- 2 hr 7 min
The movie opens with the grown Selena (Jennifer Lopez) preparing for what would ultimately be her last concert in the Houston Astrodome. Standing in front of what one reporter notes is the largest crowd in the Astrodome's history, she belts out a medley of disco hits to thunderous cheers. The movie then flashes back to 1961, when a young Abraham Quintanilla struggles to find success with his band, "The Dinos." They are turned out of a whites-only club because they are Mexican and are booed out of a Mexican club for singing only in English. Jumping forward to 1981, Abraham (played as an older man by Edward James Olmos) is now married with three children. Having never lost his desire to join the music industry, he finds new opportunity to start a band when he hears nine-year-old Selena's (Rebecca Lee Meza) voice. Selena gives her first performance at her father's new restaurant called "Papa Gayo's", where she performs "Over the Rainbow." When the family goes bankrupt, they lose the restaurant and move in with Abraham's brother in Corpus Christi, Texas.
For the first several years of performing, "Selena y Los Dinos" stumble from one rocky disappointment to another, brought on by the fact that the Tejano music scene is dominated by men, not to mention initial protests from Marcella (Constance Marie), Selena's mother who wanted a simple life for her children. In 1989, When 18-year-old Selena begins incorporating trendy dance moves and more provocative wardrobe into her routines, she quickly catches public attention, much to her overprotective father's chagrin, when she shows her sparkling bra she calls a "bustier."
With their popularity rising, the band welcomes a new guitarist with a harder edge. Chris Perez (Jon Seda) and Selena have an immediate attraction, but it is one that they must keep hidden from Abraham.
Selena (Lopez) signs autographs at a Los Angeles mall.
When she's older and performing in Monterrey, Mexico Selena gives an interview to a television reporter. Due to his experiences in the early 1960s Abraham explains to his daughter that she's expected to speak in perfect Spanish on-air, otherwise, Mexicans will not fully accept her as a performing artist.
Selena, however, has confidence and tells her father she "can do it." She charms the reporters by warmly greeting them individually. At the press conference, Selena struggles with her Spanish. When she wants to say to the reporter that her experience in Mexico has been very "exciting" she instead says "excited" in English, prompting laughs from the reporters. Yet, while no harm is done, Abraham's frustration is captured when he says: "We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!"
The major conflict of the film arises from Abraham's objection to Selena and Chris' love relationship, fearing that Chris' wild lifestyle will tarnish Selena's reputation and break the strong connection between the family, when Abraham catches Selena and Chris hugging on the bus. This is all quickly resolved, however, when Selena and Chris get married, forcing Abraham to accept his daughter's marriage.
Selena opens her boutique business "Selena Etc." and credits her husband and Yolanda, her fan club manager (who would later be her murderer), for helping her.
Although she was known in the American Latino community, not many in mainstream society knew of her and this is seen when she and her friend shop at a Los Angeles mall for a dress. As Selena and her friend look for a dress they are ignored by the Anglo sales clerk while at the same time Latino workers nearby recognize her and she draws a huge crowd. Selena is thrilled and gladly signs autographs for her fans. The saleswoman, however, who seemingly snubbed Selena earlier, is dumbstruck at the attention Selena receives.
Selena wins a Grammy for her album "Selena Live" and does her first fashion show and records her English album, which is in the scene at the recording studio where Selena sings "I Could Fall in Love".
The family later realizes that Yolanda is stealing money from the fan club. Selena is told by Abraham and is very upset and decides to confront Yolanda.
The film briefly deals with her murder, which is shown in a flashback scene when a white rose is thrown onto the stage while she sings, "Dreaming of You" and by a closeup of Selena's lifeless hand dropping a ring that Yolanda had given her.
The film concludes with Selena's fans holding pictures of her and candlelight vigils for her honor. Then the film shows footage of the real Selena at her real live concerts. We then see a picture of Selena that says "Selena Quintanilla Prez 1971-1995."
Selena is a 1997 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 7 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8 and a MetaScore of 67.