By 1987 I had shifted my photographic interests from Rock & Roll to the Conjunto and Tejano bands of my own culture, and was working on photo assignments for several of the regional Tejano record labels.
Selena Quintanilla grew up in Corpus Christi. Her father, Abraham Quintanilla, managed Los Dinos, which included Selena's brother A.B. Quintanilla and sister Suzette Quintanilla. The band had been preforming since she was nine years old. Abraham's life was all about music, and his children were learning the business as well as becoming accomplished performers. Selena recorded with the Freddie, Cara and GP record labels before signing with Capitol EMI – they had signed her thinking she would be the next Gloria Estefan. She would prove to be so much more.
In 1989, as I was covering the Tejano Music Awards, I happened to catch Selena and Los Dinos band as they did an early performance on a stage set up outside the awards hall. I had photographed some of the most dynamic acts in the world, but I had never seen anything like this band with a young seventeen-year-old girl. She was an amazing performer and had a special bond with her audience.
I had already been working for Capitol EMI Latin and was pushing to photograph Selena's next album cover. In 1992, the industry was excited about "Entre A Mi Mundo", Selena's third album, written and engineered to be her commercial breakthrough. The album was due to come out soon when I got a call from EMI. The album photography they had from another photographer wasn't acceptable to the record company, and they needed a quick reshoot. Accustomed to working with shoe-string budgets, I was really pleased that the label's generous budget would cover studio rental, a professional makeup artist, and all the film I could shoot. With direction from the record company requesting I use a white background and better lighting, I rented a friend's studio, borrowed a white parachute backdrop, set up my lights, and awaited Selena's arrival.
The session was scheduled for early evening. The band was traveling from Corpus Christi, heading out on tour. When they arrived, Abraham was first off the bus. We made our introductions and I showed Mr. Quintanilla the studio. He was professional and collaborated with me on the photography concept. Selena and Suzette came off the bus, carrying Selena's wardrobe into the dressing room. Working professionally for more than a decade, Selena was quiet, but open and welcoming. Up to that point I had not yet worked with a Tejano band with a Female lead singer, so when she came out of the dressing room, I was blown away. This wasn't the teen I first saw outside the Tejano Awards. She had matured beautifully, wearing a bustiere with a see-through midriff, bold striped top, black spandex pants and sizzling heels. She soon would be designing and producing her own unique costumes for herself and the band.
As the photo shoot went on and she changed into several outfits, John McBurney, who is still my go-to makeup artist, hovered in the background. Occasionally, Selena would come out and choose a lipstick, borrow a brush, or ask for John's opinion. I was so impressed that Selena didn't need a lot of direction and was very comfortable, natural, and had fun in front of the camera. Everything she did for the camera was the expression of a star in bloom. This cover shot is known to fans around the world.