Netflix released Selena: The Series, about Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla this past weekend. Selena: The Series stars Walking Dead actress Christian Serratos who portrays Selena. Selena gained popularity in the Texas Tejano music scene in the late 1980s with her siblings Los Dinos. She briefly gained international popularity before her untimely death in 1995. Jennifer Lopez portrayed Selena Quintanilla in the 1997 movie Selena. At first many people didn’t like the idea that Jennifer, a Puerto Rican, was playing Selena, a Mexican-American star, but they came around after seeing the movie. Now Jennifer Lopez is the litmus test when it comes to other actresses daring to take on the role of such a cultural icon.
Christian Serratos is embarking on the same journey through the Selena series. Christian feels the Jennifer Lopez comparisons are inevitable and she welcomes them. However, for Christian, who is of Mexican and Italian descent, being able to portray Selena is more about representation, especially for her three year old daughter. Below are a few excerpts from her interview with Variety and iHeart podcast The Big Ticket:
“I grew up loving Selena so much,” she says during this week’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “She has crossed so many generations, and new generations are going to fall in love with her. I know my daughter is going to be no different. So for my daughter to see that I played an iconic Mexican woman like her I think is really powerful.”
Now 30, Serratos has inevitably set herself up for comparisons to Jennifer Lopez, whose climb to Jenny From the Block began with her star-making turn in Gregory Nava’s 1997 “Selena” biopic.
“Sometimes I do have to remind myself that I can’t please everybody because I’m human,” Serratos says. “But the thing I tried to do first and foremost was to honestly portray her spirit because I think that’s what made her so lovely and so iconic. I think that’s why we all love her so much because there are icons and people we love, but there’s something so personal about Selena.”
Why were you so determined?
I really looked up to and admired this woman my entire life. She’s one of the few Mexican women to become an icon. I wanted the opportunity to follow in her footsteps. She has been such a pioneer for women like me. She opened so many doors for me. It felt it was almost like a way of thanking her.
Like Jennifer Lopez, you don’t do your own singing on the show. Why not?
I recorded quite a few songs, and I think it was always supposed to be the actress singing but … I always wanted it to be Selena because I was such a fan. I think people were confused by that because I never wanted to be a pop star, but I always wanted to act in films where I got the opportunity to just sing. They were like, “Here’s your chance to show people you can sing.” I was like, “But it’s not about me; it’s never been about me.” I just want the fans to see their girl. I want them to see their girl. I don’t want to hear me. I want to hear Selena.
I just started watching the Selena series and so far, it isn’t too bad. My only complaint is the use of an actress that is several shades lighter and slimmer than Selena. For me Selena represented a certain section of Mexican-Americans that go unseen, the darker skinned Mexican-Americans of indigenous ancestry. Selena was a huge deal in Texas, not just to Mexican Americans but to everyone across racial and ethnic lines. She was Texas’s daughter. I still remember the day it was announced that Selena was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar. The pain was felt by everyone especially those from Texas. The outpouring was on Princess Diana’s level. To this day, I still tear up when I talk about Selena. She meant that much to me.
I am giving Christian Serratos and this series a chance. I have learned a few facts about Selena that I didn’t know when watching the first episode. Selena, for example, did not speak Spanish fluently despite writing several Spanish language songs. She was also fiercely proud of her bicultural heritage.
I look forward to completing the series. I hope they do Selena proud. Selena, like so many others who left us too soon, will forever be celebrated. I hope through this Netflix series a new generation will be exposed to the beautiful human that was Selena Quintanilla and her music.
Photos credit: Getty and Michael Lavine/NETFLIX © 2020