Reviving La Reina de Tex Mex

In October 2016, makeup manufacturer M·A·C demonstrated its influence to redefine who is beautiful by releasing its limited edition Selena Quintanilla collection, in name of the beloved Latina vocalist. The collection itself was quite standard –  holding only 3 new shades of lipstick, 3 eyeshadows, a lipgloss, blush and bronzer, and repackaged M·A·C eyeliner and mascara –  but its premier in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas yielded extraordinary crowds of young Tejanas (Mitu). Those who were unable to visit Corpus Christi could order the collection online in honor of The Queen of Tex Mex for only five hours before it sold out (“The Meaning of Selena“).


From the selenacomolaflor instagram on the premier of the collection


From the nenagiselle instagram on the premier of the collection

Selena Quintanilla is likely unfamiliar to most young women in the United States today. Many generations of Latinas, on the other hand, remember the artist’s rise to fame as a strong-headed but charismatic entrepreneur, a wholesome daughter yet sexy fiance. Further, she was unapologetically Mexican American in her appeal to a diverse multi-generational, multilingual audience with a range of musical tastes (“The Meaning of Selena“). For those of us who were toddlers when Selena was tragically murdered in 1995 by the former president of her fan club, her legend was memorialized through the 1997 film Selena (“Grammy Winning Singer Selena Killed in Shooting at Texas Motel”).

Selena’s continued legacy as a Latina fashion icon is strikingly similar to the veneration of other transgressive Latin American figures through their various representations in Latino pop/consumer culture. For example, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s (1907-1954) complicated history was taken to the big screen through the 2002 film Frida. The film and the widely circulated Frida merchandise (which deserves a separate blog post, evidenced through this gift-list for Frida fans) have arguably compressed Frida’s legacy to her phsyique and relegated her a divine status that denies her full humanity. However, the reincarnation of Frida as an American Latina icon has also expanded her cultural significance beyond her world-renown artwork; her history with illness, unconventional features, and her unashamed style are celebrated as feminist triumphs against adversity. Even La Virgen de Guadalupe, whose image we saw on the cover of the anthology Chicana Lesbians earlier in the course, has become a American Latina icon that does not merely connote religiosity, but proudly asserts an indigenous Mexican heritage. Though Selena Quintanilla, Frida Kahlo, and la Virgen represent vastly different narratives, their refashioned forms and circulating images allow them to be celebrated as bridges between multiple worlds for Latino America.

fridaL-XL Virgen de Guadalupe Distressed Cropped Denim Jean Jacket// Virgin Mary// Religious Icon// emmevielle

Frida y la Virgen from the pauline.plaudert instagram and the emmevielle etsy store


But does Selena’s legend and the popularity of the M·A·C line suggest a repudiation of Old World Mexican culture for New World American youth? Vicki Ruiz’s analysis of Mexican American women’s confrontations with their parents’ chaperonage illustrates the challenges of understanding beauty practices in mixed cultural spaces, where Mexican culture can be dangerously described as inherently more patriarchal and conservative. She describes the popular findings of social scientists, that typically portray women as the “’glue that keeps the Chicano family together’ as well as the guardians of traditional culture’” (Ruiz 54). Ruiz counters,

“Mexican-American women were not caught between two worlds. They navigated multiple terrains at home, at work, and at play. They engaged in cultural coalescence. The Mexican-American generation selected, retained, borrowed, and created their own cultural forms. Or as one woman informed anthropologist Ruth Tuck, ‘Fusion is what we want – the best of both ways’” (Ruiz 67-68).

Ruiz allows us to situate the persistent appeal of Frida’s, la Virgen’s, and Selena’s icons within the borderlands of the United States – both in the region of Tex Mex and in the cultural space of American Latinidad. More importantly, though, the popular reception of Selena’s M·A·C collection illustrates the shifting of Latina figures’ symbolic meaning through their reproduction. Despite her death, Selena was not merely “frozen in time.” Rather, her revival through the M·A·C collection allows for Tejanas to continue embodying multidimensional forms of femininity and Latinidad, even those forms created by corporate interests.


Vicki Ruiz, “The Flapper and the Chaperone,” in From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).


2 thoughts on “Reviving La Reina de Tex Mex

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  1. I think this is an interesting article because it discusses how Selena has been immortalized, but her history is possibly being rewritten by American consumerism. It is interesting to think about the way consumer markets are able to capitalize on already established fame, but rewritten in a way that appeals to mass markets. This seems to be another evolving form of cultural appropriation. For example, in Pham’s article on cultural appropriation, she uses the example of “Rick Owens’ show in Paris in which he used teams of mostly African American step dancers to introduce his Spring 2014 ready-to-wear line. The fashion media—so far—has universally praised the show as a “powerful” move by a leading fashion designer to overturn the industry’s dominant racial order. But “power” is exactly what’s missing in this show—and, for that matter, what is missing in the discussions about this show and about racial diversity in fashion in general.” I think this is similar to the misguided consumerism of MAC and the Frida collection. I would argue Melendezke question, “But does Selena’s legend and the popularity of the M·A·C line suggest a repudiation of Old World Mexican culture for New World American youth?” brings to light this assimilation that is occurring similar to what Pham discusses.


  2. Thank you for you post Kathryn! I grew up in Houston, so Selena is not foreign to me. While the “immortalization” of Selena through consumerism raises questions about the repudiation of Old World Mexican culture, I think it is important to realize the context that led to the line’s creation to begin. This line started as a tweet, like most great things today, gaining much attraction from other fans. From there a petition was made, with 37,700 people signing it. All of which prompted MAC to design a campaign centering Selena. Though this does nothing to disprove your argument about the commodification of Mexican culture, I think it is important to note.


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