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How Accurate Is Jennifer Lopez's Selena?

Selena Quintanilla Perez was an iconic Tejano singer. She originally recorded Spanish-only records, but eventually transitioned over to English. You've probably heard one of her many hits like "Baila Esta Cumbia," "Dreaming Of You," or "I Could Fall In Love." She was set to take over the world, owning her own fashion brand and winning the Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album in 1993 (per Biography). 

However, in 1995, she was tragically murdered by the president of her fan club. Only two years after Selena's shocking passing, the biopic "Selena" premiered in theaters. The 1997 film depicted the star's youth and rise to fame, with Jennifer Lopez famously playing the late singer. The film is a fan favorite, playing often on TV to this day. And people still love Selena — in 2020, Netflix released "Selena: The Series" and her album "Ones" featuring her greatest hits topped the charts again after being re-released on vinyl (per Billboard). 

With the love for Selena still going strong and biopics not always getting things right, you may be wondering whether "Selena" is accurate or not.

The facts mostly check out in Selena

First and foremost, the film portrays an accurate and respectful depiction of Selena's death. Selena was shot by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of her fan club (per Esquire). This happened at a motel in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Selena was confronting Saldivar about money she had been embezzling from her fan club. The film portrays this accurately, however, out of respect to Selena, it's shot more like a dream sequence as "Dreaming Of You" plays over as a farewell to the Tejano legend.

Selena's family sat down with Entertainment Tonight in 2017 for the film's 20th anniversary. Selena's sister, Suzette Quintanilla, commented that she feels the movie accurately portrayed their story saying, "everything was based on our life, the true way." Moments like Selena's father freaking out over her wearing a bustier and the famous "anything for Selenas" scene were confirmed to be true. One of the few things that were false in "Selena" was the washing machine dance scene.

Other moments such as the stage collapse in Mexico, Chris Perez's (Selena's husband) band trashing a hotel room, and Chris and Selena's pizza date were also confirmed to be true, but Perez has commented that they were much more dramatic in real life while watching the movie on Facebook. Commenting on the stage collapse, Perez said, "That was even crazier than the movie shows. I thought we were not gonna make it out," as quoted by Medium. So, other than a few moments where the level of drama didn't exactly translate to the screen, the movie is, according to those who knew Selena, factually sound.

Lopez's portrayal was both accurate and inaccurate

Jennifer Lopez's portrayal of Selena is an extremely well-done acting job. She not only looks like the late singer but is able to capture her essence. However, this does not mean it is not without its faults. In the film, Lopez lip-syncs to Selena's real vocals during performance scenes, so there is no faltering there. Lopez also does a fantastic job at recreating Selena's stage presence and manners, recreating a lot of her signature hand gestures and the iconic Selena spin. When looking at a side-by-side, the comparison is almost identical.

Furthermore, with her hair and makeup, Lopez looked very similar to Selena. The wardrobe department also created almost identical replicas of Selena's outfits such as the iconic purple jumpsuit she wore for her final performance at the Houston Astrodome.

However, in a Wired video, accent expert and dialect coach Erik Singer commented that while Lopez does well at portraying a good Texan accent (Selena is from Texas), she doesn't necessarily sound much like Selena. However, this could be given a pass as her overall portrayal, as well as the film, is almost dead-on accurate.