The late "Queen of Tejano" music, Selena Quintanilla, would have been 48 on Tuesday.
The bicultural and bilingual singer who broke records and whose success was cut short when she was murdered at 23 by her fan club manager in 1995, is a musical and cultural touchstone for generations of Latinos who identified with her life.
“I associated her with my family and being Mexican in America.” he said in a phone interview with NBC News.
It's how Selena navigated her cultural identity — she was a young woman of Mexican heritage who grew up in Corpus Christi speaking English, yet rose to fame singing in Spanish — that resonated with Zamora's own situation.
Zamora, 40, was in high school when he discovered the music of the crossover singing sensation.
"As long as I stay true to who I am, I think it’s going to be okay," he said of the way he approaches his life, including his upcoming Netflix project, something he has learned from the late singing legend.
Zamora couldn't talk about specifics surrounding the much anticipated Netflix series, which will be a coming-of-age story about Selena's life. Campanario Entertainment will executive produce alongside Suzette Quintanilla (Selena’s sister), and Gio Ximenez (who was a co-producer for “American Crime”) will be co-executive producer.
Zamora, who has worked as a staff writer on two other TV shows — the Emmy-winning series “American Crime” and “Star” on Fox, said he recognizes the pressure and anticipation around the Selena series.
"Now I have a chance to create this epic drama," he said. He wants to create a show that people like and want to binge watch on Netflix.
"One of the things that helps me is that this feels so familiar," he said, referring to tackling something big and life-changing. "This feels like so many journeys I see around me through my family."
Zamora was born and raised in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. But when he was 11, his family moved to Loyalton, California and later, to the state's agricultural hub of Central Valley.
Zamora’s father, a doctor, worked at a medical clinic where many of his patients were farmworkers.
“My dad would tell me all the stories of the laborers - no water, extreme heat conditions," said Zamora.
He used that knowledge when he wrote for the third season of the television show “American Crime" in 2016.
“What was really wonderful about that job was that everything came full circle,” he explained. “The third season is about field workers in California — the abuse, exploitation, injuries," he said. "I know that world really well."
Like Selena, Zamora harnessed his family's and his own bicultural and bilingual upbringing in his work, which, apart from TV writing includes an award-winning documentary, a book and writing for film.
Zamora went to Brown University and majored in international relations, but he later realized that what he really wanted to do was write.
He delved back into his first language, Spanish, and at 25 wrote a coming-of-age novel, “Susurros bajo el agua” (“Whispers Under the Water”), published in 2005. The story, told through the eyes of a 16-year-old, is about a prodigy raised by a single mom who lied to him about his identity, and he goes on a search for it. It won the Binational Literary Prize for Young Novel Border of Words.
For Zamora, there was something about writing in Spanish that pulled him into exploring deeper into himself.
“When I would get sad and emotional – [my internal] language would change from English to Spanish. It felt a little closer to my heart,” he said. “I noticed my poetic self more truthful in Spanish."
Despite being educated primarily in English, Zamora still felt he had to thrive in Spanish before he could do so in English, and Selena was an inspiration in that area.
“I had to succeed in Spanish before I could succeed in English, which is somewhat what Selena did — succeed in Spanish first before making her English crossover," said Zamora.
"There is a poem called, ‘Roots and Wings,' that’s kind of my immigrant experience," Zamora added, "uprooted from Mexico, but at the same time given wings.”
He worked in advertising for a number of years, moving up to creative director, when he was approached by a friend at USC to help with a short film. Through this experience, he realized he enjoyed the collaborative nature of producing a film, which led down a different, and fruitful path.
His first film, "Young and Mexican," received the Best Documentary by a Mexican Director award at the Oaxaca Film Festival in 2011. The documentary delved into the idea of what would have happened if he stayed in his hometown.
After the documentary's success, Zamora took a screenwriting class at UCLA and went in that direction.
Throughout his educational and professional evolution, Zamora was also going through another process that wasn't easy for a child of immigrants.
“I was 19 when I came out to my mother and brother," said Zamora, who is gay. "I came out to my father two years later over Christmas. He asked me out of the blue, and I couldn't lie to him."
He said his father cried that whole night, although he jokes that it was actually easier coming out to his parents than telling them he wanted to be a writer, because as immigrant parents, they always dreamed of him becoming a doctor or lawyer - a profession that, to them, made the move to the U.S. “worth it.”
“When you give all these choices to your kid, and they choose the one they don’t understand...” explained Zamora. “They were like ‘What?!’”
Yet like Selena, the life that Zamora took was different than his Mexican parents and relatives before him — yet ultimately he achieved success and carved his own path.
This is a theme that Zamora, like many U.S. Latinos, is fascinated by. In fact, one of his future projects is about a Mexican-born prodigy, Dafne Almazán, who at 17 is the youngest grad student enrolled at Harvard in 100 years.
“I have the rights to produce a TV show about her,” said Zamora, who is developing the show for his production company "Ten Pesos."
Succeeding while toggling two cultures and navigating two languages is one of Selena's enduring legacies that many Hispanics understand.
When Selena crossed over to singing in English, Zamora said, she wasn't going from one "identity" to another, like he previously thought. That's who she was.
“I didn’t get to analyze that until a lot later,” he said. “Both of my worlds were merging, and I think she did that for a lot of people, and why she’s so wonderful."