Twenty two years ago, Jennifer Lopez became a star with “Selena.” The musical biopic about Selena Quintanilla-Perez, the queen of Tejano music whose life was tragically cut short, earned more than $35 million at the domestic box office, solid numbers for an adult drama released in 1997. And “Selena” has had a long post-theatrical life, with frequent re-airings on cable TV. (The success of the film is also responsible for both Netflix and ABC currently developing TV shows that celebrate Selena’s legacy.)
In this week’s cover story, Lopez talks to Variety about how “Selena” changed her life. “I feel like everyone was making a statement,” says Lopez, who became the first Latina actress to earn $1 million for a movie role. “It was a Latin movie, starring a Latin girl, playing a Latin artist and a Latin director [Gregory Nava]. And it was like, ‘She’s worth this.’ It was a statement to the world.”
Lopez received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a musical/comedy that year, alongside Julia Roberts in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Pam Grier in “Jackie Brown” and (the winner) Helen Hunt in “As Good As it Gets.”
But Lopez’s performance in “Selena” was overlooked by the 1998 Academy Awards, which was voted on by a less diverse group of members back then.
“We were sad we weren’t nominated for an Oscar,” Lopez says. “But at the end of the day, it made the impact it needed to make.”
Because of “Selena,” Hollywood started to develop more stories centered on Latin characters in movies and on TV shows. And this summer, Lopez included a tribute to Selena at her arena-sized tour, “It’s My Party,” by performing the 1994 song “Si Una Vez.”
For more from this week’s cover story with Lopez, click here.