Selena Quintanilla‘s biopic, starring Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos, hit the big screen 23 years ago. The release date was March 21, 1997, to be exact, just two years after the tragic death of Tejano music’s rising star.
From Selena’s humble beginnings as a singer to breaking into the male-dominated tejano genre and eventually becoming the “Queen of Tex-Mex,” the movie, directed and written by the Oscar-nominated Gregory Nava, has become a staple in pop culture.
On Saturday (March 21), J.Lo took to social media to celebrate Selena’s legacy with a heartfelt tribute video. “I can’t believe it’s been 23 years since this incredible movie came out and 25 years since her passing,” she said. “Selena was such an inspiration to me and I was so lucky to be chosen to play her. As an artist, this movie truly was an experience I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Billboard remembers Selena 25 years after her tragic death and celebrates her legacy with stories and a special podcast to be published on billboard.com throughout the next few days.
Here are eight key moments of the film that we’ll never tired of watching over and over again.
Humble & difficult beginnings
“Tejano music is all men; women are not successful,” Selena’s mom says in the movie. After starting to perform at a very young age with her brother and sister in a male-dominated genre, Selena quickly gained popularity and charmed the crowd with her talent and personality.
Selena was known for rocking the bustier, but at first, her father, Abraham Quintanilla, wasn’t too happy to see his daughter singing and dancing in only a “bra” — even after they try to explain to him that it’s “one of those things … like all the girls are wearing.”
“Busti-quela? It’s a bra. Look at it.”
During a packed concert at a fair, a rowdy crowd tries to force their way closer to the stage, squeezing everyone in front and almost breaking the stage. While Selena’s dad wants to cancel the show, she is convinced she can calm them down with her song “Como la flor.” And it works.
“Anything for Salinas”
It didn’t take long before Selena started getting recognized by her fans on the street, but her encounter with these two cholos is pretty epic.
Being Mexican-American is tough
This Abraham Quintanilla monologue pretty much sums up the Mexican-American experience. “We gotta prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are and we gotta prove to the Americans how American we are.”
A mall employee, who tried telling Selena that their dresses were “too expensive” for her, quickly learned that she was dealing with a music icon when fans started rushing into the store to get an autograph from the singer.
Marrying boyfriend and band member Chris
After falling in love with her guitarist — a relationship that wasn’t approved by her father, who even threatened to dismantle the band if they didn’t break up — Selena and Chris decide to elope.
Dreaming of You
The movie ends with an emotional interpretation of “Dreaming of You,” and while onstage, Selena doesn’t catch a white rose thrown to her, foreshadowing a tragedy. The narrative picks up with the family at the hospital where Selena is pronounced dead after being shot by her fan club president and boutique manager Yolanda Saldivar.
*Bonus: Disco queen
Not only could Selena sing Tejano, cumbia, norteñas and mariachi, she was also a disco queen and an impeccable dancer.