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Selah Marley Taught Us Her ’90s Beauty Trick

Photo: Jane Kim

Selah Marley — laid out on the red-velvet couches at the latest downtown hot-spot-slash-piano-bar the Nines — is wearing a three-piece knit Chanel set including shorts with a “little booty cleavage.”

We Love Coco, Chanel Beauty’s community of enthusiasts, has taken over the space on Great Jones Street for a game night. Each table has Chanel chess sets and card games alongside baked potatoes covered in caviar and shrimp cocktail.

Marley kicks up her logomania Chanel sandals to pose for the cameras and requests a mini-burger so she can use it as a prop in her photos. Her other prop? Her two mini Chanel bags just big enough to fit a Chanel lip liner, a matte raspberry nude she reapplies while we’re chatting throughout the night.

She starts to play chess but has an issue: her long acrylic nails. “You have to kind of pick it up from the side,” she says while teaching me how to play. She beats me easily. “This is like taking candy from a baby. I feel so bad,” she laughs.

A musician sits down at the piano in the middle of space and starts to play Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” as we show each other a variety of selfies we have in our phones with different hairstyles. “Fifty-five is the magic number of selfies you have to take to get the perfect one,” she says. She is good with numbers.

In addition to selfies and games, Marley chats with us about the ’90s look she goes back to, her favorite board games, and some of her earliest memories with her mom, Lauryn Hill.

Photo: Jane Kim

I see you have a natural beauty look tonight. How do you normally like wearing your makeup? 

I love a blush. Let me tell you my blush secret: I glide my blush continuously across my nose, from one cheek across the nose to the other cheek. It wakes your face up; it’s all I need. I feel like a real-life anime character. I have high cheekbones, and that’s how I highlight them. I love a statement eye too. What else do you really need? You don’t always have to do too much to the lips. I like having either a strong eye and calm lip or a strong lip and calm eye. Liner and gloss is a ’90s vibe that I wear all the time.

You have long box braids in now, which I love. What’s your relationship like with your hair? 

Did you see my recent halo hairstyle? I love Victorian art. That inspired that look and a lot of my looks. In general, I consider myself to be a chameleon: I can do anything; I do everything — that’s my relationship with it. I like versatility and variety. That’s the biggest thing for me.

As a Black girl, you can do an Afro, you can do braids, you can just do so much. I have so many friends getting locs right now, but I can’t. I’m like, I want my blowout. My natural hair has been getting really long, though, but lately I’ve been in my curly bag. I like wearing my curls. I remember when I cut my hair all off when I was 18, but I really haven’t cut it since then. My mom loved that style. I feel like Black women can be so discouraged around our hair; it’s such a deep thing. My goal now is for my hair to touch my butt. I’m very tired of the whole “Black girls can’t grow their hair” narrative. Like yes, we actually can, and I will.

What’s one piece of beauty advice you got from your mom that you’ll forever implement in your life?

She’s my mentor and my mom simultaneously. I’m her first daughter. I was always her little doll. It’s hard to put it in words. But it’s funny because I actually came back to my house to teach my family how to do their hair. My mom’s an artist, so she has bigger things than hair health to do. She’s very supportive and really wants me to be great.

I feel like, growing up, beauty must’ve been so prominent in your life. What’s your first memory of it? 

When I was in high school, my favorite perfume was Coco Mademoiselle, but it was so funny because everyone else in school was wearing Victoria’s Secret, and here I was coming in smelling like Chanel with an actual eau de parfum. It’s been a while since I last wore it, but I used to love how rich and musky it was. I was so young; I was like 15 years old. If I smelled it right now, I would think of those years.

I remember this kid came up to me and said, “Yo, do you bathe in that shit? I smell you from all the way down the hall.” I was like, “Yes, king!” I would bring it to school and spray it and walk through it. I still do it.

Photo: Jane Kim

You seem to know chess really well. Are you one of those people who gets into arguments over playing games, like when someone pulls out a “Draw Four” card in Uno?

I’m the person that throws down my “Draw Four” You’re not going to catch me slipping. You can never catch me slipping in games. I’m balanced when playing, though. When you’re too cocky, that’s when you lose. I like to keep quiet until I win, and I do. But I love playing games — not only this kind. I will demolish someone in chess. I can do checkers too.

The Met Gala is coming up Monday. You have to tell me who you’re super-excited to see hit the carpet and why.

Myself. No, but honestly, Rihanna slays always. I think Kim Kardashian slays, too. There was a gold look she did a few years ago that I absolutely loved. And I think if Beyoncé feels like making an appearance, she has her fun, too. I’m just happy to see who comes.

Photo: Jane Kim
Selah Marley’s ’90s Beauty Trick