The metamorphosis of Selah Sue

Courtesy PhotoDebut album: Selah Sue plays from her self-titled 2011 recording today at the Regency Ballrroom.

Courtesy PhotoDebut album: Selah Sue plays from her self-titled 2011 recording today at the Regency Ballrroom.

Belgian folk-reggae singer Selah Sue says she had an unusually happy childhood. A tomboy, Sue wore the same baggy T-shirts as her brother, and she was quite popular with her schoolmates.

She never studied herself in the mirror. Then puberty hit and everything changed.

She says, “Suddenly, bam! I got breasts, I got a figure, and it was the hardest time of my life. I had very low self-esteem, and I thought I was the most ugly, stupid person in the world.”

But insecurities provided some great songwriting inspiration for the budding guitarist, born Sanne Putseys — hence the ebullient, frank ditties on her debut album, “Selah Sue,” including “Crazy Vibes,” “Peace of Mind” and the breakthrough overseas smash “Ragamuffin” — which she’ll tout in town tonight.

“That’s the only thing I wrote about on this album — every song is about learning to accept who I was,” Sue says.

“Because when I was depressed, I was really lost in myself and just not social anymore, so it was really an internal struggle.”

Sue, who’s seen a therapist since she was 16, says it was the only way she found emotional stability.

The troubled teen learned a lot from those sessions — like how to channel her frustration into emotive lyrics and guitar chords.

Having given up on her first love — ballet — she realized she had a goal again: assembling enough songs for a full-length album.

“My shrink says it works, writing things down,” she says. “I think he could make a book out of all the letters I sent him! But it’s just therapeutic, to put it down on paper — that’s what’s really worked out for me.”

Sue is no longer afraid of appearing vulnerable. She bares her soul in the touching acoustic tribute “Mommy.”

“My mother really deserved a song, because she was a really important person for me during those dark days,” she says. “But she’s really proud, and more focused on ‘Is my child happy?’ as opposed to, ‘Oh, my child wrote a song about me!’ And she always cries when she hears the song, which is exactly what I wanted.”

Thinking her head was too big in proportion to her hair, the self-declared ugly duckling developed the sweeping bouffant that’s become her swanlike signature.

“Then Chanel discovered me, so they give me free makeup and clothes for shows,” she says.

 What reflection does the bombshell see in her mirror today? “Sometimes I still wake up and feel like the most ugly person there is,” she says. “And sometimes I think, ‘Yeah, you’re really OK!’ So it’s not as extreme as it was … .”

artsentertainmentmusicPop Music & JazzSelah Sue

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Muni’s K-Ingleside trains will resume service after a long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs speaks to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16, 2021. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Kiana Williams
Stanford’s Kiana Williams drafted by WNBA champion Seattle Storm

Kiana Williams is going from one championship team to another. A senior… Continue reading

Most Read