Selena was and is the epitome of cool in my eyes. She could sing, dance, and make her own clothing. I wanted to be JUST like her. But now that I think about it and after a lot of conversations about identity, I realize I wanted to be her not because of her singing or dancing but because she was so authentic. Her Latina identity came through and she was unapologetic about it.
When we came to the United Sates in 1996, I had many fears about what my life would be like. As an immigrant and first-generation child, I had all kinds of issues figuring out who I was and where I belonged. Selena made me feel like I belonged. She made it cool to be myself, a little brown girl from Texas.
We have tied so much of our own image to the few women who we feel represented by, that when others fail to tell their stories in a meaningful way, it feels deeply person.
Selena has become an icon for many reasons and I've come to realize that she is idolized because for Mexican-American women like myself, she mirrors our lives as bi-cultural women. She was able to cross borders and face the challenges of two countries, two languages and two nuanced cultures. Navigating this bi-cultural identity can often leave you feeling as not enough.
You're never American enough and you're never Mexican enough. The in-between can be a space of confusion and Selena's success in this space demonstrated what was possible for bi-cultural women.
For these reasons and a few others, the Selena series that Netflix released was so disappointing. It not only gave us a mediocre portrayal of Selena, it also failed to showcase Latinas as multi-faced loving, thoughtful, and even flawed women. We have tied so much of our own image to the few women who we feel represented by, that when others fail to tell their stories in a meaningful way, it feels deeply person.
Perhaps one thing I'm learning is that we continue to place our own representation and stories in the hands of hollywood and celebrities. It's time we become the heroes in our own stories and embrace who we are, and stop depending on others to get it right. We are multi-faceted and we deserve to be the protagonist not the supporting actress. But that will take vulnerability in sharing our stories.
As for myself, I'm still figuring out my space in the world as Mexican-American but it's getting easier as I dance to the beat of my own drum and it goes a little bit like this...Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.