'Selena: The Series' Episode 5 'Dulce Amor': Who is Jose Behar and why did he change Selena y Los Dinos to Selena?

At the 1989 Tejano Music Awards, Behar was looking for new Latin talent and wanted to sign Selena to EMI's label


                            'Selena: The Series' Episode 5 'Dulce Amor': Who is Jose Behar and why did he change Selena y Los Dinos to Selena?
Eric 'Rico' Aragon as José Behar (Netflix)

Spoilers for ‘Selena: The Series’ Episode 5 ‘Dulce Amor’

Behind every star is a guiding light who recognizes that talent. For Selena Quintanilla, it was José Behar. In Episode 5 ‘Dulce Amor’, Selena (Christian Serratos) performs at the 1989 Tejano Music Awards when Behar (Eric 'Rico' Aragon) spots her and waits for her outside the red carpet. Once he tells her he wants to sign her, Selena asks her father Abraham Quintanilla (Ricardo Chavira) to take over and a witty conversation over the signing label follows.

“CBS is a big company with a lot of resources,” Behar tells Quintanilla. “I can't compete at that level, but I can tell they don't want you. They want everyone, like a collector buying every baseball card there is, then sticking them in a drawer in case one player becomes a star. And if they don't, all it costs them was some gum. You wanna have control of a plane, you sit up front with the pilot. Not in the back with all the passengers wondering what's going on.”

His words work their magic and Selena y Los Dinos signs with EMI Latin for her record. How true is this story to real life? Let's find out. 

José Behar, the president of EMI Latin record label (Getty Images)

Who is José Behar and did he really sign Selena?

A Cuban-American music executive raised in Havana, Cuba, José Behar has headed EMI Latin and Univision Music Group. “She would have been up there with the Janets and the Madonnas,” EMI Latin President told LA Times long after her death during her posthumous album release ‘Dreaming Of You’. 

At the 1989 Tejano Music Awards, Behar was looking for new Latin talent and wanted to sign Selena to EMI's label. At the time, he thought he had discovered the “next Gloria Estefan.” He confessed in an interview, “I signed Selena y Los Dinos on the basis of one performance. A colleague and I saw her at the 1989 Tejano Music Awards, and I immediately knew there was something magical about her. She was seventeen, and she already knew how to captivate a crowd.”

As shown in the series, Selena chose EMI Latin's offer because of the potential for a crossover album and to be the first artist to sign to the label. Before Selena began recording for her debut album, Behar and Stephen Finfer requested a crossover album for her. “What struck me on first listen was her complete comfort in this environment,” Davitt Siggerson, president of EMI Records Group, said. “She made a record that felt totally natural in English.”

Behar continued, “Very few Latin artists had ever been offered a major-label crossover deal. It was Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan, and Selena — in that order. And with Selena, it was an uphill battle for years. I had colleagues at EMI from Latin America, the US, and Spain who told me, ‘I don’t know what you see in her,’ and ‘She’ll never make it outside Texas.’”

Selena Quintanilla (Getty Images)

Why did he change the band's name from Selena y Los Dinos to Selena? Behar confessed, “I came to an important realization that didn’t go over well with Abraham. I woke up one morning and I said, ‘The world wants Selena; they don’t want Selena y Los Dinos.’ I talked to Selena, and she got it. She knew that she had to evolve. Well, when she spoke to her dad, he went nuts. He called me and started yelling, ‘What, are you trying to break up the family?’ I said, ‘No, Abraham. The band can still record with her and go on tour with her. But we need to feature Selena on the album covers and in the videos.’ Abraham and I were not always on speaking terms because of disagreements like this, but once we started making Selena the focus, things really took off.”

Talking about her Spanish, Behar shed light on a fascinating incident. He said, “Her Spanish was not the greatest. A reporter asked her, ‘¿Cómo te sientes cuando te echan piropos?’ which means, ‘How do you feel when they throw piropos at you?’ A piropo is a flirtatious compliment, like, ‘Hey, babe, you’re beautiful,’ but she misunderstood. She thought she was being asked how she felt when fans threw bottles and cans onstage, which is customary to do when you like an artist in Mexico. So she said, ‘Yeah, they throw piropos and cans and flowers…’ And the place just fell apart. Somebody else would have been crucified, but it was the start of a national love affair.”

Decades have passed but Selena's magic remains etched in hearts and her memory is more alive than ever. 

‘Selena: The Series’ starts streaming all nine new episodes of Part One on Netflix this December 4, 2020.

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