A Look Back at the Movie Selena 20 Years After Its Debut

From inspiring Jennifer Lopez's music career to Chris Perez watching it for the first time, see how this biopic touches so many lives

By Diana Marti Mar 22, 2017 12:09 AMTags

It's been 20 years since the movie Selena debuted. Yes, you read correctly. In just a few weeks on March 31 marks, 22 years since Selena Quintanilla Perez was shot and killed. She was only 23 years old. 

Selena, just like the late singer, has broken records and created history. It's difficult to wrap your head around the fact that this singer's legacy continues to grow more and more as every year passes with generations that were not around to witness her music when she was alive. 

Even many of us were too young even to comprehend what was happening at the time of Selena's death, and in a way, the movie helped us meet the phenomenal person behind the music.

2016 Latin Grammy Awards

Shortly after the singer's untimely death, a young actress named Jennifer Lopez auditioned along with 22,000 other women for the role of Selena. We're sure that neither Lopez or Quintanilla's family could have imagined just how impactful this biopic would be. At the time Lopez was initially met with backlash from certain people who were upset that a Puerto Rican-American was going to play the role of a Mexican-American. But it was the singer's striking similarity and natural connection with the family that helped her land the role.

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Lopez's salary for Selena was $1 million, making her the highest paid Latina in film history at the time. 

During a gala screening of the movie at Selena's adopted hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, Jennifer was greeted by thousands of fans. 

"It's hard to be somebody else, somebody who is so beloved. Selena meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and I had to do a good job for her fans. I think we pulled it off. By the end of the film, I could look in the mirror and really see her," Lopez said to the crowd. 

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Lopez moved in with Quintanilla's sister Suzette Quintanilla for four months in order to prepare for the role and really feel closer to Selena.

But it was this role and Selena's love for music, that inspired Lopez to venture off into a musical career. The actress said that right after that movie she decided to record her first album. 

During the 2015 Latin Billboard Award, Lopez did what she had never done—she sang Selena's music. The singer paid tribute to the late star with an emotional performance that also included Selena's brother A.B. Quintanilla, her widower Chris Perez and her sister Suzette. 

After the powerful rendition, Lopez sat with Natalie Morales and talked about the importance that the role of Selena had in her life. 

"The impact that it had in my life, my career...it was a great thing for her to be my mentor, in a way. To teach me so much about how to navigate this business, but also how to navigate through life," Lopez explained. "This is one of the reasons why it's so emotional, I'm watching her on the screen, the audience is watching her as well and I think, 'If she was here she'd be doing what I'm doing right now.'"

Morales went on to ask her if she ever wondered what would've been of Selena's life and career had she not been murdered. 

"It's a sad story. It still gets me, even until this day, because it really did mark my life at the time. And to get to know the family and work with them...it was just an important part of my life," she said as tears filled her eyes. "And it still is, even 20 years later."

Unlike many of us fans who have rewatched Selena countless times, Perez revealed on Facebook, just last month, that he had never been able to fully watch the movie even though it debuted 20 years ago. 

"Guess what just started on the Lifetime tv channel…yup," he wrote. "Gonna grab a bottle of wine from the kitchen and sit through the movie in its entirety for the first time (besides the premier…where my eyes were closed half of the time). Wish me luck. This is gonna be surreal."

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He even reminisced saying, "Yup. She LOOOOOOOOVED pizza....this scene coulda been a lil more heavy. Here's where we first said 'I love you' to each other. My head was spinning." 

There was just a certain part of the movie that he understandably can't bring himself to see, "I'll tell you what... Jen did a great f!@#king job. Super proud. Will not watch the ending of the movie."

We can't even imagine how difficult that scene must be for him, but we loved to see his take on the way that their relationship was portrayed in the movie.

Selena, the movie, has touched the lives of so many people and will forever continue to do so every single time that it airs. The magic of Selena is simply undeniable.