Selena Quintanilla was born in Lake Jackson, Texas. When she was 9, her father Abraham founded the group Selena Y Los Dinos. The group's first performances were at Papagallos, the Quintanilla family's restaurant. Her musical potential was evident from her earliest performances.
The business failed and the Quintanilla family went bankrupt, leading to their eviction from their home. The family piled into an old bus with all their musical equipment and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. They performed at every opportunity, on streetcorners and at weddings, quinceañeras, and fairs.
The publicity efforts paid off, and Quintanilla recorded her first album in 1984 under the Freddie label. This album was not sold in stores and her father bought all the original copies. The album was released in 1985 under the title Mis Primeras Grabaciones ("My First Recordings").
Because Quintanilla was becoming even more popular and the travel to perform was interfering with her education, Abraham pulled her out of school when she was in the 8th grade. Even though she was not attending school anymore, she earned a high school dimploma from The American School of Correspondence in Chicago and was accepted at the Louisiana State University and other schools.
In 1986, Quintanilla's career really began to take off with the release of her second album, Alpha. At the Tejano Music Awards, she took the award for Female Vocalist of the Year (and would continue to sweep the Tejano Music Awards for the next nine years). Also in 1986, she was she was discovered by two important names in the Tejano music industry: Rick Trevi, founder of the Tejano Music Awards, and Johnny Canales, an entertainer with a popular Spanish-language television show.