"When you walk in through that door, you feel [Selena], you get a sense of who she was, as a person, as an artist," Suzette, 49, explained. "It feels personable, just like she was… when you walk in here, you can feel her in here."
Located in Selena's hometown, Corpus Christi, Texas, the museum is a haven for fans. The Quintanilla family paid exceptionally close attention to detail while designing the space in 1998. The floors are lined with purple carpet (Selena's favorite color) and the room is energized by the sweet aroma of roses (Selena's favorite flower). It's a true Selena experience!
Inside, thousands of iconic Selena items are pristinely showcased in protective glass structures, including the "Como La Flor" singer's 1994 GRAMMY for Best Mexican/American album for Live.
Suzette recalls sitting in the audience at the awards show with her family that night, telling ET, "The whole row just jumped up and screamed, we freaked out. It was an amazing moment. I just remember Selena walking down the aisle, and she just looked so awesome, radiant."
The white beaded gown Selena wore to accept the award was particularly memorable for Suzette. "Honestly, I think it was the only time that I really got kind of choked up because she looked like perfection. She looked like a true artist, it was a really cool moment."
Fashion is a major focal point in the Selena Museum. Several of the entertainer's most identifiable on-stage costumes are on display, including the sparkly purple jumpsuit she wore during her final concert at the Houston Astrodome in February 1995.
The ensemble, designed by Selena, featured strategically placed cutouts. "It was done tastefully. She was very cautious of the fact that she didn't want it to open or have something pop out," Suzette admitted. "She loved it, she felt very free [performing in it]."
Not only was Selena a designer, but she knew how to bring her creations to life. The white pearl-embellished bustier she wore while performing at the Houston Astrodome in 1994 is unique because, "She actually was beading, putting the pearls on right before her show in the dressing room," Suzette revealed. "She also did her boots. She could bead pretty quick… She was just sewing while she was talking."
Selena took a simpler wardrobe approach for her 1994 desert-themed music video for "Amor Prohibido." According to Suzette, the red crop top featured in the video actually belonged to her husband, Chris Perez. "Anything that you saw Selena kind of roll up and tie, they were Chris's shirts."
From clothing… to cars!
"Everybody kind of freaks out when they walk in and see [Selena's] red Porsche. She liked to cruise down by the water [in Corpus Christi] with the top off," Suzette shared, adding with a laugh, "She definitely liked to speed! I think she got a couple of tickets."
Additional items inside the museum include Selena's very vintage cell phone, funky jewelry, dolls from childhood, bedazzled bustiers, music awards, sales achievement plaques and her Faberge egg collection. Suzette says the family plans to add more memorabilia this year, focusing on mementos that honor "Not so much the artist, but Selena the person."
However, there is one item you will not find inside the Selena Museum: the singer's makeup collection.
Suzette explained the sentimental reason why she keeps the cosmetics kit personal, telling ET, "When we would travel, she would leave her makeup a lot on the plane, and so they would always have somebody run back and get it, so I bought her this really big makeup case… Once she passed away, Chris gave it to my mother and my mother gave it to me, because of the fact that I'd given it to her, and she loved it."
Inside the kit is an amalgam of products, ranging from "Chanel, to Lancome, to Revlon, to Maybelline," and also, some "smashed up" false eyelashes. But Suzette revealed the most meaningful item inside the makeup case has nothing to do with cosmetics at all.
"[Selena's] makeup case means a lot to me because that was my go-to when I wanted to connect with her, so for almost a whole year, I would go to this case and I would cry and cry uncontrollably… So I'm going through her things and low and behold is this bracelet sticking out. I had been in that case for almost a whole year and I never saw it…[It's] one of my most cherished things that I have of her."
Good news, Selena fans! Celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Selena movie doesn't end with a museum tour…
Suzette and her father Abraham invited ET inside the studio where Selena recorded her English-language hits, to have a candid conversation about the film and the late singer's life and legacy. To watch the emotional interview, click the video below.