Twenty-five years ago today, we lost our beloved Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. In a way, it’s unfathomable to realize we’ve now been missing her longer than we had her. The loss doesn’t get easier, even as each year passes, because it hurts to imagine what we’re missing.
And yet, Selena is everywhere.
What was once just a regional legacy is now a global phenomenon. She’s almost become an Elvis Presley-type figure, with iconography galore. People who weren’t alive to hear her music on the radio or in person speak of her in reverent tones. Celebrities pay tribute to her—even fellow Texan and fashion lord Kacey Musgraves has covered songs from the bilingual star who bridged the gap between Tejano and Madonna.
In the years since her senseless murder, Selena’s legend has grown to encompass more than just her hit singles, her outfits, and her tragic end. Now, you can buy Selena-branded makeup, see her face smiling back at you in street art, and still hear her hits at bars and clubs on any given night. Still alive and thriving in pop-culture, she’s even a Halloween costume.
Because of that, her influence is hard to quantify. She comprises what we love about Texas: the fashion flair and the joyous music, all served with a smile and a hip shimmy.
The saddest thing, however, besides losing such a young artist in her prime and seeing a family shattered, is that she was just warming up when she died. Her spunky stardom was just rising out of Texas and the Tejano movement. The late ‘90s and beyond were poised to be imprinted by that smile. We never got to hear her explore new textures with that voice. We never got to see her sell out stadiums across the planet, fusing Tejano culture with her own innate pop sensibility. Would there have even been a Latin pop explosion in the late ‘90s were it not for her?
When young artists burn so bright so early, we hold on to those embers ever so tightly and reflect on what might have been. How would she have aged? Would she have grown out of music and become an actress? Hosted a morning chat show? Championed courageous causes? How many crucial musical bops did we miss out on? Would there have been a Beyoncé-Selena set at Coachella? Would we even know who Jennifer Lopez is?
But reality dealt us a cruel hand. A family lost a daughter, a sister, and a wife; the world lost a smile that lit up the Astrodome. Still, 25 years after she was taken from us, Selena’s damn near inescapable. And that’s been the greatest gift we could have ever asked for.