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Selena is a 1997 American biographical musical drama film directed by Gregory Nava about the life & career of the late female Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla Perez before her murder at the age of 23 in March of 1995 by the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar.

The film starred Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, Constance Marie, Lupe Ontiveros, Jon Seda, Pete Astudillo and Jackie Guerra.

It was released on March 21, 1997 and was distributed by Warner Bros.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

On February 26, 1995, Tejano music singer Selena (Jennifer Lopez) is shown performing to a sold out concert at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas.

In Corpus Christi, Texas in 1961, a young Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. (Edward James Olmos) and his band Los Dinos are rejected for an audition by a white restaurant owner because of ttheir Mexican American background. They decide to perform an English-language song at a club to a majority Mexican crowd who runs them out for nonconformity. After this, Abraham decides to quit music.

By 1981, Abraham is living in Lake Jackson, Texas, married to Marcella (Constance Marie) and has three children: A.B. (Jacob Vargas), Suzette (Jackie Guerra) and Selena. One day, after finding Abraham alone playing music, Selena decides to sing along to it. Captivated by her voice, Abraham decides to form a band with Selena as the lead singer, A.B. on bass and Suzette as a drummer, naming them Selena y Los Dinos.

At first, the kids are reluctant to play and try to persuade Abraham into allowing them to play outside. Later, the Quintanilla family opens up a Mexican restaurant with performances by Selena y Los Dinos, who begin to receive a positive reception from patrons.

Due to the 1980s oil glut, the family restaurant suffers and the Quintanillas go bankrupt. In order to help with the income, Abraham decides to professionally market Selena y Los Dinos and the family moves to Corpus Christi, Texas.

During a concert in 1989, Selena rips off her jacket, performing in a bra. Infuriated with her choice of clothing, Abraham demands Selena to wear more appropriate clothing; though, he later has a change of heart after Selena discussed about it being a fashion trend.

Abraham decides to hold an audition for a guitarist and A.B. introduces him to rock guitarist Chris Pérez (Jon Seda). Due to his heavy metal image, Abraham was hesitant to hire him until A.B. expressed Chris' ability to perform their type of music. After cutting his hair, Chris joins the band and began having romantic feelings for Selena.

After Abraham finds out Selena & Chris's relationship, he threatens to fire Chris and disband the group, but they ignore his wishes & Abraham ends up firing Chris. Selena ends up following Chris, continuing their relationship in secret and they later end up eloping.

After news breaks of Selena and Chris' elopement, Abraham decides to rehire Chris and accept their relationship. Selena's popularity increased as her record sales continue to amaze record executives who believe that she was ready to crossover into the mainstream market.

The family learns that Selena's song "Como la Flor" reached number one on the music charts and celebrates. Selena opens a clothing boutique called Selena Etc. and hires Yolanda Saldivar (Lupe Ontiveros) as the boutique's president and entrusts her with its finances. She later wins a Grammy Award for "Best Mexican American Album" and reveals to reporters about her upcoming crossover album.

Meanwhile, Abraham discovers that Yolanda is embezzling funds & holds a meeting with Selena who initially dismissed his concerns. After Yolanda declares her innocence, Selena performs a show at the Astrodome.

Selena confesses to her mother over her anxiety about the crossover album and her plans to start a family with Chris. Marcella informs Selena of her excitement of being a grandmother. In her dreams, she performs to an audience and sings "Dreaming of You" which abruptly ends to emergency personnel rushing an unconscious Selena with news reporting the shooting at the hands of Yolanda.

After Selena is pronounced dead to her family, a candlelight vigil is held by Selena's fans and there is a tribute to Selena.


  • Jennifer Lopez as Selena
  • Rebecca Lee Meza as Young Selena
  • Edward James Olmos as Abraham Quintanilla Jr.
  • Panchito Gómez as Young Abraham
  • Constance Marie as Marcela Quintanilla
  • Jon Seda as Chris Pérez
  • Lupe Ontiveros as Yolanda Saldívar
  • Jackie Guerra as Suzette Quintanilla
  • Victoria Elena Flores as Young Suzette
  • Jacob Vargas as A.B. Quintanilla
  • Rafael Tamayo as Young A.B.
  • Alexandra Meneses as Sara
  • Ruben Gonzalez as Joe Ojeda
  • Seidy López as Deborah
  • Pete Astudillo as himself (Dinos 1990s)
  • Ricky Vela as himself (Dinos 1990s)
  • Don Shelton as himself (Dinos 1990s)


On March 31, 1995, Selena was shot to death by a woman named Yolanda Saldívar, a friend who was the former manager of her Selena Etc. boutiques. The response to her death in the Hispanic community was compared to the reactions following the deaths of Elvis Presley, John Lennon & John F. Kennedy.

The news stands were swarmed by people looking for items concerning Selena. Eight biographies were released, six documentaries & two major companies were in the process of releasing a film (all were without the consent of the Quintanilla family).

This prompted Abraham to produce a film based on Selena within weeks of her death, a process Abraham said was difficult. He believed releasing a film would "put an end to all the false rumors" that were circulating the media "silencing [the media] from telling the wrong story." and later expressing his enjoyment of wanting "the whole world to know the [true] story about [Selena]."

A.B. spoke out how the family did not want a "misinterpretation of [Selena], [their] family, and a culture" and found that it was imperative that they release a film about Selena.

News of Abraham's desire to release a film reached Hollywood. American film producer, Moctesuma Esparza, immediately approached Abraham with the idea of being partners in producing the film. Esparza decided to educate Abraham on the process of filmmaking and provided a support system for him as well as giving him authoritative control over casting and approving the script and director.

On August 30, 1995, Esparza went back to Corpus Christi from California and brought in Gregory Nava (a week after Esparza and Abraham agreed to be partners).

Immediately, Abraham disliked the decision that was brought on by Esparza expressing his concerns over Nava's egonistic behavior. He told Esparza how he didn't want Nava to be the director because of his ego, Esparza explained to Abraham how "everybody in Hollywood has an ego problem" and convinced Abraham that he was the perfect candidate.

Producer Robert Katz later said how Gregory Nava was chosen because of the films he directed "has a very uplifting and positive quality" finding them to deal with "very strong and tragic elements."

The Dallas Morning News found Nava's works as giving "moviegoers a passionate, powerful look at Hispanic life".

Katz said how the team had overcome "what most people thought was a fatal contract" by entrusting Abraham's decisions and having a working relationship with him throughout the film's production: "working things out in advance so the studios knew exactly what we were proposing."

With his recorder, Gregory Nava began asking the Quintanilla family on stories they had shared with Selena; according to Suzette, Nava took "hours and hours of little stories of our lives and what he would do and how he felt."

Nava wrote the first draft of the script on March 4, 1996, Abraham contacted Nava about the elopement scene expressing his disagreement on it. Abraham said how Selena had young admirers and did not want them to think eloping is the right choice, Nava continued to persuade Abraham on the scene for a few days before he agreed to it.

Abraham was curious on how Nava found out about Selena and Chris eloping, Nava told him he found out because they interviewed Chris and Abraham initially thought that Chris had pressured Selena in getting married.

Roger Mussenden was hired as the casting director & held casting calls throughout the United States including San Antonio, Texas, Miami, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.

The biographical film was focused on Selena's life instead of her death, Nava said, "I don't want to attend to [her murder]", while her death is treated "at a distance".


In June of 1996, it was announced that Jennifer Lopez was chosen to play Selena (in what was described as the "role of a lifetime") in the film for a reported salary of US$1 million.

During that same month, it was announced that 10-year-old Becky Lee Meza (from Harlingen, Texas) was chosen from "thousands of girls who answered a nationwide casting call" to play the role of a younger version of Selena in the film. Lee Meza stated: "I'm really excited about this because I've never done anything like this before".

Lopez, along with other actresses, had to undergo intense auditioning for the role, even though she had previously worked with Nava in the film My Family (1995).

The screen testing was described as "grueling", requiring "nine minutes of singing and dancing and eight pages of script."

On August 8, 1996, the Los Angeles Daily News announced that Jon Seda and Edward James Olmos had joined the cast as Chris Perez and Abraham Quintanilla, respectively.

However, Jennifer Lopez's casting was highly criticized from fans of Selena, who weren't pleased that Lopez (a New York City native born to Puerto Rican parents) was selected to play Selena (a Texan of Mexican descent) & preferred an actress with Mexican roots which caused the Latino community began protesting for a re-cast.

During the film's pre-production, Lopez stated: "I know a few people were protesting, but in Corpus [Selena's hometown] everyone has been really supportive".

Nava admitted that the backlash was "a little hurtful" and felt that the protesters "should be celebrating that we have an all-Latino cast and that Jennifer Lopez, one of our own, is becoming a star."

Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly noted that "nothing could have prepared [Lopez] for the hype attached to her million-dollar salary".

Lopez perfected Selena's dialect while also "studying performance footage of the pop sensation" according to Nava. She said, "you need to do your homework on this gig" because Selena was "fresh in the public's mind".

After seeing Lopez's portrayal of Selena, protesters revised their opinions and were more accepting of Nava's decision. Filming the "Selena" film inspired Jennifer Lopez to begin her own music career.


The principal photography for "Selena" began in September of 1996 in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Poteet, Houston and Lake Jackson, Texas.

Nava used locals as extras for the film. Selena's real singing voice was used in the film while Lopez would lip-sync to her songs.

During filming, Jon Seda was unable to play the guitar the way that Chris Perez did (as he explained on the film's DVD extra, Making of Selena: 10 Years Later").

He then persuaded Perez to pay a visit to the set without telling him that he was going to have Perez play the guitar during the scene in which Chris auditions for Abraham, and the camera would zoom into his hands to make it seem like Seda was playing the guitar. Perez eventually agreed and his hands were made up to match Seda's.

In the noted stadium scenes where Selena once performed, the producers used approximately 35,000 extras. Instead being filmed at the Astrodome in Houston, it was filmed at the Alamadome in San Antonio.

Nava said he wanted to capture the "magnificence, beauty and excitement" of the concert. Abraham Quintanilla told Nava to remove scenes where Chris and Selena elope because he didn't want to influence Selena's younger fans that eloping is right. However, Nava maintained that while this was true, the scene was inevitable because it was an important part to Selena's story. Abraham eventually agreed.


"Selena" was supposed to be released in August of 1996, but it was later pushed back to be released sometime at the end of 1996. After being pushed back several times, it was finally released on March 21, 1997.

Box Office

"Selena" debuted at #2 at the box office, grossing $11,615,722 during its opening weekend. Domestically, it grossed $35,281,794

Critical Reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 64% of critics gave "Selena" a positive review, based on thirty-nine reviews.

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, it has a rating score of 65, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".

Roger Ebert was impressed by the acting in the film gave Selena three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "Young Selena is played by Becky Le Meza, who has a big smile and a lot of energy. The teenage and adult Selena is played by Lopez in a star-making performance. After her strong work as the passionate lover of Jack Nicholson in the current Blood and Wine, here she creates a completely different performance, as a loyal Quintanilla who does most of her growing up on a tour bus with her dad at the wheel."

Film critic Lisa Kropiewnicki liked the film and wrote, "Jennifer Lopez delivers a breakout performance...[and] Nava's engaging script wisely mines his subject's life for humor and conflict, embracing Selena Quintanilla's passion for music."

Film critic James Berardinelli also liked the film and the screenplay, writing, "It would have been easy to trivialize Selena's story, turning it into a sudsy, made-for-TV type motion picture."

He believed the acting was top notch and wrote: "Jennifer Lopez is radiant as the title character, conveying the boundless energy and enthusiasm that exemplified Selena, while effectively copying not only her look, but her mannerisms. I wonder if Selena's family, upon watching this performance, felt an eerie sense of déjà vu."

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan gave the film a mixed review.

He wrote the film is part of a "completely predictable Latino soap opera," but also wrote that "there are chunks of Selena that only a stone could resist. This movie turns out to be a celebration not only of the singer but also (as "What's Love" was for Angela Bassett) of the actress who plays her, Jennifer Lopez."

However, some critics didn't like how the film appears like a sanitized Selena portrait.

Critic Walter Addiego considers Nava's work a worshipful biography of her. Writing for the San Francisco Examiner, he said the film did have a few enjoyable moments while viewing it, but he wrote, "You can't help cheering for Selena, but the good feeling is diminished by the sense that her story's been simplified and sanitized."

David Sterritt from the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "The dialogue swings between platitudes and clichés, but the acting is lively and the music will set even lazy toes tapping."

Austin Chronicle Russell Smith criticized Nava, saying that he is "one of the worst writers to ever accrue more than two major-movie screenwriting credits."



Selena The Movie Trailer