Gina Mei
March 31, 2015 12:00 pm

It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago today, the world lost Selena Quintanilla — the vibrant and beautiful singer, songwriter, actress, spokeswoman, and fashion designer who continues to be an inspiration to so many.

On March 31, 1995, the “Queen of Tejano” was fatally shot by Yolanda Saldívar, president of the official Selena fan club, after a dispute in a Texas hotel room. It’s an event that somehow still feels as shocking and heartbreaking as it did the day it happened.

As a star, Selena was relatable, always kind to her fans, and endlessly talented — and she had so much left to give. Her death remains a tremendous tragedy, and our hearts go out to her family as we honor her memory.

“Our family never got together every year on the day of her murder, because there’s nothing to celebrate, and this year won’t be the exception,” Selena’s father, Abraham Quintanilla III, told the Associated Press in a 20th anniversary interview. “We remember our daughter every single day. We don’t need a special day to remember her.”

Selena’s legacy lives on in so many ways, and in her short (nearly) 24 years of life, she accomplished so much. At only 15, Selena won female entertainer of the year at the Tejano Music Awards — which led to her record contract, albums, and superstardom. In 1994, Selena won the Grammy for Best Mexican/American Album for the incredible Selena Live!, and in a time where there were very few crossover stars, Selena paved the way for many bi-cultural artists to come.

Jennifer Lopez who, then-unknown, played Selena in the 1997 biopic Selena, reflected on what made the Mexican-American superstar so beloved in an interview with Billboard commemorating the anniversary of her death.

“The grace with which she handled the business, the grace with which she handled her life, the humor. Her spirit of loving what she did. Her sense of family,” she said, “That’s the tragedy of everything that ­happened and why she left such an imprint — because she was gone way too soon.”

“I felt she had a sense to live in the moment, that you’re not ­promised tomorrow,” Lopez continued, “For me that was the ­biggest lesson. That affected me in my life far more ­profoundly than the movie did in career terms.”

Selena’s first crossover album, Dreaming Of You, released posthumously, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 1995, making her the first Latin artist to achieve the honor. The album was meant to have 14 tracks, but at the time of her death, only four had been recorded, and it was turned into a tribute album. After it was released, Dreaming of You stayed on the charts for nine months and sold over 2 million copies — proving just how much her music meant to so many.

“I am named after her,” Disney star and singer Selena Gomez said once in an interview on The View, “She was a big deal to my family and growing up from the get-go, I knew who she was and who I was named after. I got to visit her grave. I’ve actually met her family. Some of her family, and it’s such a honor to be named after someone so amazing.”

On the anniversary of her death, we’re choosing to remember just how amazing she truly was.

“Her tragic death was a flashpoint in time,” George Reynoso, a music store owner, told The El Paso Times. “That moment established her as the de-facto Mexican-American entertainment hero for a bi-cultural generation of young Latinos in the U.S.”

As the always humble and hardworking Selena once said, “Be strong minded and always think that the impossible is possible.” Today and always, we’re grateful to her for proving that truth.

“There is never going to be another Selena. It’s a special thing that Selena had,” Lopez told Billboard. “That’s why we’re still talking about her 20 years later.”

(Images via, via, via.)

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