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She was a girl from the barrio whose voice won her a Grammy, sold millions of albums, and turned her into a sensation unlike any other. And when she was murdered, on March 31, 1995, Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla Perez seemed to take with her the aspirations of fans across the globe. Yet fifteen years later, her memory is more alive and venerated than ever. In this exclusive oral history, her family, bandmates, and friends recall the life of a star who still mesmerizes us all.

by Pamela Colloff

AT THE TIME OF HER DEATH, AT THE age of 23, Selena Quintanilla Perez was many things to many people: cultural icon, role model, sex symbol. Above all, she was a study in contradictions. The Queen of Tejano Music was a third-generation Texan who initially struggled to speak Spanish, even as her Spanish-language songs, which she had learned to sing phonetically, climbed the charts. She was the third-highest-earning Latino performer in the U.S. but remained a down-home girl even after winning a Grammy. (Her one concession to stardom, a red Porsche, was often parked just beyond the chain-link fence outside her unassuming Corpus Christi home.) Her final concert at the Astrodome broke all previous attendance records, and yet to many Anglos, she was a complete unknown.

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