Selena’s Christian Serratos: ‘I looked up to and admired this woman my entire life’

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.

[From Variety]

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.

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Photos credit: Getty and Michael Lavine/NETFLIX © 2020

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21 Responses to “Selena’s Christian Serratos: ‘I looked up to and admired this woman my entire life’”

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  1. Kari says:

    Yeah…. the series was a hard no for me. Not only do they white wash Selena but the show is mostly centered around her brother and dad, the latter who was basically the Joe Jackson of the family (I mean the guy literally coerced her grieving husband 3 months after her death to sign over any right to her estate). You can’t have a show called Selena and then make her a secondary character. I’m tired of being baited with representation and being given mediocrity. This is not a dig at the actors, as many articles have pointed out, they were set up to fail from the beginning.

    Plus after hearing how her family bullies fans and small Latinx businesses and creators, many of whom helped keep her legacy alive, I just want to avoid giving them anymore of my money. I’ll always love Selena, but this ain’t it for me.

  2. Exactly says:

    Her father is the reason she isn’t alive anymore. He has tried to erase his past to elevate himself. Read Selena’s Secrets and come to your own conclusion. That man controlled Selena her whole life to the point that she wanted to leave. All signs point to a molester and I speak from personal experience, unfortunately.
    She will always be our Latin Queen regardless 👸🏻♥️💃🏻. RIP Beautiful Angel 😇.

  3. Redder says:

    I don’t think they white washed her. Selena wasn’t darker skinned at all. I think it would have been great to have someone darker play her, but she wasn’t misrepresented here.

    • Kari says:

      To be clear Selena was in fact a light Brown skin woman. I am not saying she had a deep skin tone. However, colorism is so bad in my community it is important to note the slight shade variation.

      However, white washing doesn’t just refer to skin tone it also refers to the gradual erasure of her features, whether it is her curves, her round tip nose, or her small eyes in favor of more mainstream/ Eurocentric features. That’s the sort of white washing I’m referring to.

      • Redder says:

        I understand your point. However, the actress is Mexican herself. Idk, I think she resembles Selena, but you’re right she is less curvy.

      • Steph says:

        How is curvy being used here? To represent weight or the actual structure of her figure? I think Christian is a curvy women but she’s Hollywood thin. Selena while having a gorgeous figure was not skinny.
        When I first watched my immediate thought was “they still couldn’t find a Mexican woman to play Selena?!” I don’t really know how to say this without coming off as possibly offensive do I’ll use Oya’s words. Selena looked Indigenous. You didn’t look at Selena and question whether or not she was Mexican, it was clear. Christian is racially ambiguous (mostly bc of the terrible wigs). I think they could have done a better job at casting someone who looked like Selena.
        That being said, I do think, just off acting Christian is doing a good job.

  4. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I haven’t watched yet but as a huge fan, am looking forward to doing so. I agree that Selena was mas morena than Christian Serratos. When I saw Selena as a pre-teen/teen, I saw someone brown like me, which was sooo important growing up. We didn’t really see that as kids. Most of my siblings are lighter skinned but I favor dad and mí abuela in Mexico. Representation is vitally important. Growing up, I preferred black dolls because I saw that my skin was closer to theirs (typically, dolls were either black or white in the 80s/90s). I know this is kind of rambling but I’m not a morning person. 😂

    • Kari says:

      Exactly. And also white washing doesn’t refer to just skin tone. I’m also talking about the gradual erasure of her features, whether it’s her curves, her rounded tip nose, her cheekbones, her small eyes, all in favor for more mainstream/ Eurocentric features. These things may seem small changes to some but they were a huge part of who Selena represented for Brown skin girls at that time, especially with all the colorism in Latinx culture.

      • Oya says:

        Even her hair. Selena literally had an Afro when her was short. There is a lot of downplaying of ethnic features and I agree with LaUnica that she was darker brown and that is what her extremely compelling the Tejano communities. I love how you break down what white washing actually means Kari…

      • LaUnicaAngelina says:

        @Kari, thank you for your definition of white washing. It’s certainly more complex than skin tone.

  5. Katherine says:

    I really didn’t like this show at all. It felt so cheap and poorly constructed. From costumes to editing to just weird narrative beats. Like weird dramatic pauses or zoom ins and then nothing would happen. Plus the dad is a super weird vibe; like first of all show may as well be called “Abraham the series” but also he’s depicted in this show as almost abusive and holding them hostage. I counted 4 scenes of him ordering people off the phone. Just odd things to focus on repetitively and it made it seem like the family was kidnapped. And her whole family’s reaction to the Chris romance is bizarre. When Suzette realizes something is going on between them she looks like she’s on an episode of American Horror Story and has just been shown a monster or something. Again just really odd to me storytelling and performances.

    The movie depicts these interactions much more realistically and as actual humans I think. Like obviously the dad is strict, obviously it’s a conservative household, obviously he ran a tight ship with regards to the band, obviously her relationship and marriage caused some tension and wasn’t approved of, but in the movie they seem to love each other and have genuine warmth despite the strictness and clashing. The scene with Olmos and Lopez after he finds out she got married is one of my faves. I also found the concert scenes in the movie far superior to the show.

    I really think this show missed the mark and it’s too bad because Selena is such a compelling person and a well-constructed multi-dimensional examination of her and her life would be so interesting.

    • Eleonor says:

      Glad to hear this, because I saw some image and my first reaction was: those wigs look cheap. The costumes look cheap.

  6. Norman Bates' Mother says:

    I’ve only watched two episodes and I wish it was more centered on Selena. I guess that they wanted to show how pushy and despotic her father was to truly get us to know her background and that she had a hard life, but he is such an unlikeable person that I wish they condensed it to half an episode. It’s like watching Michael Jackson show focusing merely on Joe Jackson.

    Question to people who watched more than two episodes – is it getting more Selena-centric or is it about her awful father and her singing in the background throught the entire season?

    • Steph says:

      I finished it and it doesn’t really get more Selena centric. It’s still mostly the Quintanilla’s. Also, I expected it to cover her full life, it doesn’t. I think she only had 1 or 2 albums out by the last episode. Maybe the next seasons will be more about her?

  7. aang says:

    We love Selena in our household. She was finally replaced on my most played list on Apple Music by BTS this year but she was still second. We went to the Selena for Sanctuary tribute concert in NY in 2018 and it was amazing. The energy and pride of the Mexican community was truly a joy to experience. I’m a little scared to watch this. The reviews have been tepid to bad.

  8. Red Queen says:

    I love Selena and was excited to see this. I’m 3 episodes in but I do have a slight problem with the actress because I feel like she was cast more because of her resemblance to Jennifer Looez than to Selena. Her father and brother (moreso her father but her brother is following closely in his footsteps) used her as their cash cow in life and continue to do so in death. I feel like this series is an attempt to not only make more money but downplay their sketchiness.

  9. Dids says:

    I’m a bit dissapointed… I guess I had too much expectations because i looooooved the movie and i wanted to know more about Selena. (I’m too young to have known her, and i dont think she was really a thing in Canada). I guess i was happy to know more about AB et Suzette. AB seems to have been under SO MUCH pressure from his dad.. Did Abraham ever do anything except barking orders at everybody? Anyway… i guess Christian did a good job, but i felt less of a connection with her thant with Jennifer Lopez’ Selena. But, gotta say: i did binge watch the series in 2 days.

  10. TyrantDestroyed says:

    I could get past chapter 3. Also the wigs are just terrible. The fingerprints of the brother and father are all over the sitcom.