Jennifer Lopez and Selena’s Legacy

Jennifer Lopez in SelenaJennifer Lopez stands today as both a successful actress and singer, though her success can be largely be attributed to her role in Selena, a biographical movie about the rising Tejano star who was tragically shot down in 1995. However, by starring as Selena, Lopez did not just catapult her own career, but she helped crystalize Selena’s timeless legacy as well.

Jennifer Lopez and Selena's LegacyAfter watching the premiere of American Idol 13, it became apparent that Idol judge, Jennifer Lopez, is an idol herself for young Latina girls across America. Born in the Bronx, the “Jenny from the Block” singer and her Puerto Rican family had a more-or-less humble start. However, her parents provided a supportive environment in which Lopez and her siblings would sing and dance in front of each other at home. She even excelled in track as she competed at a national level while in high school.

Her career in the entertainment industry took root with a role she landed in a low-budget film called My Little Girl (1986). The experience enticed her to work towards becoming a big time star in the movie industry. After some roles in musical productions, including one that took her to Japan, Jennifer Lopez scored her first prime-time gig, in 1991, as a Fly Dancer for In Living Color. In 1995, she got her first big role in the drama My Family. Her performance in the critically acclaimed film earned her a nomination for “Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female.”

As Jennifer Lopez steadily climbed the ladder to stardom, her portrayal of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in the biopic film Selena, launched Lopez into the limelight in 1997. Selena’s story is so compelling that its retelling commands a high standard. Accordingly, the auditions process was rigorous involving a country-wide search from thousands of young Latinas aspiring for the chance to play Selena. Lopez won the role amid several controversies including not being of Mexican origin and not being able to speak Spanish well. (Ironically, even Selena was not known to speak perfect Spanish.)

Ultimately, Lopez captured Selena’s spirit in the film which not only consoled mourning fans, but also expanded Selena’s legacy to include new ones. Selena ranks among the top 10 highest grossing musical biopics, according to Box Office Mojo.

Jennifer Lopez and SelenaThe film depicted Selena’s journey to Tejano stardom. It starts off with her as a child singing with her family for patrons of their restaurant. It progresses charmingly to show her at one point sporting a “bustier ” – to her father’s chagrin – at a much larger venue. Audiences are helpless to fall in love with a Selena brimming with energy – only to be left in disbelief by her murder at the hands of her thieving fan club president.

Though some may argue that Jennifer Lopez owes her success to Selena, Lopez too helped Selena’s legacy and her loving admirers by bringing Selena’s story to a larger audience. The then 28-year-old Lopez played a 22-year-old Selena with unique innocence and vivacity. She conveyed how Selena was the girl next door but with a larger-than-life magnetism.

The experience acting as the “Dreaming of You” singer prompted Jennifer Lopez to pursue her own career in music. Her first song “If You Had My Love” released in May of 1999 and topped the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, she has continued in both singing and acting careers with successful releases like J.Lo and The Wedding Planner.

Selena’s Dreaming of You album released after her death in 1995 to debut at the top of the US Billboard 200 making her the first Hispanic to do so.  Though Selena’s songs can capture any heart, Spanish- speaking or not, it was the film starring Jennifer Lopez that brought her amazing story to life in way that no book or documentary could. Today, both are regarded highly as role models for young Hispanics. No doubt, one Latina’s destiny is intertwined with the legacy of another.

By Fatema Biviji

Film Scouts

4 Responses to "Jennifer Lopez and Selena’s Legacy"

  1. Marvel Joa   March 6, 2019 at 4:37 am

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  2. Ross Trovato   May 4, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Selena is the GREATEST ARTIST IN HISTORY! She would still be a legend no matter WHO had portrayed her in the movie, but I think we can all agree that Jennifer Lopez would not be NEARLY as big today had she not done so – it was clearly her defining role, the one that made her the highest-paid latina in Hollywood.

  3. Trina   February 27, 2014 at 1:07 am

    i agree! she is the Micheal jackson, the john lennon of our latino communities all over the world!! she was already captivated MILLIONS and MILLIIONS before her death,..

  4. charming me (@htownspitfire75)   February 15, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Who ever wrote this needs a reality check, there is NOOO WAYYY Jlow helped Selena’s legacy, regardless of the actress the movie would stand as is, people went to see it for Selena, including myself, a native texan who saw Selena live numerous times, & was not impressed with her performance and tacky bronx accent. I watch it, cringing at times, and purchased it for Selena…and there are thousands if not millions who do the same, she may have garnered fans years later after the movie who watch it for her but itsnowhere near the amount of Selena fans, helll everyone outside the latin community wants to attribute her later success to Selena but no, hardcore Selena fans and the latin community aside from puerto ricans who defend her to death know Jlow would have been NADA, ZERO, had Selena not been murdered…..havent you seen the FB pics of JL stating “IF sELENA WASNT KILLED I’D BE WORKING AT TACO BELL”?


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