All of 17 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of her death, Selena Quintanilla Perez’s husband, Chris Perez was the one person we rarely saw anywhere, making any comments on behalf of himself or the Quintanilla family about her passing. In fact, until his 1999 studio album with the Chris Perez Band it was sort of like he had disappeared all together. Even when he did come out to promote his new music he rarely said much about his late wife. In his new book, To Selena, With Love, released this month, Perez explains that in a lot of ways he had sort of disappeared into himself.
The book tells the story of Selena and Chris from Chris’ perspective, in what he hopes will shine a new light on the legendary Queen of Tejano Music as a woman. The woman that he fell in love with, married and lost.
I had the chance to talk with Chris over the phone about his life with Selena and the new book. While I’m still in the process of reading the book myself, as a huge Selena fan, I am grateful that Chris has given us the opportunity to get to know who she was just a little better. Chris was very friendly and polite during our 30 minute conversation, even when pressed with some of the more delicate questions:
Juan: Why did you feel now was the right time to share your life with Selena in such a public way?
Chris: What makes it so surprising to a lot of people that I actually did it in the first place is because I was the one that always said… “I’m never going to do that… I’d never see myself doing this” …but then it’s true what they say, I guess, about time kind of healing. I don’t know if we can ever heal 100 percent from something as tragic as what happened, but with time you do start to see things in a different light and things change. I’ve been through a lot in life after her death that it just kind of… I felt like I had suppressed a lot of memories in thinking it was helping me deal with it, with the loss of her… it’s one thing to lose your wife in the way that it happened with Selena, but it’s also another thing to be in the same industry that she was in and to be surrounded by her image, videos and music all of the time… I couldn’t go to work and escape it so to speak. It was overload for me. I think that’s one of the reasons I kept everything sealed up… In a way this is kind of my way of me dealing with everything.
Juan: I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult those first few days afterwards must have been like for you, can you tell me anything about that time in your life?
Chris: It was almost like going into shock. It’s not that you don’t feel anything. It’s more like you just sort of go numb… As corny as it sounds, things are just not the same after that. The colors aren’t as colorful as you thought they were. The food doesn’t taste the same as you thought it did. Things don’t feel the way they did before… It kind of shook me down to the core. The best way I can describe it is numb, going numb… it’s too much you know… Looking back on it now, I lived a lot of my life after her passing with blinders on.
Juan: In the immediate aftermath of Selena’s passing her family was at the forefront of communicating with the media. We didn’t see you for a long while. Where were you during that time?
Chris: I locked myself up. I couldn’t even take the trash out. I had the Porsche, her red car, in the garage and it was surrounded by plastic bags full of trash. I couldn’t take it out. I would have to wait until four in the morning when friends of mine and I would load up pickup trucks with bags and go and dump them off at the dumpster where nobody could see us, and that was pretty much the only time I left the house… From March 31, 1995 until the following year in November I was that hermit… for that whole time I didn’t move anything of hers. It was like she still lived there.
Juan: How did you find out about what had happened to Selena that day?
Chris: I didn’t find out as soon as I should have because that afternoon she had taken my truck and my phone. She had a really bad habit of just leaving her keys wherever, as well as her cell phone… but that day, with everything that had happened with Yolanda, she got up really early… I didn’t even know that she was leaving. I woke up as she was leaving and didn’t even ask her where she was going… so she had my phone and there was no way to get a hold of me… I was with my father running errands and nobody could get a hold of me. I came home after everything had happened… When I got the call, her aunt told me that she had been in an accident. I assumed it was a car accident and she was in the hospital. I asked what happened and she said she was shot two times, which wasn’t true… she got shot one time. After that we just ran out of the house and went to the hospital. Never once thinking that what had happened was possible, that she wasn’t going to make it. As a matter of fact, I already had my speech for when I got to the hospital to get after her for going by herself and not telling me to go with her… I kind of walked in sort of with a half smile thinking “where is she?, let me at her”, and that was when Abraham just looked at me and told me that she was gone. You can imagine, it was like a ton of bricks falling on you.
Juan: Do you feel in writing this book, that this is sort of like letting her go or moving on with your life after all this time?
Chris: It’s not letting her go. That will never happen. I just felt it was really important for her fans to get to see another side of her. It didn’t seem fair to me anymore that she was only known as this great entertainer, performer… She was the one that loved the everyday things in life. She didn’t need a lot. She didn’t ask for a lot. She was normal in a lot of ways…
Juan: Are you still in love with her?
Chris: Yeah, I always will be. Of course! To this day – I mean I’ve said it before – I’ve never met anybody like her. She was definitely one of a kind.
Juan: And inevitably people are going to think that maybe this is about making money, above all else, what would you say to these people?
Chris: Well they can say that. I don’t even need to respond to that. They’re going to say that. It’s inevitable and I knew that going into it. And there is nothing I can say that would change their mind. In other words if I have to explain it to them, they’re never going to get it.
Chris will be in Houston tomorrow signing copies of his new book.
FTC Disclosure: Juan of Words received a free copy of the book from the author as part of a Penguin Group (USA) Inc. book tour. Juan of Words was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.