I Won’t Be Watching ‘El Secreto De Selena’
When I heard that TNT was premiering a series titled ‘El Secreto De Selena,’ I knew right away I wouldn’t give it a chance. Do we really want to be told, by a third party, that our beloved reina had secrets that could clarify more about what lead to her murder? It’s disrespectful- not only to her family, her fans, and her legacy but to loss of life. Ultimately, the show will be sharing Selena’s secrets that show that she is not who we thought she was. But so what? Do we not all have sides of ourselves that are more human? Do we not all have our demons we keep hidden?
The show is a form of exploiting one of the few Latinas that helped all of us stand in our brown skin. She helped us maneuver our native tongue and a new language. She helped us stand in our own brown skin. She helped us love ourselves.
You are killing our hero, again.
TNT teased the the 13-episode series debut on Twitter by saying “Everybody knows how the story ended. But only a few know what really happened.” The trailer opens up with Selena’s final Houston, Texas show. You know the one- with her purple jumpsuit, fierce red lipstick, jet black hair, bangs and a smile that is still painted in our memories. For a second, your heart jumps in excitement because your mind will display flashes of her stardom. For a split second, you will be reminded of her voice, her aura, her laughter, her moves and her impact. But this only lasts for a moment. And then, that familiarity quickly fades and you catch yourself seeing a woman who looks familiar but is still unrecognizable.
In fact, as the trailer unfolds, it becomes noticeable that Selena (played by Maya Zapata) is indeed just a character. In the 1997 film, ‘Selena’, Jennifer Lopez embodied Selena Quintanilla’s energy. This may have a lot to do with the fact that she (JLo) spent time with the Quintanilla family, studied Selena and got to get to know her in an intimate way while living with the Quintanilla family. The crew, the actors and the Quintanilla family went to extremes to make sure Jennifer Lopes knew who Selena was. Jennifer Lopez, along with the ‘Selena’ team was supported by the Quintanilla family- allowing JLo to freely and confidently play the role of Selena. But in ‘El Secreto’ something is off with Zapata’s portrayal of the Queen of Tejano music. I don’t know if it’s the walk, the body gestures, or an accent we never heard on Selena, but it’s obvious- this is NOT Selena.
The trailer proceeds to become a bit of a collage of all things we already know- the singing, the fan club, the shooting, and… a brief clip of Maria Celeste Arraras, played by Sofía Lama. The journalist and TV personality is featured in the series and in the trailer she is seen delivering the painful-to-hear line “Everybody believed that the life of their idol was as they saw it through rose-colored glasses.” It’s a cheap shot but it’s also not a surprise.
The film is based on Arrara’s book titled ““El Secreto De Selena: La Reveladora Historia Detrás De Su Trágica Muerte.” The book has been highly critized and denounced by the Quintanilla family, calling it all lies. It is also based on Arrarás 1995 interview with the jailed Yolanda Saldivar.
I have not read the book. Nor do I care to. I know it paints Selena in a different light. When Maria Celeste chose to title her book ‘El Secreto...’ she suggested that Selena was far from how we (her fans) knew her, it subliminally hints that maybe we shouldn’t feel so bad about her death. Imagine losing a sister and someone tells you “but she cheated on her husband and stole money.” As if such human mistakes can justify another person’s decision to end our lives. Does that mean that Selena’s secrets (that most of us may have in common), that coincidentally made her more human and less calculated, clarify her murder?
The book, and now the series, symbolizes that a killer’s opinion is worth more now that we know Selena wasn’t perfect. Because to me, that’s what TNT, Maria Celeste, BTF Media, Disney Media Distribution Latin America, Moconoco and LatinWE are insinuating. They are telling the viewers, Selena’s fans, that Yolanda’s word matters, that her side of the story needs to be heard, that she deserves the same platform we gave Selena.
Selena, in all her glory and all her mistakes, was a representation of who we are in heritage, in culture, in appearance, in language, and in society. For a lot of young Latinas, myself included, Selena reminded us of our greatness. Our greatness just as is- bicultural, bilingual, thick hair, thick lips, thick hips. In a society that encouraged us to blend in and assimilate, she helped us celebrate ourselves just as we were. She also helped us celebrate our future selves. So effortlessly, she became our prima, our hermana, our reina and when you give her killer a platform to define Selena it is an attack not only to her legacy, but to the many Latinas she inspired. It is an attack against what she left us with- her memory.
We still hold on to Selena. We still love her. We still protect her. We still defend her. And in this chaotic immorally and politically charged climate, where I can be told to not use my native tongue, or to go back to my homeland, to build that wall, I think of women like Selena who helped raise me to be bold and confident. Who, even today, are still my mirrors.
And when there is an opportunity to attack, I won’t support it.
So, what else is on tonight?
Silvana D. Lezama