What came first, Sellah’s basketball career, his music, his modeling success, or becoming a founder? We’ll let you guess.
Learning incredible discipline from the strict rules and structure of a military family, Sellah had the grit to excel as and NCAA basketball player. However, while living out what felt like someone else’s dream, he decided to change course and give in to his underlying love for fashion and entertainment.
In this interview, we found out what it took for Sellah to become the first black male model to work in Shanghai, China, working with some of America’s most popular brands, including GAP, Nike, and GQ Magazine, and commit wholeheartedly to his passion. Keep reading to gain insight on this creative genius’ outlook on life. Don’t forget to listen to his music from his page.
Tell us a little about yourself. Who do you brand yourself as today?
For starters, my name is Whitney-Michael McCloud, but most people these days know me by Sellah or just Michael.
Sellah is my brand, which incorporates fashion, music, art, mentorship, management and photography. I brand myself as Sellah because of the meaning: to be free, stop and listen, a metaphorical weapon, to break from negativity and to never give up.
I was born in San Bernardino, California, but because of my family’s involvement in the military, most of my childhood life was spent traveling. I’ve been moving around ever since because of my various careers.
You’ve gone through quite a few career changes – college basketball star to photography and modeling, and now to music and entertainment. What were the decision-making events that led to each of those changes?
“Always follow your gut.”
In a military family you pretty much have no choice but to abide by the rules the government enforces, as well as the rules from your parents, until you are old enough to live independently. I was an extremely skilled basketball player and I always worked harder than anyone I knew to achieve certain goals.
Deep down, I always knew I wanted to work in the fashion and entertainment world, but I never had the confidence to be public about it.
With that being said, basketball was my biggest career change. The music and fashion world are so compatible and similar to who I really am that the difference for that career change was miniscule.
When I discovered I could excel to higher levels within each field, I told myself I had to try everything. This discovery allowed me to gain the knowledge and experience to progress in both music and entertainment.
You’ve had some amazing accomplishments, including being the first black male model to work in Shanghai, China. What would you say is your main characteristic that has led to successes like that?
Simply, not believing in limits. Never listen to the people who say “no” or that things are “impossible.”
Consistently researching and publicizing myself also played a major role in my past successes. 95% of what I accomplished came from my personal dedication to this industry. For example contacting multiple organizations, companies etc.
People do not understand how much valuable information we have access to.
Who was your favorite artist to work with and why?
I have not worked with an artist that has made a significant impact to be considered my favorite. I am also someone who dislikes the word ‘favorite.’ This word implies I have worked with every artist in the world. I haven’t, therefore I cannot make such a comparison. I feel everyone has something special to offer, but I cannot wait to work with Pharrell and Diplo!
We hear the entertainment industry can be brutal. How do you deal with resistance?
I do my best to meditate and pray everyday. I am not really religious, but I do believe in energy and a higher being of some sort.
Also, I have learned you must keep your circles very small. This industry attracts an abundance of selfish people; not many are out there to support YOU. They will manipulate, lie, and act like your best friend; most have hidden agendas. It is a very ego and pride-driven industry.
On the other hand, who have been your biggest supporters?
Coco and Breezy shared my work and collaborated with me for the past six years (P.S. they design DOPE sunglasses; check em’ out). They worked hard to establish their brand, yet they always set aside time to reach out and work with me. This gesture has given me more confidence in myself.
I have received a massive worldwide support system through Vini and his following. Thousands of great people give love everyday from Brazil and Turkey; I’ve even picked up some of their languages. Seni cok seviyorum means “ I love you.”
What is the driving force behind your motivation for creating everything you do?
Life is my biggest inspiration. There is so much mystery and bliss in life and I strive to learn more.
Everyday, life teaches me new information about myself along with what I can offer this world. Traveling at such a young age allowed me to truly open my mind and understand that we all truly have something unique to give.
Truthfully, many others said I would never make it or accomplish feats I’ve already achieved. I cannot deem a person the “greatest” unless they entirely helped me get to the point in my life now. I learned no one is going to believe in my dreams as much as myself. Therefore, never feel upset when others don’t see the same visions as you do.
Life in general gives me an urge to discover more about myself. Life also gives me the adrenaline rush to consistently challenge myself and question what I am told. Deep down I would like to create my own rules and discover my own truths.
I believe we all are creators.
What is the legacy you’re trying to create for yourself?
Nothing in life is promised. No one can truly say they “know” what life is or what will happen tomorrow. Life is purely based off of everyone’s personal perception.
Life can be what somebody aspires to do as career, which person they choose to love, which friends they surround themselves with, what ideologies and or religions they choose to follow — everything is based on what our intellect allows us to gravitate towards.
The only true legacy I am striving to create is for people to truly be themselves; nothing less and nothing more.
I want to inspire people to stop competing with others. I already am inspiring others to take time to really learn who they are and what they are brought on this earth to do. This brings me back to the meaning of “I AM SELLAH.” Sellah signifies freedom, so if we are Sellah “WE ARE FREE.” We are free to be our true form and do what we want.
I want people to stop living by limitations. Take chances, challenge yourself, and always love more!
As an artist, you are constantly creating. But, what do you do in your free time?
I try to never have free time. Because I wasn’t working a 9-5, it never felt right to have too much free time; especially working for yourself.
I am not at a place in my career where I am happiest yet. Any forms of downtime, I personally reach out to my following or seek new people to promote my brand. Considering I need their support to keep my career moving and progressing, I feel I should support them as well.
In all honesty, this is an extremely tedious and daunting process. In retrospect, it makes others feel special and important when I take time to reach out to them. Besides that, I enjoy going out dancing, romantic comedies (ha), and of course spending time with my boyfriend, Vinny.
What have you set out to accomplish now? What’s your main goal these days?
I’ve set numerous personal goals; the most significant goal for music is to acquire a solid management team and/or record label that believe in my potential.
I am also persistently working to tour soon and promote my music on the radio in America.
Lastly I am working very hard to be a music artist who takes portraits of other music artists. I haven’t really seen this be done before, and am already branding myself for that with #imagebysellah on Instagram.
Fun question: You have quite a few tattoos! Can you share with us the story behind your favorite tattoo?
Ah, all of my tattoos depict huge meanings. I guess my “ favorite” would be my upside down triangles! Many assume very ‘demonic’ or dark things are associated with them, but I am in love with the Greek and Egyptian cultures.
In my perspective, the triangle portrays the connection of the mind, body and soul. This stems from the three connecting points. I feel the standard triangle pointing up is a trend nowadays and I craved uniqueness. This is why all of my triangles point down. In essence, “ I am doing things the other way.”
Also, research led me to discover the inverted triangle represents the feminine sides of things and the triangle pointing up refers to the masculine side of things. Being a male, the inverted triangle shows I am connected with both my masculine and feminine sides. When you are able to connect to both sides, in my eyes, it represents completion.
I believe we have the power to manifest what we desire in our life, especially if we have good intentions. As a creative person, I feel my tattoos aid me in this personal journey and serve as part of my shield and protection.