Born in 1971 in Lake Jackson, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez—known to her fans as Selena—was a barrio girl with a beautiful voice who became one of the bestselling, most beloved and influential Latina artists of the 20th century.
Under the mentorship of her father, Selena started singing at age 9 in Selena y Los Dinos, with sister Suzette on drums and brother A.B. on bass, belting out “Feelings” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in restaurants and veterans’ halls across the South. Eventually, a decision was made to focus on Tejano, a male-dominated genre of Tex-Mex music that Selena would help bring into the mainstream—i.e., Anglo—market.
In 1989 Selena went solo, and by 1992, carefully managing an image that was both wholesome and sexy, she was recording hit song after hit song, including “Amor Prohibido” to “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” She became a spokesperson for Coca-Cola and appeared with Johnny Depp in the film Don Juan DeMarco.
Then, tragedy. On March 31, 1995, in a motel in Corpus Christi, the star was shot and killed by the woman she’d entrusted with managing her fan club and fashion boutiques. She was just 23.
“Selena is the one who paved the way for all Latinos to be able to cross over and make it in the U.S. market,” says Evelyn Molina, lead singer of San Luis, Arizona–based Selena tribute band Los Chicos del 512, performing this month at Miller Outdoor Theatre. “She accomplished a lot in her short life, but where she would be today? It’s crazy to even imagine!”
Molina first heard Selena on the radio as a child, but never got to see her perform live. “I always wanted to grow up to be somebody like her,” she remembers. “She was a true inspiration to me as a Latina and a singer. And now, I get to do this tribute with a lot of love and respect.”
Resplendent onstage in a sequined bustier, bold eyebrows and bright red lips, Molina bears an uncanny resemblance to her inspiration, who often had to decorate her trademark thin-strapped bustiers with a glue gun just before her live performances.
“I feel like I’m borrowing her fans for the show,” says Molina. “The die-hard fans get very emotional. Some of them cry. They come up to us after the shows and thank us for keeping Selena’s spirit and legacy alive.”
Formed just over two years ago, Los Chicos del 512 recently performed in Texas for the first time, with stops including El Paso and Dallas. Molina admits they were just a bit nervous to take the stage in Selena’s home state.
“People loved Selena everywhere, but in Texas, I know it’s, like, hardcore,” says Molina. “But her Texas fans are just wonderful, so welcoming and warm. So I am really excited we are coming to Houston.”
Los Chico del 512. Aug 10 at 8:30. Free. Miller Outdoor Theatre, 6000 Hermann Park Drive. 281-373-3386. milleroutdoortheatre.com