How Selena Inspires LGBTQ+ Communities Through Her Iconic Style and Music

How Selena Inspires LGBTQ+ Communities Through Her Iconic Style and Music

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, often simply known as Selena, remains an enduring icon whose influence transcends music and fashion, resonating deeply within the LGBTQ+ community. Her legacy, marked by her unique style and heartfelt music, continues to inspire and empower queer individuals, particularly in Texas and among queer Tejanos.

Selena’s life story is a significant part of her appeal. Born into a culturally conservative Mexican American family in South Texas, she faced numerous challenges. Her father, Abraham, was instrumental in her musical career but also imposed strict controls over her life. Selena’s early years were marked by long hours of practice with her family band, Selena y Los Dinos, leaving little room for typical teenage experiences. She once told Tejano historian Ramón Hernández that she had never gone on a date or attended a football game well into her teenage years. Dancing with someone outside her circle was also out of the question unless they asked her father for permission.

As Selena grew older, her desire for independence clashed with her father’s protective instincts. This tension was most evident in her relationship with her bandmate Chris Pérez. When Abraham discovered their romance, he forced them apart. This story resonates deeply with many queer fans who understand the pain of hiding their true selves from their families and the fear of being discovered. Selena’s song “Amor Prohibido” (Forbidden Love) captures this sentiment perfectly. However, Selena and Pérez eventually eloped, symbolizing the liberation that many LGBTQ+ individuals seek. Her story seemed to convey a message of hope: “It gets better.”

Selena’s music and style also contain elements that resonate with the LGBTQ+ community. Her bold choreography and maximum attitude reflect the voguing style popularized by Black and Latino members of New York City’s LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s. In a 1994 performance on the Mexican morning show “Un Nuevo Día,” Selena’s moves during “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and “Si Una Vez” showcased her flair for dramatic, expressive gestures that wouldn’t be out of place in a Manhattan nightclub.

Selena’s love for disco, a genre closely associated with gay nightlife, further cemented her status as a queer icon. Her song “Is It the Beat?” from a pop crossover album that never materialized, released posthumously, is a testament to her disco influences. Additionally, her cover of “A Boy Like That” for an album benefiting the AIDS Project Los Angeles highlights her connection to the LGBTQ+ community. The song, originally from “West Side Story,” a musical created by four gay men, is considered a subliminally queer work.

Beyond her music, Selena’s iconic outfits have left a lasting impression on queer fans. Her famous white dress from the Grammys, the newsboy cap getup emulated by drag queens, and the spangled purple jumpsuit from her last televised concert are all etched in the memories of her admirers. These outfits, both playful and dazzling, have inspired many to embrace their own unique styles.

Selena’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community is also evident in personal stories. For instance, one fan recalls meeting Selena in 1994 at Rio Fest in Harlingen. The fan, a young boy at the time, was overjoyed to meet her and later became a dedicated fan, borrowing cassettes from cousins and watching local TV programs featuring Selena. This fan’s journey with Selena’s music continued into adulthood, where he taught his first boyfriend to dance the cumbia, a dance style Selena popularized. Their relationship, which began with Selena’s album “Dreaming of You,” evolved as they explored her other albums together. For many queer Texans, Selena’s story mirrored their own experiences of love, self-discovery, and overcoming self-doubt.

Selena’s influence extends beyond her music and style. She has inspired numerous artists across various fields. Recording artists like Becky G, Ivy Queen, Solange, and Jennifer Lopez have performed covers of Selena’s work. Beyoncé, who met Selena as a young girl, and Selena Gomez, named after the Tejano star, also acknowledge her influence. The 1997 biopic “Selena,” starring Jennifer Lopez, is often cited as Lopez’s breakout role and further solidified Selena’s legacy. Netflix’s “Selena: The Series,” which completed its two-season run in 2021, also brought her story to a new generation.

Visual and literary works have also been inspired by Selena. Michael Frizell and Ramon Salas released a biographical comic book, “Female Force: Selena,” illustrating how Selena changed the world. These examples demonstrate how Selena’s creativity continues to inspire new works and influence artists decades after her passing.

Selena’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community is undeniable. Her life, music, and style have provided inspiration and empowerment to countless individuals. Her story of overcoming obstacles, embracing her true self, and finding love resonates deeply with queer fans. Selena’s legacy as a queer Latin icon will continue to inspire and uplift future generations.

Source: Texas Monthly, Lifetime, Sky, Billboard, Copyright Catalog, GettyImages

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