The Story Behind Today's Selena Quintanilla Google Doodle: Exclusive

On Tuesday (Oct. 17), Google premiered their first-ever Selena Quintanilla Google Doodle, an animated singing cartoon of the late Mexican-American singer designed to celebrate the life and legacy of one of Latin music's most formidable stars. October 17, 1989 was the day of Quintanilla's first studio album release, Selena; one that would lead to five more albums, the last of which would be released posthumously and become her first No.1 on the Billboard 200

"I grew up as the daughter of a Mexican immigrant single mom living in a small (primarily white) town outside of Fort Worth, Texas," Perla Campos, Global Marketing Lead for Google Doodles and project manager for the Selena Quintanilla Google Doodle told Billboard in an exclusive interview. "There were always two women who taught me I could do anything and be anything I set my mind to: my mom and Selena. Selena has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember."

Both Campos and Quintanilla grew up in similar situations. Both were raised in Mexican families in small towns in Texas. Both were women who, despite the societal constraints regarding what it meant to be a Hispanic woman in a white community, managed to beat the odds. That, in addition to having fond memories of singing "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" in the van with her mother as a child on their annual road trip to Mexico (Selena, too, spent meaningful time on a bus with her family, who was also her band) and a strong recollection of the day the 23-year-old artist died, made Campos the perfect person to lead this campaign.

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Campos has been at Google for the better part of four years working in the marketing department, but it was only two years ago that she joined the Doodle team (which is a group within the marketing department) full time. At the time, her new teammates were conceiving of a Quintanilla Doodle to go live that same year. "I took my new team lead aside and said, 'look, I'm really passionate about this and know we could make something really amazing. Can we delay and can you give me some time to make this great?'"

For two years, Campos, illustrator/Art Lead Kevin Laughlin and their team worked tirelessly with the designers, animators, and, most importantly, Quintanilla's family, to ensure the Doodle told the iconic singer's story in a way that reflected the spirit of being a cross-over star. "For months, Suzette [Selena's sister] and I have been in touch. A few months ago we went down to meet her family to do research and we've been in constant communication ever since," Campos said. "I'm so inspired by them. They love her fans so much because they fans are the ones that built her up when she was alive, and then even afterwards, they're the ones keeping her memory alive and her legacy growing."

Suzette Quintanilla couldn't agree more. "Google came to us with this idea of telling a story," Suzette tells Billboard of the family's partnership with Campos and Google. "The little girl who had a dream and she became who she became. They already had the content pretty much done, but they knew that family was everything. The little details I gave...That Selena had red nail polish on instead of bright pink. That she had hoop earrings. They even put red on the microphone the way she used to have it." Here, Suzette is referring to her sister's red lipstick-stained microphone; a detail Selena fans know well since the singer would famously touch her lips to the mic while performing.

And while Suzette and her family couldn't be happier with the "perfect story" told "from when she was young to adult Selena," Suzette admits she never thought to have a Google Doodle created of her late sister. "It never crossed my mind, to be honest," she said. "It just speaks volumes to all the youth that are out there."

When asked what message this Doodle could be sending in today's political climate, one ruled by fear and apprehension when it comes to the unknown status DACA Dreamers, Campos' response was perfectly Selena. 

"Selena was always about transcending boundaries, and for someone who has such a powerful story to be featured on the homepage of Google—a search engine that connects people the way she connected people--that is such a beautiful thing. Featuring a powerful woman of color should not be political, it should be celebrated."

To view an interactive, curated Google museum about Selena Quintanilla, click here. And to read more about the Google Doodle, click here