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Netflix’s Selena: The Series opens with the Tejano music star (portrayed by Christian Serratos) sitting on her tour bus, overcome with emotion as she gazes out at the crowd awaiting her arrival. As the bus pulls into its destination, doubt begins to creep in. She’s always performed with her siblings in Spanish, but now she’s embarking on a solo career with an English-language album. Can she really do this?
Luckily, her sister, Suzette Quintanilla, is there to comfort her.
“I’ll be there. In the wings,” Suzette (Noemí González) says. “On the bus to tell you to move your butt, we’re gonna be late.”
Suzette and Selena’s relationship is at the heart of the Netflix series. From constantly dying Selena’s hair to supporting her fashion designing and music ambitions to teasing Selena about her crushes, the fictionalized Suzette is always a rock for her younger sister. But every relationship has its ups and downs—something the show hints at with Suzette’s initial frustration with Selena for dating Chris Pérez (Jesse Posey), a guitarist in their band.
So what’s the true story behind the Quintanilla sisters’ relationship?
Suzette, now 53, is four years older than Selena. After their father, Abraham Quintanilla, discovered Selena’s penchant for singing, he started a band called Selena y Los Dinos, placing Suzette on the drums and their brother, A.B. Quintanilla, on guitar. The group performed for years at weddings and other community events, as well as at their family’s restaurant, Papagayos. Suzette didn’t want to be a drummer for the band at first, however. She told Texas Monthly that when the group started performing together, she was in middle school and “really self-conscious,” especially because there weren’t many young women who played the drums at the time.
“I got drafted to be the drummer, which was a constant fight with me, because I couldn’t stand it,” Suzette told the publication. “Girl drummers were not exactly cool back then.”
Yet Suzette made sacrifices to support her sister’s talent and because the pair were always on the road together with limited contact with other people their age, they grew all the closer, by Suzette’s account.
“Life on the road was fun, but we missed out on a lot,” Suzette told Texas Monthly. “If we went to a school dance, it was because we were the entertainment. Me and Selena would talk about guys between sets, like, ‘Did you see that guy in the front? Wearing the blue shirt? He was cute!’”
Suzette was Selena’s confidant even as she rose in prominence and embarked on her solo career, becoming the best-selling female artist in Latin music and winning a Grammy Award for Selena Live! Selena, according to Suzette, remained somewhat unaware of just how popular she’d become, even at the height of her career. Suzette said that her sister brought a camera to the 1994 Grammy Awards “so that she could take pictures of the stars” and was shocked when she herself won an award that year.
“She didn’t understand that she was a star!” Suzette said in the Texas Monthly interview. “I’ll never forget those words: ‘The Grammy goes to ... Live! Selena!’ We were screaming at the top of our lungs.”
When people flocked to the star outside the ceremony, Selena apparently turned to Suzette and said, “They know me?”
As the show depicts, Selena’s clandestine relationship with Perez made things tense with the family, especially as the band members tried to hide the relationship from Abraham, who eventually found out about it by overseeing the couple hiding by the tour bus. Suzette, who had suspicions about their relationship early on, said she told Selena that if their dad asked about the relationship, she would tell him she didn’t know anything. Selena and Perez eventually eloped as they felt it was the only way they could be together.
Yet before the couple could celebrate their third wedding anniversary in 1995, Selena was tragically murdered at 23 years old by the president of her fan club. As Suzette has recounted in numerous interviews, the news was devastating.
“I remember my mother crying and my dad breaking down, and I don’t remember too much after that,” Suzette told Texas Monthly. “Honestly, for the next two years of my life I don’t remember much of anything. I was lost, lost, lost.”
Each family member grappled with their grief in different ways, according to Suzette. She said that after Selena’s death, she found herself looking through family photos and opening her younger sister’s traveling makeup case so she could “smell her.”
Suzette has since stopped playing the drums, but has remained connected to music in her endeavors to keep her sister’s legacy alive. She currently serves as the CEO and president of Q Productions, the Latin music production company Abraham founded in 1993. In addition to working with groups that play Tejano music, the company runs the Selena Museum, a memorial for the singer displaying her awards and other memorabilia in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Suzette has also attended numerous events honoring her sister, including a 2017 ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, during which Selena received a star.
“Selena said, ‘The goal isn’t to live forever but to create something that will,’ and I think tonight is the perfect testament of that,” Suzette said during the event, per ABC.
In the past 25 years, she’s consulted on a bounty of other Selena projects, including the facilitation of two best-selling Selena M.A.C. Cosmetics collections.
"When Selena passed away ... the three things she was working on was her clothing line, a makeup line, and a perfume line," Suzette told Refinery29. "I promised myself that by the time I leave this world, I will accomplish what she started; what she held dear to her heart."
Most recently, she served as an executive producer of the Netflix series, which is currently among the top 10 most-watched programs on the streaming platform. According to Suzette, part two of the series was difficult for the Quintanilla family to relive, since it not only delves deeper into some of the tension between family members after Selena eloped, but also depicts the death of her sister.
"It's just a little bit of everything. It makes you feel happy and you know, there's some sad moments and then there's some moments that personally I don't want to revisit," Suzette told Entertainment Tonight. "It brings up some really weird feelings inside."
Suzette has also helped organize several Selena tribute concerts, including the 2005 Selena ¡VIVE! concert, which marked the first time Selena y Los Dinos members publicly reunited after Selena's death. The event, which was broadcast on Univision, remains the most-watched Spanish-language television special in history. Selena's Ones album of greatest hits also returned to Billboard's Latin Pop Albums chart after the premiere of the Netflix series.
"I'm so happy that she's being remembered," Suzette told HipLatina. "She lived such a short life but she left a very powerful one to look up to and so many people look to Selena for different reasons."
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