By Esme Mazzeo/Oct. 26, 2020 6:02 am EDT/Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 6:09 am EDT
"If you have a dream, don't let anybody take it away," said Tejano singer and rising mainstream pop star Selena Quintanilla in a 1994 interview. "And you [should] always believe the impossible is always possible." The events of her life proved this statement to be true in both wonderful and tragic ways. She was living her dream of becoming a star throughout the United States and was married to her best friend, Chris Perez.
But then, the impossible happened. Quintanilla was shot in the back and killed by the former president of her fan club, who was a trusted member of her team — Yolanda Saldívar — on March 31, 1995. Though Quintanilla was on her way to success nationwide, it's the 1997 movie Selena — which chronicled Quintanilla's life and death — that made Quintanilla and her story infamous in the US and launched Jennifer Lopez (who played Quintanilla) into superstardom.
Considering her tragic passing happened in the mid-'90s when she was only 23, many of the people she shared the stage and intimate memories with are still alive today. But their lives look much different than they might have been if Quintanilla were still alive. Here's what happened to some of the key players in Selena Quintanilla's story.
Selena's fan club president-turned-killer
Yolanda Saldívar shot and killed Selena Quintanilla at a motel in Corpus Christi, TX, on March 31, 1995, after Quintanilla confronted her about embezzling money. Saldívar was questioned by members of Quintanilla's family earlier in March and put in a deposit on a pistol two days afterward, per The New York Times. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 30 years. At the time of this writing, she remains in prison.
"I did not kill Selena," Saldívar told ABC's 20/20. "It was an accident, and my conscience is clear." She claims she was threatening to commit suicide on the day she shot Quintanilla. As she was pointing to the door asking Quintanilla to leave, Saldívar claims the gun went off. But prosecutor Carlos Valdez told 20/20 there was no evidence to suggest an accident occurred. Following the shooting, Saldívar had a nine-hour standoff with police during which she threatened suicide.
Saldívar claims that she and Quintanilla were talking about a secret that could ruin the star's reputation on that fateful morning — not extortion. Primer Impacto reported on an alleged affair with Dr. Ricardo Martinez in 2012. Saldívar has consistently appealed her conviction, and the San Antonio Current reported that in March 2019, she filed a second writ of habeas corpus, claiming her trial was unlawful because Valdez withheld shoes and a baseball cap that would've proven the shooting an accident.
Selena's husband left Tejano music behind
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Selena Quintanilla died two days before she and husband Chris Pérez were to celebrate their third wedding anniversary. "Half of me died with her," the Los Dinos guitarist told VH1 shortly after her murder. "Basically, what I had to do was let go of a lot of [our] dreams. But it wasn't that hard because she's not here." He said he didn't need the house they dreamed of building without his wife. "I can't say anything about how I'm gonna feel in another hour, much less in a year."
By 1999, Pérez had a daughter, Cassie, with girlfriend Venessa Villanueva. He also lent his fame to the Chris Pérez Band, but told Los Angeles Times he'd prefer another name. The Latin rock band achieved success with their Grammy-winning debut album, Resurrection, but the popularity didn't endure. He married Villanueva in 2001 and had a son named Noah, but divorced by 2008. "Divorce is a pain in the a**," Pérez told San Antonio Current in 2013.
He's made records with Emilio Estefan Jr. and released new music with his band in 2020. He also wrote a book about Quintanilla — To Selena, With Love — in 2012. "It was something that I had to do in order to move forward," Pérez told Billboard. "I was dealing with boxes and boxes of baggage that I had suppressed." Pérez regularly participates in memorial events for Quintanilla and has his own hot sauce.
Defending a daughter's legacy
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Abraham Quintanilla Jr. has spent life since his daughter Selena Quintanilla's death celebrating her through the support of projects like the 1997 film Selena and greeting fans at The Selena Museum, run by Q Productions, the family's company. "When Selena passed away, I told my family that I was going to try to keep her memory alive through her music," Abraham told People in 2020. "25 years later I think we, as a family, accomplished that."
Sometimes honoring Selena's memory means going to battle, even against her widower Chris Pérez. Abraham filed a lawsuit in 2016 to prevent Pérez from developing a TV series based on his book, To Selena, With Love. Pérez told Billboard that his former father-in-law supported the book. Caller-Times reported that the lawsuit was dismissed in 2019.
In September of 2019, Abraham spoke against a Telemundo documentary by Maria Celeste Arrarás called El Secreto de Selena. In a post on Q Productions' Facebook page (translated from Spanish), Abraham said the documentary is full of "falsehoods." "She invents a romance that never existed and gives importance to the killer, instead of seeking details with family and close friends," Abraham wrote. "Selena was happy and not suffering, as [a] false journalist claims." Abraham said his grief will never fade. "There is no day when my wife Marcella and I don't shed a tear, because the pain of losing Selena is a constant pain..." That's why he still fights these battles.
Selena's brother was a wanted criminal
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Selena Quintanilla's brother Abraham "A.B." Quintanilla III played bass in Los Dinos, produced her albums, and co-wrote her biggest hits like "Como La Flor," "Amor Prohibido," and "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." He wrote the song "Missing My Baby" on Dreaming Of You, Selena's English album that was released posthumously in 1995. After Selena's death, A.B. formed a couple of bands, including Los Kumbia Kings (brother-in-law Chris Pérez joined for a bit) and Kumbia All Starz. He has enjoyed success with both groups, AllMusic reported. He's a well-known music producer within the Latin genre.
His personal life is a different story. AllMusic reported issues with many band members, often related to money. More troubling than his band squabbles is that in 2017 he was considered one of the most wanted fugitives in Corpus Christi (via Time) because he owed $87000 in child support for at least eight of his children, San Antonio Express-News reported. It's unclear how many kids A.B. has. He paid his debt and served time in jail for the offense.
In April 2020, A.B. announced on Nothing Beats Experience that he was working on producing the last album of his career before the Coronavirus pandemic forced the music industry to press pause. He also explained on NBE that 2020's Selena: The Series will depict more of the hardships that Selena and her family went through than Selena the movie did.
Fulfilling her sister's dreams
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Suzette Quintanilla is Selena Quintanilla's older sister and was a drummer in Los Dinos. She's now president and CEO of the Quintanilla family production company — Q Productions. She's honored Selena's memory by collaborating with iconic brands like MAC, Forever 21, and Hot Topic on Selena products. There was even a Selena-inspired Slurpee flavor.
Selena owned Selena Etc. Boutique and Salon locations in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, Texas. Both were closed by 2015. The partnerships keep Selena's love of fashion and makeup alive. "When Selena passed away, one of the three things she was working on was her clothing line, a makeup line, and a perfume line," Suzette told Refinery29 when promoting MAC's second Selena-inspired line. "I promised myself that by the time I leave this world, I will accomplish what she started; what she held dear to her heart."
Suzette stretched Selena's legacy farther than Selena knew it could go in her lifetime when she teamed up with Google in 2017 to create a Google Doodle inspired by her sister's life. "[Speaking publicly about Selena] is a total labor of love," Suzette said during a Google interview. "This is one of the things that brings me great joy ... I do this because I love her because I know if the shoe was on the other foot and I wasn't here, I know for a fact that she would be here doing this for me."
A mother's grief
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Selena Quintanilla's mother, Marcella Quintanilla, was always in the spotlight less than the other members of her family, acting instead as their support system behind-the-scenes. The same is true today. She did make a rare public appearance in 2017 at the dedication ceremony for Selena's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "I'm very proud of her," Marcella told ET at the event. "I just want to thank the fans for loving her so much."
"It's hard to watch," Marcella told Oprah Winfrey in 1997 while promoting the biographical film released in her daughter's honor — Selena. She felt similarly about hearing Selena's music and seeing her music videos. "Sometimes, I can hear it and see videos of her, and it makes me feel better," the mother of three said. "But there's times that I can't ... I can't see her." When she does talk to the press, Marcella shares stories of her daughter's generous spirit.
"This girl admired the boots that she was wearing, and she took them off and gave them to her," she told People for an interview commemorating the 25 years since Selena's death in 2020. "That's how kindhearted she was. If you said something negative about somebody, she would say something positive. She didn't like negativity ... She had a big heart."
The boys in the band
Understandably, the Quintanilla family and Chris Pérez are the first people that come to mind when you think about the key people in Selena Quintanilla's story who are still around to help us uncover new chapters. While Abraham Quintanilla was the driving force behind his family's band, plenty of people who aren't related to Selena helped write her biggest hits like "Como La Flor" and "Amor Prohibido." The man who helped write those hits is Pete Astudillo. After Selena's death, Astudillo wrote "Como Te Extraño" (Translation: How I Miss You) with A.B. Quintanilla to honor Selena, according to Good Housekeeping. He hasn't released new music since about 1999.
Ricky Vela was a keyboardist in Los Dinos who wrote her hit "No Me Queda Más" to express his unrequited feelings for Suzette Quintanilla when she got married to another man Billboard reported. Vela's career seems to have ended when Selena died. Joe Ojeda was another keyboardist in the band. He regularly posts Selena-related content on Instagram and seems particularly close to Pérez.
Selena's spirit helps another star rise
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The terms "triple threat" and "superstar" barely do Jennifer Lopez justice. She's an actress, singer, dancer, executive producer, mentor, fashion designer, and she was nearly co-owner of The Mets. But when the world watched her portray Selena Quintanilla in the 1997 hit Selena, she was a 27-year-old, known as a Fly Girl on In Living Color, trying to "make it" in Hollywood.
"I honestly believe God sent me that role for a reason," Lopez told ET. "So I could always have her as an inspiration." Playing Selena launched Lopez into superstardom, but the actress told Billboard she cared most about what Selena's choices taught her. "I felt she had a sense to live in the moment, that you're not promised tomorrow," the "I'm Real" singer said. "That affected me in my life far more profoundly than the movie did in career terms."
It's hard to think of Lopez without thinking of Selena, and that's because of her brilliant performance, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1998. "It was about portraying her as best I could, to where people weren't thinking of anybody but her when they were watching," Lopez told Billboard. She said that the role inspired her to begin her singing career (it's well-known that she lip-synced Selena's songs). So, we have Selena to thank for the J. Lo we love today. Their stories will forever be intertwined. Lopez honored Selena at the 2015 Latin Billboard Awards.