On October 1, the Selena x MAC Collection was released online. Fans were lining up five days before it dropped in stores. Now, just two weeks later, the highest reported eBay price for the collection reached $3,055 (woof), and MAC, trying desperately to keep up with the demand, announced that the line will be restocked. Everyone recognizes that this collection is our last chance to celebrate the late Selena Quintanilla-Perez, while allowing ourselves to imagine what could’ve been. Selena x MAC deliberately channels a pop-culture icon with her cosmetic mainstays — and thanks to the help of Selena’s family, the line is meant to evoke makeup she loved to apply herself.
I’m often wary of posthumous, limited-edition anything; death is an easy cottage industry. For every Montage of Heck book, there’s a Forever 21 Kurt Cobain t-shirt; for every Fred Perry/Amy Winehouse line, there’s a generic graphic t-shirt capitalizing on her iconic image. After all, how do you funnel the talent, energy, and magnetism of the 23-year-old Queen of Tejano music into a product? How could a lipstick do Selena justice? How does it reflect her own penchant for style and sequins and bustiers, or for her musical and aesthetic risks? How does it do justice to her legacy as a role model, and what part do we play in making sure that it does?
“One of my childhood memories was my mom always telling us that we should always try and look our best,” Suzette Quintanilla Arriaga, Selena’s sister, explained to MAC. “Being a performer and being on the road, you have to try and look your best, as you never know who will see you and whom you will run into. [Selena] did tons of press interviews, meet and greets, etc. When she performed she took it up a notch. She had a stage look and an everyday look. Her stage look was more exaggerated with a bold lip — heavier eyebrow and lashes/mascara.”
Consisting of three lipsticks, five eye shadows, a liquid eyeliner, mascara, bronzer, blush, two lipglasses, and a brush, the collection is the result of a yearlong collaboration with her estate based exclusively on the makeup that the singer herself wore. The three lipsticks — Dreaming of You, Como La Flor, Amor Prohibido — each represent aspects of Selena’s public persona. Dreaming of You is a bold, matte burgundy, ideal for an onstage look: It’s impossible to miss, regardless of how far away you may be standing. Como La Flor is a crimson red that feels like satin, akin to a rose in both its bright tone and delicate nature, and pays tribute to Selena’s own zest for romance. Amor Prohibido is a mocha shade with a slight glaze which evokes the day-to-day lip colors of the early to mid-1990s, because despite her sensational legacy, Selena was also just a 23-year-old woman living her life. The eye shadows are neutral (ranging from pink to dark brown), which can be used to dramatize a look, tone it down a bit, or simply complement the blush/bronzer duo. And all pieces come in bright purple packaging — Selena’s favorite color.
“I wanted this to be about Selena and not about me,” Arriaga shared. “It was about her on a personal level so that her fans would know what colors she loved to wear. I feel like the colors and tones represent her perfectly.”
The photo chosen for the collection was done with an express purpose: It shows Selena standing tall, making eye contact with the camera as her arms are crossed. She isn’t smiling, she’s staring intently, and — together with her red lips and red nails — she looks completely unfuckwithable.
“I thought to myself, if I were Selena would I put my face on the packaging?” Arriaga said. “She wouldn’t have done that — she would have wanted to keep it classy and simple. I showed my family the packaging and they agreed she wouldn’t want her face plastered on everything. MAC portrayed this perfectly, in a signature purple compact, with a perfect classy logo with a shiny finish. I wouldn’t change it for anything! I want to be able to look over and see someone applying lipstick or using makeup and see that they are using a purple compact, and know that they are using Selena’s collection. It’s a very strong pose and a beautiful picture of her,” Arriaga explained. “It shows she was a strong Latina individual in charge of her own life. To me, it speaks volumes and I hope when our youth look at this, they will see a beautiful Latina woman who worked hard alongside her family, who didn’t let anything stop her from her dream.”
By giving us the tools we need to experiment with beauty the way Selena did, the line offers a world of possibilities. It taps into our own lust for creativity, but it also allows us to wonder if maybe Selena would’ve worn her eye shadow the same way we would, or if she would’ve paired dark lipstick with a light eye shadow. It resurrects a world in which Selena is still present; one where she’s sitting with us while we experiment with contouring or matching lip liner. Each piece offers us the promise of what might have been. It means we don’t really have to say goodbye.