"Originally, we thought that this was a black and white case, but it was a lot more complex than that," Arrarás tells People CHICA.
The story of Selena Quintanilla’s life and tragic death has been told many times, but according to María Celeste Arrarás, author of the 1997 book El Secreto de Selena, the Telemundo series of the same name depicts a version of events that hasn’t been shown on TV before. “Originally, we thought that this was a black and white case, but it was a lot more complex than that,” Arrarás tells People CHICA. “Through my investigation, I discovered that at the time of her death Selena was going through a lot of things. She was in turmoil, she was about to make important decisions in her life, and she was surrounded by a lot of people that loved her and that she loved back, but that in the process were trying to manipulate her in some sort of her way.”
El Secreto de Selena, which is finally coming stateside after airing in Latin America last fall, explores Selena’s connection to Yolanda Saldívar, the friend and fan club president who eventually murdered the singer. The series also depicts a young María Celeste, who in real life announced the death of Selena on-air and later interviewed Saldívar. “When the trial began, I was assigned to do the coverage, so I had early access to a lot of information,” Arrarás says. “Many thousands of documents, and I was able to interview key people in this story.” She wrote the book after Simon and Schuster approached her and asked her to recount her experience covering the case for Univision, where she worked at the time.
Selena’s family has long refuted the claims in the book, but Arrarás has continued to stand by the accuracy of her work. When news of the show was first announced in 2017, Selena’s sister, Suzette Quintanilla, called the book a “bunch of lies,” and fans circulated a petition to stop production of the show. The Quintanilla family is currently working with Netflix on a different series about Selena, who’ll be played by The Walking Dead actress Christian Serranos.
“I think the biggest lesson of this tragedy is that no matter how hard we try, no matter what we devote ourselves to, if we make one single wrong decision, it can derail our lives,” Arrarás says. “In Selena’s case, her mistake was to trust Yolanda even when a lot of people close to her were telling her that she was toxic, that she was not good for her, that she was like an angel of death.”
El Secreto de Selena premieres Sunday 8/25 on Telemundo. Watch the trailer below: