Today is your 44th birthday! What can I say to you that you haven’t already heard? You were fearless, hardworking, smart, inspiring, talented, and stunningly beautiful. And, in honor of this glorious day, I’d like to share one of my favorite childhood memories with you.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was visiting family in Chicago and my Tia Carol decided to declare a dance competition in the backyard amongst all the cousins (Tia Carol still gets the party started like that.). Growing up, I was extremely quiet and had little to no confidence because I was overweight and terribly shy. But, I had always secretly danced to your music in my room. Bidi Bidi Bom Bom and Baila Esta Cumbia were my favorites. So, I knew if I wanted to, I could win this competition. My teenage sister, Jennifer, showed me a thing or two about how to dance to your music, but that was just between us sisters. I’d never danced in public!
Prima Melissa started to play your music and we were OFF! I began doing the washing machine, cumbia steps, and spins like it was my job! Where was this sudden confidence coming from? I guess I thought that I’d seen you do it, so why can’t I? My beautiful Grandma and Tia Lola were shouting, “Go mija, goooooooo!” Slowly, my Tia Carol and Tia Cynthia began eliminating my cousins one by one. By the time I knew it, I was the last one dancing! I’d won! That little shy, quiet, chubby girl who was always afraid to dance in front of others, but secretly loved it so much, did it! I’ll never forget how happy that made me. That impromptu backyard dance competition was a highlight of my childhood because it reminds me of the power of your music and how much joy it brought my family. I’d felt invincible in that moment and it was the beginning of a whole new, confident Alex. An Alex who is now living in New York City going after her dreams. And, it was all thanks to you.
Even though you are no longer here on this earth, you will never be forgotten. Your music, beauty, fashion, work ethic, and legacy resonate bright, even 20 years after your tragic death. You gave inspiration to not only the Latino community, but to ALL the dreamers out there. You pushed cultural and musical boundaries just by staying true to yourself. You valued education and family because you knew how important those qualities would be throughout your life. You took risks in love and business because you knew our tomorrows are never promised.
So, happy birthday, Selena and thank you…for everything.
We’ll always be dreaming of you!
P.S. Say “Hi” to my Grandma Olga and Tia Lola! They loved you!