‘Some people must think I prearranged all of this, that I set goals,” says Selena, 23, the most successful act in the burgeoning Tejano field and one of Latin pop’s biggest stars. “Actually, I’ve been fortunate. Things have just happened.”
Well, not really. It’s taken 13 years of hard work and whistle-stop touring.
“Back then, many male promoters thought a woman couldn’t pull in a crowd,” recalls the singer, who plays the Universal Amphitheatre on Thursday.
At 6, she started singing to get attention from her musician father, Abraham Quintanilla, while he taught a son to play bass. Her popularity at family gatherings prompted Quintanilla to revive his old band, Los Dinos, as Selena y Los Dinos. Despite regional hits and Tejano Music Awards, the group didn’t realize its potential until the then-fledgling EMI Latin label signed it in 1989.
Today, Selena’s father is still her manager, Los Dinos still includes her sister Suzette on drums and songwriting brother Abe III on bass. In addition, her husband, Chris Perez, is the group’s guitarist.
Her album “Amor Prohibido,” released in April, topped Billboard magazine’s Latin album chart for four weeks, and even briefly entered Billboard’s Top 200 pop album chart.
“It’s the younger generation,” the Corpus Christi-based singer said of Tejano music’s popularity. “They’re proud of their roots. Latinos are more visible. It’s cool to speak Spanish. In Mexico, they love the Tejano sound. Fans even welcome you at the airport.”
When she isn’t recording or touring, she oversees her Selena Etcetera boutiques in Texas that sell women’s accessories, including dress bras ( bustierres ) that she designs and often wears on stage.
Hollywood has also beckoned. She has a featured role in the forthcoming Marlon Brando-Johnny Depp-Faye Dunaway film “Don Carlo and the Centerfold.” Asked if she plays the centerfold, she laughs. “Not this time. I play a mariachi singer.”
* Selena plays Thursday at the Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 8:15 p.m. $17.50-$25 . (818) 980-9421.