Singer-songwriter Selena Quintanilla was only 23 years old when she died on March 31, 1995. Her legacy has lived on in fan memorials, family tributes, the blockbuster Jennifer Lopez portrayal in Selena, and now Netflix's take on "the Queen of Tejano music," Selena: The Series. The two-part biographical drama chronicles the singer's family and journey to stardom, with the first part released on Dec. 4.
The second part premieres on the streaming service on May 4, and the real-life tragedy of Selena's death will be covered at the end of the new season. Executive produced by the Quintanilla family, the TV series allows a new wave of Selena fans to see her life and legacy celebrated in a new format.
The first part of the biographical drama earned plenty of viewers. And, as soon as the series premiered, Twitter had thoughts. While some fans were open-minded about the latest interpretation of Selena's life, other Twitter users called it "🗑️" and insisted it was "the ABRAHAM SERIES, not Selena, let's not get it twisted."
Still, Selena's husband, Chris Perez, shared "I hope you guys enjoy this series," on Instagram. And, Selena's sister Suzette Quintanilla thanked fans for "embracing this amazing story that we were able to tell" on Instagram as it topped Netflix.
Not everyone thought the cast looked like the real Quintanillas, nor did they agree the series accurately showed real life events. It's true, Netflix doesn't necessarily include all the details of Selena's life, including her tragic death. Here's what to know about how Selena Quintanilla died:
Former fan club president Yolanda Saldívar shot Selena.
At the time, Saldívar had recently been relieved of her duties as president of Selena's fan club and manager of her boutiques. Selena and her father suspected Saldívar of embezzling money after fans began calling and sending letters to the Quintanilla family that said they hadn’t received merchandise they had ordered and paid for. Abraham also noticed that Yolanda had taken more than $60,000 from Selena’s fan club and stores. Even after she was fired, Yolanda still had some paperwork for the stores.
So, Selena set up a meeting at the Days Inn Motel in Corpus Christi, TX, to confront her and collect documents. Other reports alleged Saldívar set up the meeting, claiming she had been raped and seeking sympathy that Friday morning, according to the Houston Chronicle.
While there, Saldívar took out a "cowboy gun" and aimed it at the singer. Selena tried to run away, but Saldívar shot her once in the back, according to People. Selena escaped and made it to the lobby before she collapsed. She was then rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Selena performing in concert in February 1995 at the Houston Astrodome.
The motel staff recounted Selena's final words.
Maria Norma Martinez, who worked as a maid at the Days Inn, was reportedly the only one to have seen the shooting, per the Houston Chronicle. Martinez claimed to have heard Saldívar call Selena a "bitch."
Other motel workers also testified about what they saw that day. "She said 'Yolanda Saldívar in Room 158,'" shared Ruben Deleon, sales director at the Days Inn where the shooting occurred March 31, AP reported. A front desk clerk described a scene of hysteria when Selena collapsed on the lobby floor, bleeding from a .38-caliber bullet wound.
Selena died in the hospital before her husband was able to see her.
Selena was shot at 11:48 a.m. on March 31, 1995. When she arrived at the hospital, "She had no evidence of neurological function," per Dr. Louis Elkins, MD, a cardiac surgeon who testified about her treatment per AP. "There was no evidence of any blood flow to her brain. Her brain was not functioning. She was clinically brain dead.″
Perez believed Selena would be fine. "No matter what, you could have thrown anything in front of her, and she would have been okay," Perez told ABC13.
"And on that note, March 31st of '95, I didn't know all the details, going to the hospital with my dad that day. Because of that, I was already preparing my speech in my mind to get after her for having gone to this place without letting me know, until I walked through the doors and they told me what they told me," he continued. "It's just unbelievable."
"As far as that day goes I mean, for me, I wish I had amnesia for that day," Perez told ABC13. "I wish I could go from the night before, which was amazing, to... I don't even know."
Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, said she was the "trusting victim of an obsessed, 'unbalanced' fan who stole thousands of dollars from the singer's businesses and then killed Selena after realizing she had been cut from her life," the Houston Chronicle reported.
Selena’s mother marcela quintanilla, husband chris perez, and sister suzette place roses on her casket at her funeral.
Saldívar engaged in a standoff with police at the hotel.
The former fan club president and head of Selena Etc. Inc locked herself in her pickup truck in the parking lot of the hotel with the gun for around 10 hours, threatening to kill herself. Saldívar "was expressing remorse all through the incident," according to Corpus Christi Assistant Police Chief Ken Bung, per People.
Ultimately, she surrendered to police and the FBI after the long standoff. The same day she signed a typewritten confession.
Fans gathered at Selena's boutique, home, and the crime scene to mourn.
Thousands of mourners waited for hours in the Corpus Christi Convention Center to pay their respects to the late singer. Selena's body lay in a "closed black coffin surrounded by white roses" on Monday, April 3, per Houston Chronicle.
Before that, fans flocked to the Days Inn where she was shot. "There have been a lot of souvenir-seekers, and they're doing some damage to the property," Corpus Christi Police Chief Henry Garrett told the publication. "They were chipping the concrete and breaking off the shrubbery."
Fans attend a memorial tribute for the late singer in Los Angeles.
Saldívar was convicted of first-degree murder.
Selena's murder trial took nine days after the jury was seated. Prosecutors said Selena had confronted Saldívar about embezzlement allegations. Saldívar said the shooting was an accident. Her lawyers argued in court that the gun fired accidentally and the shot was meant for herself, according to the New York Times.
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On Oct. 24, 1995, a jury in Houston took less than two and a half hours to convict Saldívar, seemingly rejecting the defense's arguments. Selena's fans gathered outside the courthouse and cheered upon hearing the guilty verdict. The trial took nine days after the jury was seated.
"Tears, cheers, and honking car horns mixed with the strains of Selena's music on boom boxes outside the Harris County Courthouse where a crowd of about 200 people celebrated Yolanda Saldívar's guilty verdict Monday," reported Jo Ann Zuñiga and R.A. Dyer on Oct. 24, 1995, per the Houston Chronicle.
Saldívar was "distraught, crying, very upset," after the verdict, per the publication. Carlos Valdez, the District Attorney, described Selena's family as "relieved" after the guilty verdict. "I know they were very concerned because of several things that have happened before in the criminal justice system," he said.
Selena's killer is serving her life sentence in a women's prison in Texas.
Saldívar entered Gatesville, a women's prison 110 miles southwest of Dallas and 250 miles north of Corpus Christi, on Nov. 22, 1995. The facility housed 1,800 women prisoners.
Saldívar received the maximum sentence and will be eligible for parole in March 2025. A death sentence was not an option for the jury, because "the case does not include any of the aggravating factors necessary under Texas's death penalty statute," the New York Times reported.
Her lawyers attempted appeals. However, the appeals courts denied retrials on Oct. 3, 1998 and again on Aug. 19, 1999, per the Houston Chronicle.
After Selena's death, her family released her English album.
"For me, one of the hardest things to do was to show up and continue recording on that after she was gone," Perez told ABC13. "But seeing it kind of take off the ground, the work was worth it."
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The album debuted July 18, 1995, and became the fastest-selling album by a female in pop history, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart. "I feel like the way the fans have treated all things Selena, the album as well, it's been for me, it's helped me a lot," Perez added. "She's still out there, inspiring people."
Selena’s legacy continues to this day.
Selena died 26 years ago, but her music is still popular today. After her crossover album Dreaming of You was released in July 1995—several months after her death—Selena became the third woman to sell more than 300,000 copies of an album in its first week, putting her alongside superstars like Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey. It was also the first album by a Hispanic singer to debut in the No.1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.
Dreaming of You continues to sell copies—and Billboard says it’s the best-selling Latin album of all time.
Selena was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017, and her estate launched a MAC Cosmetics collection in 2016. That was followed up by another collection, called Selena La Reina in 2020.
Her hometown of Corpus Cristi, Texas also hosted a two-day festival each year called Fiesta de la Flor in Selena's honor from 2015 to 2020.
Jennifer Nied is the fitness editor at Women’s Health and has more than 10 years of experience in health and wellness journalism. She’s always out exploring—sweat-testing workouts and gear, hiking, snowboarding, running, and more—with her husband, daughter, and dog.