Remembering Selena: Chiquis Rivera, Jessie Reyez, Kali Uchis & More Speak About Selena’s Legacy

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

There’s not a lot that can be said about Selena that hasn’t already been said in the 25 years since her tragic passing. But one of the ways in which we are able to continually re-connect with the Tejana queen—and in the process, learn more about ourselves—is by recognizing and celebrating the lasting legacy and impact she had on the artists who we look currently look up to.

We spoke with some of our favorite Latina artists, including: Chiquis Rivera, Angelica Garcia, Jessie Reyez, Kali Uchis, Girl Ultra, Raquel Berrios (Buscabulla) and Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys) about how La Reyna influenced them in their careers.

In their own words:

Chiquis Rivera:

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To every female artist, Selena has some impact in our life. Both personally and professionally. For me personally just knowing that she is still charting after 25 years that tells me that… It reminds me that music is timeless and her music was definitely timeless and she still continues to inspire me to this day. I love to watch her interviews and how humble and easygoing she was and so full of light… she reminds me to just be myself and to love what i’m doing and to do it with all my heart.

I actually was 10 years old when I first heard Selena’s music and I was introduced to it by my dad. He was a huge fan of Selena. He always said how beautiful she was and loved her music… and I think it was “Como LA Flor.” I remember that music video… him showing me and how excited he was. I was visiting him for the weekend and that’s, I remember specifically I want to say it was Sunday, cuz I was getting ready to go back to my mom’s. So it was early morning Sunday and the video came out on television and he told me who she was and she looked so beautiful and I loved her music and I wanted to dance like her.

It represents confidence… authenticity. I love the whole bustier situation with the sparkles, and showing a little bit of your tummy, showing a little bit but not too much. I still until this day I look up #Selena and look up her style because it was so unique and so bold and so straightforward you know? And that’s how I like to be myself. Especially because I’m a curvy woman and I like to embrace that and be different so I love that about her about her style… to know that she designed it herself is even more amazing and cooler to me.

Jessie Reyez:

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Being able to see a Latina on a big stage, that was close with her family, that had full lips and dark hair like me be successful was like motivation, like proof that it could be done

I remember watching the movie with my mom and my friend and sobbing.

The boldest style icon moment that I remember from Selena was the shiny purple body suite. People often dress up for Halloween as that. Iconic.

Kali Uchis:

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I was just a baby when Selena was taken from us so as a child my strongest memories of her are her songs being those songs that when they come on at the family party, everyone is chanting them word for word and drinking in her memory. I remember my dad explaining to me how she passed and telling me how much he cried when he realized that she was gone.

Selena touched our community in a way that no one else ever has and she inspired the world and still does decades later. That’s how you know she’s powerful.

Not only did she inspire my style, but she had a confidence and an iconic presence that can’t be taught. You could see in her interviews and her performances that she had a beautiful soul inside and out. We love Selena and we miss her every day.

Girl Ultra:

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I think the way [Selena] embraced her curves was crucial for any Latina growing up and also like the textures, the leather…

Probably my memories are related to weddings and quinceaneras of my friends, playing Selena potpourris every time.

I was born in 1995, the year of the incident, so I used to see on the news her performances years after she unfortunately passed away. And I was always thrilled by her presence and big smile…

Angelica Garcia:

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Pienso que one of Selena’s greatest legacies is that she normalized an american Latinx presence in pop music. So people saw her and what an incredible performer she was, and could finally contextualize our people—Latinx music, our culture—through an American lens.

Also I think it was especially impactful as a child to see this like, amazing, incredible, fashionable vocalist who also had a family that reminded me a lot of my own, of my tios and everything and I think that that representation is super super empowering.

I had a Selena barbie doll in the purple astrodome outfit and that was like one of my most prized toys. I actually wasn’t allowed to open the box. My mom was like no you can’t play with this but i kept it in my room and I used to make her sing through the box—like concerts to my other toys.

Of course I guess when I was super small, my mom said that she’d have like the music playing and I would be spinning doing little vueltas in my crib along to her music. She said I did it most to “Como La Flor.”

I love that she incorporated the glamorous elements of disco, chicano and 80s and 90s american pop culture and she mixed them all up and made them into her own thing. I love that I saw the big hair that my mom had and the leather jackets and the hoop earrings and she made it very her own. I think it’s important to celebrate the things that make us who we are and to actually wear them on our sleeves.

I felt like growing up latina I was often told that I had to be modest in my appearance. You know “you can’t show certain parts of your body. You have to do this or you have to do this. You have to look angelic” and I love that she didn’t accept that. I love that she chose to embrace her artistry and her sexuality in her clothing and he managed to do so in a way that made it cool for everybody.

Raquel Berrios (Buscabulla):

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Selena has been such a big influence, particularly because of the way how she really broke broders with her music, with her singing in spanish. With sort of this new genre she had created where she took her musical/cultural legacy and she really converted it into something new and modern for the time. And how she really celebrated her culture and at the same time really pushed it forward.

I have a lot of memories tied to her—particularly singing in front of the mirror with hairbrushes while wearing my mom’s bras. So many amazing road trips taken with friends and singing “El Chico Del Apartamento 512” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”

Who hasn’t been influenced by Selena’s style? I mean, she really did celebrate her latina features but she also pushed that forward. She sort of went beyond the “submissive delicate” Latina woman and she really presented a more powerful and empowered woman that really celebrated her sensuality without being over the top, and really created something new and really really amazing for us all latina girls to look up to.

Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys, Malportado Kids):

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Selena was who showed so many of us that, in fact, we could do it with ourselves and not with losing ourselves. This impacted every if any ability I had to be in music. It’s funny because my family still talks about when I was really little and we were having a party and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” came on. My grandma, who to this day makes mixed cassette tapes and includes Selena songs, yelled, “Victoria, your song is on, come sing for us.” I don’t know what came over me, because now I don’t think I could do this, but I grabbed this little lawn flower she had in a planter, used it as a mic, and sang “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” to my family. When Downtown Boys or Malportado Kids gets any type of press or we come out with something, it is inevitable that someone in my family brings this up. Also, both bands have Selena covers. DTB covers “Fotos y Recuerdos” and our single art is a beautiful picture of my grandpa swimming in a lake that my grandma took. Like Selena, he died at a very young age and many of our family members know him through the most amazing photos, memories, and his actions that still reverberate through us. I think a lot of people who have dealt with loss know what it means to deal with lives that mean so much.

Selena’s leadership style was uniquely hers in that she did lead many young people, young women, poor people, immigrants. I remember one of the only things that my farm-working cousins and I could really ever relate to, besides our family, was Selena. My cousins would love to debate about her lyrics, her decision to sing in English or cover U.S. American disco songs. And when Jennifer Lopez was chosen to star as Selena in a Hollywood feature film, there was much debate as to why a non-Mexican would play Selena.

She faced discrimination by both the Latino community and the White community. She was dark skinned, curvy, and often wore jeans and sweatshirts. This not only sets one up for racial profiling on all fronts, but makes the her confidence, assertiveness, and her “I’m not a girlfriend, I’m in the band” position that much more important. In interviews she would mention being the target of racial discrimination and the urgency of making positivity and the future relevant.

Originally, this introduction on Selena Quintanilla Perez was to focus on her effect on intersectionality of race, culture, Mexican Americanism, and the Brown body. She defies aspects of Western beauty and normative music culture both for Tejano music lovers and U.S. Pop music fans alike. Her music became a timeless vessel that lives on long after her body crossed back into the Earth’s ground.

[Her fashion choices] mean everything, to this day, I will make something to wear at a show or buy a little something special that has sequins or flowers or glitter and I think of how Selena would be so proud of these accents that were her sword and her shield. Her colors, costumes, style were iconic and futuristic. Our band has visited the Selena museum in Corpus Christi where you can see her clothes and her car and photos and her family still records there. All of those material relics still have so much of her power beaming out of them.