Anyone who is a Selena fan knows the third-generation Texan didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. The Selena biopic captured this struggle through the iconic “Me siento muy excited” scene. When she couldn’t quite figure out how to say “I feel very excited” during a visit to Mexico, she instead spoke Spanglish. She ended up charming the press in the process. Though she had sung in Spanish most of her life, she only learned the lyrics phonetically. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla, coached her on her pronunciation.
Eventually, Selena learned to speak Spanish. In his 2012 book, To Selena, With Love, Chris Perez explained that the Queen of Tejano tasked herself with becoming fluent in the language. “In Mexico, Selena mangled her conversations in Spanish like the rest of us, but not for long,” he wrote. “She said, ‘It’ll be cool. You watch. I’m going to learn Spanish and surprise everybody.’ She got better and better, to the point where I’d have to ask her to slow down so I could understand what she was saying. Her fluency in Spanish eventually helped her in Los Angeles and Miami as well as in Mexico, because at those concerts the audience was also made up mostly of Spanish-speaking fans who all wanted to hear her music.”
At the time, Spanish-speaking fans may have been the norm. But in the two decades since her death, Selena’s music has even won over those who can’t understand her lyrics. Just this year, Leslie Jones and Keke Palmer delighted us with their own versions of her songs. Both women don’t speak Spanish. But just like Selena, they learned the lyrics phonetically. There are plenty more people like them. And finding them on the internet is literally one of the best ways I’ve spent my time.
Check out seven people who loved Selena so much they learned to sing in Spanish:
When asked at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con about her go-to karaoke song, Keke Palmer began to sing Selena’s “Amor Prohibido.” She actually published a video of her singing the song four years ago.
This woman, who goes solely by Tanisha on YouTube, sang along to “Si Una Vez.” “I absolutely love this song!” she said. “Have zero clue what I’m saying but because I am someone who vibes off of people, I put feeling in the song where I [hear] it. May sound a lil weird, but I hope I don’t disappoint! Selena rocks!!!”
Carmen Jones shared her rendition of “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” In the comments section, she thanked people but said she’s still working on getting her pronunciation down. But when one commenter expressed joy that Selena inspired other non-Spanish speakers to sing in the language, she said, “That’s just how amazing the Queen of Tejano music is!”
Robyn McGhee is a Selena super fan, even if she can’t quite understand La Reina’s lyrics. She uploaded this video in 2008, and explained that she filmed it at work when nothing was really happening. “I laughed at the end cause I was a lil [ashamed] and still in disbelief of my love for Spanish music, especially Selena,” she wrote.
Jay Brannan has sung “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” at venues and from the comfort of his home. He uploaded a video in 2013 after getting reacquainted with the song. “I just got back from my first-ever weekend in Mexico and was inspired to re-purchase my old fave Selena album,” he wrote. “Someone stole it from me in high school and never gave it back.”
At the beginning of her video, London admits that despite two years of Spanish in high school, she doesn’t understand the language. But she still wanted to share her version of “Amor Prohibido,” her favorite Selena song. “Selena has become a true inspiration to me,” she said. “I’ve recently took the time to not only learn the lyrics but to sing them correctly. She was as beautiful as her music, and she will live on forever.”
Leslie Jones only sang a very little bit of “Como La Flor,” but if she had been given the time, she’d probably would have gotten really into it.