Chris Perez, the widower of famed Mexican-American singing idol Selena, has written a book about his late wife, nearly two decades after she was murdered at the age of 23 by a woman who had served as president of her fan club.
Why did it take him so long to tell their story? “For years, Selena’s fans have been wondering if I was ever going to write about her,” says Perez, 49. “Their voices had an impact on me but, more than anything else, I wanted to show a different side of her.”
The new biography, “To Selena, With Love” (Celebra), covers the couple’s life together, from the moment he first met a teenage Selena Quintanilla and the pivotal 1990 moment when he joined her family’s band as lead guitarist, to the 1995 death of the singer, known as the queen of Tejano music. During their years together, not only did Selena’s career skyrocket, but they also endured a rocky relationship with her father/manager, Abraham, who initially disapproved of the romance.
Perez, who has two children from a second marriage that ended in divorce, won a Grammy Award in 2000 for best Latin rock/alternative album with a new group he founded, Chris Perez Band. Still, he acknowledges that nothing has come close to the success he experienced years earlier with his late wife. Selena has sold more than 10 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan, in addition to notching seven No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart and six No. 1s on Top Latin Albums, more than any other woman in history.
Billboard spoke to Perez about his new book, Selena’s musical legacy and the impact that she’s had on his life.
How did Selena’s family feel about the book?
I didn’t say anything to anyone while writing it. It wasn’t because I was afraid of the reaction, but I just wanted to be at peace when I was writing it. When I was done and talked to Abraham about it, he said, “Son, if it’s something you feel you need to do, you have every right to do it.”
Did writing help with your healing? Were you able to resolve any painful parts of your life?
It was something that I had to do in order to move forward. I was dealing with boxes and boxes of baggage that I had suppressed. So I went through, dusted them off, and then wrote the book.
How do you feel about posthumous Selena projects? Do you have anything to do with them?
The one misconception that bugs me is [about] all the different CDs that pop out. People don’t understand that the family and I really don’t have control over that. Capitol/EMI owns the masters and makes the plans for that stuff. People think that [our family is] sitting around trying to find different ways of releasing her music, but that’s not the case at all.
How would you ideally like Selena’s legacy to continue?
People need to remember what she stood for, the values she had. If she gave any message to the younger generation, it would be: Stay in school, and anything is possible as long as you work for it. If people remembered her in that way, I’d be happy and I’m sure she would be happy, too.