Selah Marley, granddaughter of Bob Marley, is driven to succeed now
The product of Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley, Selah is charting her own path on her own time
Selah Marley doesn’t know where her inner drive comes from — not really, anyway. She hears the whispers — from friends, family and the media — about how much she’s accomplished in her 18 years. All she knows is something inside her fuels her to go harder, do more … go faster.
Her parents, Lauryn Hill and Rohan Marley, know where that drive comes from, no question about that. It was there since day one.
“I was driving through the tunnel,” Rohan Marley recalled of the day Hill was expected to deliver, “and I had to drive through the gate because I didn’t want to stop. I even went down a one-way road, and a policeman told me we should go to another hospital, and still went my way. I was determined to get us to a safe place — and her mother and I wanted to take her to a certain place, regardless of what was going on — so she’s truly a product of that kind of drive and determination.”
Indeed, Selah Marley has a lot going for her, and it doesn’t hurt that her mom is the infamous L. Boogie Hill and her grandfather, Bob Marley, is an icon in every nook and cranny of the world. And maybe that’s something else that’s making her go so hard.
Her modeling resume, thus far, warrants a raised eyebrow. She’s worked with Chanel, Calvin Klein, Kanye West’s Yeezy Season presentation and Beyonce’s Ivy Park, and she broke Twitter earlier this month when she landed the April cover of the U.K. Sunday Times style magazine.
“Honestly … I feel like I’ve done a lot, but I still feel like I have a long way to go,” said Marley, who grew up in Miami, Los Angeles and South Orange, New Jersey. “I don’t feel like I’ve done enough, honestly. Maybe I’m in a little bit of a rush, and not appreciating enough. But I still feel like I could be doing better. I feel like I need to go a bit more in-depth, showing who I am and stepping out on my own,” Marley continues, her Jersey twang coming through.
As a little girl, Marley wanted to be Lauryn Hill. Who wouldn’t? If your mom was the neo-soul legend who killed them softly with her melodic lead voice of The Fugees in the early ’90s, you’d want to be her too. But Marley said that yearning caused some strife, at least internally.
“When I was younger, my mom was a huge icon for me,” Marley said. “I was always, like, ‘Yo … if I could be like my mom, that’s lit.’ And it wasn’t necessarily in a music way — just like, her essence. My mom is like a powerful woman. But the thing is, I still had a lot of love for music, and I had a little self-doubt, like, ‘I don’t think I am as good as my mom.’
“I’m not trying to necessarily copy my mom; it’s in my DNA … it’s been passed down to me. I think she’s one of the greatest. But now, the funny thing is, I know who I am, but I was still like, ‘Yo – that’s Lauryn Hill; that’s my mom.’ ”
No doubt, Hill had made her mark. Following the release of her full-length debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the baby-faced Jersey girl was one of 17 black figures on Time magazine’s cover throughout the 1990s (out of 525 covers). Only five — including Bill Cosby, Bill T. Jones, Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey — worked in arts and entertainment. Hill was the only musician. She was just 23.
“When I do things like model or sing, it’s always, ‘There’s Lauryn’s daughter,’ ” Marley said. “Yes, Lauryn Hill is my mom. When people say that, they’re thinking a certain way — and they’ve already put you in a box, and now I have to fit into your box. It creates a little friction, but I’ve gotten over that.
“It is what it is; I try to embrace it. I’m like, ‘Yo, these gifts have been passed down to me.’ Everyone has gifts — but I got some special gifts passed down to me, from both my parents. I now have a chance to show who I am. I’m totally here for it.”
Marley maintains that her mom is her No. 1 fan and partner-in-career. When the calls come in and the offers are made, it’s Hill whose brain gets picked first — usually via text. An admitted phone-aholic whose guilty pleasure is Instagram, Marley just completed her freshman year at New York University, where she is enrolled in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She enjoyed the freedom to create her own curriculum, where her studies focused on showing the link between science and spirituality and how all religions connect.
But as her fledgling modeling career gained momentum, it became harder to manage school and career.
“I enjoy learning,” she said. “It’s a gap year. I just needed to go through my freshman year to know that I needed a gap year.”
Her parents, who have five kids together (including Marley), have her back, providing support and love in their own respective ways. From dad, she said, she gets structure and foundation. From mom, she gets compassion and understanding.
“My dad is more direct, whereas my mom is a little more abstract,” Marley explained. “I think there’s always going to be one energy that’s a little bit more influential, but I definitely try to take from both of them because they bring so much to the table for me. But … my dad? My dad does not play.”
At the end of 2016, when she was invited to walk the Chanel pre-fall show in Paris, dad called to check in and heard his daughter complain about having to find her own way — and being alone. When dad asked her why she was alone, she admitted that she had missed a flight.
“I said, ‘There you go,’ ” said Rohan Marley, who made his mark as a football player at the University of Miami and is now an entrepreneur and founder of Marley Coffee. “I told her that things are going to be expected of you, no matter who you are or where you come from. There’s a timing to everything, so if you’re going to do this, you’re going to have to respect the work, the process and why you’re doing it. It’s the way you carry yourself. Some people carry their football everywhere they go; you have to carry this career with you and be humble about it.”
At 5 feet, 3 inches tall, Selah, whose name was given to her by her grandmother Rita Marley, worries little about fitting the mold — and is instead working to create her own lane.
“I’ve been lucky,” Marley said. “Fitting the mold wasn’t something that I was consumed with. That was all the more reason to expand on this other side of myself. If I’m using my platform to show more of myself, not just as a model, other opportunities are going to come, and I’m seeing that happen now.”
If you could be any athlete — past or present — who would you be?
I think I would be Serena Williams, because she’s done so much. She’s such a powerful woman. I love what she’s done as a black woman in America. I thank her; I appreciate her and I thank her. And she’s dope.
You come from a rich musical family. How do you find out about new music, and what do you like?
I find out about music from different people. I’ll hear a song, and it’ll catch my ear and I’ll be like, ‘Oooh! I need this song.’ When I heard ‘3005’ by Childish Gambino, I was like, ‘Oh my God! What song is this?’ I OD’d on it. I just fell in love with his music.
What’s your favorite Lauryn Hill song, and why?
I don’t know all of her Fugees stuff; I know her more as a solo artist. I would say her song ‘I Get Out’ — off her Unplugged album — is the one. Just because that song is so liberating and has such a deep message. It’s just all about freedom.
What about your grandfather — Bob Marley?
I would have to say ‘Natural Mystic,’ ‘Running Away’ and ‘Redemption Song.’
‘Natural Mystic’ — because it basically speaks of that unseen world.
I love ‘Running Away’ because the message is clear: ‘You can run, but you can’t run away from yourself. You can’t hide from yourself.’ And ‘Redemption Song’ just speaks to looking at yourself in the mirror, and forgiveness.
What does Undefeated mean to you?
Undefeated to me … it’s like chasing your dream and not taking no for an answer. People may pull you down, but you don’t let that take you over. It’s always being able to overcome.