different person, but rather embracing your passion and taking control of your career goals. Her sultry outfits, and sex symbol status showed that women could be in charge of their sexuality, while also remaining classy. She showed that women didn’t have to be ashamed of being madly in love while also remaining independent. She proved that women could be both intelligent and goofy, while continuing to be respected and admired.
Her humility and sincerity were traits that many artists today fail to have. Today’s artists provoke attention through exposing every detail of their life, or body parts. Selena kept her integrity and was one of the rare artists who let her talent speak for itself. I hope that I can use her traits as ways to remain humble and driven. I hope that her music continues to live on for younger generations, and that her example of what a true leader is can carry on. I hope that our culture can continue to be recognized and represented in a positive light. We need more Selena’s as leaders.
My favorite Selena song: