Selena interview gives young writer lasting
By Jenny Strasburg
(This article appeared on the entertainment
page of Carroll High School's student newspaper, dated Oct. 19, 1994: "Selena
Reflects on Success," by Imelda Basurto, staff writer.)
Imelda was a sophomore then; she's a senior now. She tried most of her sophomore
year for permission from Selena's parents to speak with the star, she said.
One day, she successfully reached Abraham Quintanilla on the telephone.
Then and there, he dialed up Selena's number. The three of them -- Imelda,
Selena and Selena's father -- had a three-way phone conversation.
A few days later, Imelda found herself in the Quintanillas' living room with
Selena and her parents. Abraham Quintanilla watched over them closely, Imelda
"We were sitting around," she said. "Me and her mom were talking for a little
while, and somebody came in. It was her. I turned around. I was expecting
someone more perfect."
The singer was easy-going, warm, and so ordinary, Imelda said.
"I didn't feel like I was talking to `Selena the Star.' Selena wasn't like that.
She didn't have anything to hide. ... We talked for, I guess, three hours
straight. You know -- questions led to more questions."
They talked about Selena's new video, her music and fans, makeup-wearing tips
... "and she told me how to get rid of cellulite," Imelda said. "She said drink
lemon water, and when you're lying down, rub it (the skin), rub it.
"She just seemed so perfect -- oh, not perfect, but just somebody to kick back
At one point, Imelda said, Selena wanted to autograph a photo, but her father
told her not to.
Then he left the room for a moment, and Selena signed one quickly. She gave the
photo to her young interviewer.
Imelda talked with Selena two more times, once for another interview and once in
passing, at Selena's fashion show at Bayfront Plaza.
"She said `Hi!' and gave me a hug, and then she was like, `I gotta go. I gotta
"Imelda," reads the photo Selena signed for her that first meeting. "It was nice
meeting you! Take care! Selena."
Teen-agers still cite Selena as a major
influence on their lives.
By DAN PARKER
Sunday, March 31, 1996
Selena's enduring image will be that of a charismatic
performer, a fiercely independent Hispanic woman, an achiever, role model and
down-to-earth neighbor, say those who knew her and academics who have analyzed
A year after her death, Selena's followers continue to view her not as a
23-year-old celebrity who had what they never could achieve, but as an
inspiration who showed them what could be theirs. Many say they have set goals
and are pursuing dreams because of her influence.
Selena has a particularly strong image among Hispanic women, said Manuel Pena,
ethnomusicologist and director of the Center for Folklore and Ethnomusicology at
the University of Texas at Austin.
"Among women, there was a certain liberating quality about her," he said. "She
would march on stage and take over. She had that commanding presence. She exuded
femininity -- not just femininity, but a strong, charismatic femininity.
"She was the many in the one in the sense that she captured, I think, the
emerging sense of womanhood among young people," Pena said. "I think she was
seen as fiercely independent -- whether she was or not was another matter -- a
symbolic incarnation of what womanhood is all about. She was seen as
charismatic, talented, and committed to the cause of Mexican-American women."
The slain singer's legacy lies in memorials, in music and in the people --
especially children -- whose lives she touched.
Selena's name lives on with the many Texas babies who have been named after her
since her death.
According to the Texas Department of Health, 883 baby girls were named Selena
from March 1995 to December 1995 -- the most recent period for which statistics
are available. Twenty-two of the children were born in Nueces County.
The Corpus Christi City Council has endorsed three projects to honor the late
singer: a tile mural of Selena at the Bayfront Plaza Auditorium, which would be
renamed after her; a statue in the Bayfront Arts and Science Park; and a
redesigned seawall overlook at the Peoples Street T-Head entrance.
Dozens of smaller, more personal memorials -- murals, poster collections -- have
been created by those who felt linked to her.
"Selena's style is one that essentially was able to transcend generations,
aesthetic preferences of generations of Mexican-Americans. This is where I think
her legacy is the strongest," said Gerard Behague, professor of ethnomusicology
at the University of Texas at Austin.
After Selena's death, "you see this incredible rallying around her and her art.
I think people realize how much Selena meant for the sense of identity of
Mexican-American people," Behague said.
The singer's influence was particularly strong on Corpus Christi's Westside
where she grew up. She had a special way with children and teen-agers, said
Danny Noyola, principal of West Oso High School.
"She had this magical quality that whoever she came into contact with, you felt
like you were the most important person to her at that moment," Noyola said.
"She was very genuine, very sincere."
Said Juan Padron, assistant principal at West Oso Junior High School: "The kids
tell me she was down-to-earth, not way up there."
Some students who didn't care much about education changed their minds because
of Selena, Padron said.
"The last thing she had impressed on them before her demise was: Hey, stay in
school, get the best (education) you can," Padron said. That message rang in
children's ears after Selena died, he said.
Selena's urgings made the difference for some students who might ordinarily have
dropped out of school, said Carlos Guerrero, a senior at West Oso High School.
"People liked her for who she was," Guerrero said. "Her personality was very
special. She not only sang, she was a person who was very spiritual."
Guerrero himself was inspired by Selena. An artist, he is working on a large
drawing of Selena that he plans to enter in an art contest.
Children and teen-agers say they were inspired by Selena's positive attitude and
by seeing a Westside resident achieve stardom.
Another West Oso High School senior, Joann Briseno, said she is a different and
better person because of Selena's influence.
Briseno said she met Selena at the singer's boutique. Briseno wanted to be a
fashion designer, and Selena encouraged her.
"I was never positive about myself" before encountering Selena, Briseno said.
"And now, it's like: You can do it. If that's what you like, you can do it. Just
try a little harder."
Briseno said she has been accepted by Brooks College in Long Beach, Calif.,
where she will study fashion design.
Because of Selena, 17-year-old Adriana Mora wants to be a singer.
"She was not like anyone else," said Mora, a junior at West Oso High School.
"She had, like, laughter, and she was real energetic in her performance and
everything. She'd give me chills."
Selena's death at an early age taught Mora another lesson: Pursue dreams now.
"Because maybe something could happen to me," she said.
Selena's memory carries the kind of wallop that spurs fans to labor for hours
and spend piles of money on personal memorials lovingly rendered to the singer.
Frank Requena, 38, of Dallas, has eight paintings of Selena on his showcar, a
1948 Fleetline. He named the car La Carcacha, after a Selena song about a car.
Requena said he and his family cherished Selena.
"I do love her music, but to put this car together, it wasn't just up to me,"
Requena said. "It was a whole family affair. Everyone had input on it."
It devastated Requena's young daughters when the singer was killed.
"Tears coming out of their eyes, you know? It really hurt them. I could hold my
tears, you know. .|. |. But to see the kids, how they were responding -- it was
Requena said he sets the car up in various locations around Dallas as an
advertisement against violent crime.
Dennis and Joyce Boutwell of Corpus Christi have arranged what appears to some
visitors to be a shrine to Selena in their home.
The display includes wooden racks (Dennis made them with his own hands) for
Selena cassette tapes and magazines containing Selena articles.
The cassette tapes are unopened and will remain that way. Dennis said his wife
"wanted some she could keep forever and hand down to our daughter as a family
The display also includes white silk roses, a cross and candles. But Joyce says
she doesn't consider it a shrine, exactly.
"To me, it's just something I have of her to remind me of her," Joyce said. "She
will always be here with me."
Joyce said she and her 12-year-old daughter, Clara, loved Selena's music. But
ask Joyce what the real attraction was for her about Selena, and she doesn't
"She was just a wonderful person," said Joyce, who as a waitress served Selena
several times in a Corpus Christi restaurant. "Very kindhearted. Every time I
saw her, I saw her with a smile on her face. She just loved life."
Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr., said he sees a lot of private
memorials to his daughter -- murals, painted automobiles and the like. He says
his reaction depends on what kind of day he's having.
"Sometimes, I get a knot in my throat, and sometimes I can handle it," he said.
"Some days, I get up in the morning, and I know I'm going to be down all day."
Selena's lasting influence reaches across state lines and ethnic lines.
"There is nobody in this world who loves Selena more than me except for her
family," said Phillip Kiser, a 47-year-old Anglo who lives in Carthage, N.C.
Kiser, a landscaper and part-time musician, discovered Selena while leafing
through a compact disc club catalogue. He noticed her picture first.
"I thought she was a pretty girl. I just ordered the Selena Live CD they were
advertising. I just fell in love with her and her music," he said.
He had never heard of Tejano music before ordering the CD.
After Selena was killed, Kiser wrote a song called "We will always love you
Selena" or "Siempre te Querremos Selena." He recorded it on audio cassette,
singing one version in English and another in Spanish. He played another version
as an instrumental. The style is "gospel with a Tejano flavor," he said.
Kiser spent about $500 to record the songs in a studio in Hope Mills, N.C. He
plans to travel to Corpus Christi and release about 1,000 copies of the cassette
to music stores in April.
Kiser said he plans to donate most of the profits to the Selena Foundation,
which supplies money for scholarships, or other charities.
"I couldn't feel right trying to make money off her death," he said.
Selena's most obvious legacy is her music, her father said, but beyond that her
family, friends and fans will remember her smile and what it symbolized. "She
had a lot of humor," Quintanilla said. "She was always joking and playing around
... . She was just full of life. She was the type of person who could just light
up a room, and you would want to be close to her."
Across Texas, many women have named their newborn babies Selena in the year
since the singer's death.
Quintanilla recalled a recent encounter with a young fan, about 5 years old,
who, when asked her name, answered, "Selena."
"Her father was standing behind her and shook his head no," Quintanilla said.
"Then later he told me that she tells everyone that her name is Selena -- and
she has told her parents that she wants her name changed to Selena."
While Selena has been cast in an almost saintly light in many news reports, an
article in the March US Magazine linked Selena to a doctor in Monterrey, Mexico.
The article implied that Selena may have wanted to leave her husband and family
and run away to Monterrey.
Pena, the ethnomusicologist from the University of Texas, said Selena's image
remains bright in most people's eyes.
"I believe it's still pretty untarnished because if this thing had caught on,
there would have been murmurs everywhere," Pena said, adding that he had not
heard of the report until a reporter asked him about it recently.
It's hard to believe Selena could have been involved with a man other than her
husband, Pena said. Selena was married, her father appeared to hold a tight rein
on her, and she was a religious person, Pena said.
"I think this little innuendo or whatever it is, is not going to have much of an
effect on her reputation."
Good memories of Selena will live on with people, Pena said.
"As long as that exchange value she carries with her continues to produce
profits, the industry will continue to keep her image alive in the public
imagination," Pena said.
"From that thesis, a less glorified but nonetheless powerful image will remain
in the public image. But, at least among Texas Mexicans, she will always have
that star quality. ... That luster will always be there."
Staff writer Ron George
contributed to this report.