¿WHAT’S IN CULTURE?

Selena – Our Breakthrough Cultural Voice


Over the last few days I’ve seen countless pictures, articles and posts reflecting on Selena and how she made an impact on so many with her music and her talent.  Singing was her passion and of course her voice is at the core of what she is remembered for; however, I believe her influence goes much deeper.

What Selena represented at the time was not just a singing voice, but also the voice of our Latino culture… its beauty reflected in her own beautiful face and her generous nature…  Our language, sorrow and happiness through the lyrics she shared… Our love of dancing with her amazing moves as she sang “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”… Our humble, genuine spirit – the soul of who we are.

Selena represented U.S. Hispanics

Selena was more than just a talented singer. She was a true representation of what it means to be Hispanic.

This is why 20 years after her death, her presence is still being felt.   She not only was part of our history, but played a huge part in how Latinos would be perceived for future generations.  She brought a sense of pride about being Latino to many and helped cross the cultural barriers that were still very much in existence at the time. 

Selena was The Real Thing

I remember vividly the day I first saw her perform at the Tejano Music Awards.  At the time I was director of Hispanic marketing for Coca-Cola North America, the primary sponsor of the show.  When I watched the audience reaction to her, I knew immediately she was the perfect celebrity talent for Coke.  She was not only bubbly and sweet, but authentic – the REAL Thing – and that came through loud and clear.

Selena was the 'Real Thing'

Coke was fortunate to sign her at the beginning of her career when she was only 17 years old, and went on to help share her talent and beauty across America with a full marketing campaign that included numerous TV and radio commercials, as well as TV shows on Spanish-language stations.

Back then it was rare to see Hispanics on mainstream television, yet Selena was there in Coke commercials on NBC/CBS/ABC.  At the time, that was break-through. She helped facilitate breaking down cultural barriers and put a beautiful talented face to Hispanics in America and she did it in style!

Selena Inspired a Sense of Pride

She also helped awaken a powerful sense of pride in young girls and women who saw themselves in her.

I remember driving around with my two little nieces, just small children at the time, with limited language skills and no Spanish-language skills. But when I would put Selena’s music on, they knew every word and sang their hearts out in the backseat as I watched them in the rearview mirror. Today in their 20’s, they still know those words and now play Selena’s music and sing her songs to their own children.

A Humble and Giving Heart

Finally, Selena’s humble and giving heart was one of the biggest reflections of our culture.  She would go out of her way for people… her family, friends and fans, and always made them feel important and special.  In fact, she touched me with the very special gift of performing at my mother’s 67th surprise birthday party in San Antonio. I had mentioned the event in conversation, Selena asked if I had music, and when I said no, she said, “I want to play for the party.”  That
says worlds about who she was.

I’ll never forget the tremendous impact she made on my life, but more importantly, let’s never forget the impact she made for Latinos and Latinas by bringing our culture to the forefront in America.

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