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Selena: Her Living Legacy & What It Still Represents Today

Selena gave us visibility and embodied the truth that a Latinx identity is not defined solely by Spanish language acquisition…

This week the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Walk of Fame Selection Committee announced that the late, great Tejano songstress, Selena Quintanilla-Perez, will posthumously receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017. The Quintanilla family announced the news on Selena's Facebook fan page on Tuesday, and thousands of die-hard fans are out-of-their-minds excited.

Quintanilla is not the only Latinx artist that will receive a spot on the Walk of Fame in 2017: actress Eva Longoria, Venezuelan Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, and zombie apocalypse horror film director George Romero will also be recognized with their own stars for their accomplishments in arts and entertainment. While congratulations are in order for everyone who will be receiving a star next year, the response to the news about Selena Quintanilla’s award has been overwhelming and brimming with love. Over 20 years after her death, Selena Quintanilla continues to make headlines, with publications like the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times celebrating the news that Selena’s legacy will be immortalized forever in Hollywood.

This year has been especially busy for the Selena legacy and her fans, whose love for the Chicanx superstar has not slowed down in the 21 years since her murder in March of 1995. Many of Selena’s millennial admirers were very young when she was killed (I was three-years old), but our parents, primxs, and communities raised us on her. She was taken from us far too soon; she was only 23 when she passed, and our communities were not ready to let her go.

We grew up watching the biopic about her life, Selena, which gave J. Lo her first major leading role and set the stage for the Boricua’s future superstardom. In fact, it was a young Chicanx Selena fan, Tonantzin Esparza, who encouraged her movie-making father, Moctezuma Esparza, to produce the film about Quintanilla’s life. We were brought up listening to "Como la flor" and perfecting our washing machine. We wanted to dress like her, dance like her, and we were captivated by her smile and adorable sense of humor. Selena has had an incredible impact on hundreds of thousands of people, Latinx or not, and the reasons are numerous.

Selena was a triple threat. She could sing, dance, and design her own costumes. She served LOOKS. Every costume she designed and wore was a memorable signature and her eye for fashion was timeless—just ask Beyoncé. The designs that she created with boots, high waisted form-fitting pants, skirts, and jeweled bustiers combined her Texas roots, Latin cultural markers, and Disco flavor. The silhouettes she rocked on stage continue to influence artists today and you can see major nods to Selena’s steez in the wardrobes of Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and many more. Her fashion, her music, and her flare also made her an icon in LGBTQ communities of color, a phenomenon that Dr. Deborah R. Vargas wrote about in her 2007 paper, “Selena: Sounding a Queer Transnational Latino/a Queer Imaginary". The girl had the range and she could knock out a pop tune or a love ballad with ease, passion, and intense emotion. Selena’s incredible vocal ability and tenacity made her a stand out. But it was her personality, her smile, and the way she embraced her identity and community that had us fall madly in love with her.

She's so cute with her BOY George hat on. #selenadiditfirst #Selena #queen quintanilla #selenaquintanilla #boygeorge

A video posted by Selena Quintanilla (@queenquintanilla) on

Selena was a pocha, a term that is generally used to describe a Mexican who was born in the United States and speaks Spanglish or very little Spanish. Historically used as a derogatory term, younger Latinxs have taken to reclaiming the word and recognizing it as a term of endearment and symbol of Latinx identity in a U.S. context. Selena's Spanish was far from perfect, but she owned her lexicon and her Mexicanidad with pride. A third generation pocha myself, I saw myself in Selena once I was old enough to appreciate who she was. She wasn’t a disappointment, white washed, or “less Mexican” because of her choppy Spanish. How could she be? She was the Tejano Queen! She sang in Spanish and in English. Selena was one of us, a Mexican-American, a pocha, and her rise to international, Grammy Award-winning fame marked our space in American history.

The Tejana’s experiences reflected the realities of many Chicanxs whose parents and grandparents came to the Southwestern United States prior to the 1970s, during times of intense de jure racial segregation. My father, a second generation Mexican-American and former farm worker from Bakersfield, was not raised speaking Spanish in his home because his mother and grandparents knew that a child who spoke Spanish in school or spoke English with an accent was a target for corporal punishment from teachers, or at risk of being placed in lower level educational tracks by racist school administrators.

My father grew up in California in the 1960s where he frequently saw signs in store windows that read, “No dogs or Mexicans allowed." The racism, xenophobia, and linguistic oppression that many of our parents and grandparents faced gave way to generations of Chicanxs who did not grow up speaking Spanish as a tool for survival in a cutthroat capitalist and white supremacist environment. This history of forced language loss and acculturation in immigrant communities has been generally understood and studied in academic circles, but our communities do not always have access to this information and often place much shame on pochxs without understanding our socio-historical context.

Selena gave us visibility and embodied the truth that a Latinx identity is not defined solely by Spanish language acquisition, but is the totality of one’s history, heart, and being. Although Selena and her family came up in Texas, in a racially oppressive society, she was able to hold on to her identity and her cultura in spite of generations of systemic racism. She wasn’t “less Mexican," fragmented, or broken because of her U.S. context. She was whole in spite of it. The culture lived in her, her music, and notably, her aesthetic. She sang cumbias, Disco, Tejano, and she sang in Spanish. She wore bright red lipstick, extensive acrylic nails, gold hoops, and sported long raven hair. She was an iconic femme Chicanx, and she proved that not only was there a place for women in Tejano music, but that a woman could in fact revolutionize the genre on an international level. She was a woman of color whose brilliance made her a force to be reckoned with in a machista musical genre and white supremacist, patriarchal world.

Decades after her death, Selena’s impact continues to have major reach. Her image, life, music, and brilliant personality have inspired young Latinxs and many other people of color to pursue their dreams in the arts. There are even scholars with PhDs who have studied and written about Selena’s cultural impact in peer reviewed journals. MAC recently announced that they will be releasing a line of Selena inspired makeup, including her signature red lipstick, this October. Venues in L.A. and other major U.S. cities boast regular Selena tribute nights, Selena Techno Cumbia parties, and even Selena pizza parties. Drag Queens nationwide have perfected Selena’s look and can emulate her "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" like no other.

While I love the dedications to Selena and the way that our communities continue to celebrate her music, I am also weary of corporate exploitation of her name in death. We want the chance to remember her, celebrate her, mourn her passing, and honor her music. We want to share her art with our young primxs and future children. Selena’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame will serve as a physical memorial to her in Los Angeles and knowing her fan base, I anticipate that her star will be unique. Latinxs have a way of celebrating our dead that is full of love, color, and joy. I imagine that Selena fans will pay tribute to her by visiting her star, leaving her recuerdos, velas y flores.

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25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

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