In what was the most bittersweet moment of the night, Jennifer Lopez reprised the role that propelled her to stardom and paid tribute to Selena Quintanilla at the Billboard Latin Music Awards, which aired Thursday, April 30 on Telemundo.
And she did it with Los Dinos, the family band that backed up the Mexican-American Tejano star, who was tragically murdered 20 years ago.
A montage of photos of Selena flashed on the screens, and then Lopez came out and channeled the fallen star with a series of her hits: "Como La Flor," "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," "Amor Prohibido," "I Could Fall In Love," and ending, perhaps appropriately, with "No Me Queda Mas."
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"Hands up for Selena and Los Dinos!" she screamed to the audience, which included Gregory Nava, the writer and director of the 1997 movie about the star. "Sing with me!" And many did. Through their tears.
Lopez, who seamlessly changed costumes three times throughout her performance without leaving the stage, was also visibly emotional as she hugged Selena's sister Suzette and brother A.B. on stage at the end of the performance. "We love you Selena," she said before a standing ovation.
Selena, who put Tejano music on the American map, continues to be a force in the genre and in Latin pop, gaining new fans in the two decades since her death. Six posthumous Selena releases have gone to No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart since her death, the most recent in 2012. And J.Lo's tribute to her is sure to fuel that trend.
"Selena was a unique, extraordinary and irreplaceable star, and while she is no longer with us, today her spirit, her grace and her voice are here," said Mexican singer Pedro Fernández, who co-hosted the show.
Lopez did not hesitate to drop everything and pay homage to the fallen singer, said co-host Gaby Espino. "She has had many more triumphs in her life," Fernandez said, "but her magical interpretation of Selena on the big screen has made definite mark on her artistic life."
Eighteen years after her portrayal of the singer made her a household name, Lopez spoke to Billboard earlier this month about what Selena means to her.
"People like that don't come along every day," Lopez said. "There is never going to be another Selena. ... The fact that she was so young and doing all of these things that people go through that maybe she wasn't ready for. The clothing line she was starting, getting married so young, things like that," Lopez said. "I felt she had a sense to live in the moment, that you're not promised tomorrow. For me that was the biggest lesson. That affected me in my life far more profoundly than the movie did in career terms."
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.