A Rose That Grew From The Concrete|Marley the Starving Artist Tells Her Story

College graduate. Artist. Fighter. Photographer. Teacher. Free Spirit. Walking Testimony.


Meet the traveling artist known as Marley Billie D.


This St. Louis native is definitely making a name for herself in Chicago and beyond. Balancing out living as an Art teacher by day and Live Painter on the Navy Pier at The Bistro in Chicago by night; I just had to pick Marley Billie D’s brain about her life!


The Wire Hanger By Winnie: Hey Marley! So tell me, how did the opportunity come about with The Navy Pier gig?

Marley: Well I do live paintings for rich upper class individuals. But to be honest I started doing the paint night event for extra money. Later I noticed the connections that came along with it. It’s funny because I recently met this owner of a large art gallery in Mexico and he loves my work. So this experience has definitely been grateful.

TWHBW: Did you always see yourself as being art teacher?


 Marley: (laughs) No. Yet I’ve always wanted to work with youth. Growing up I was in a lot of different organizations. And for whatever reason I noticed that I would always bring along one of the mentors with me after any program was over. But I have noticed that working with these kids allow me to connect with the community on various levels. I can interact with individuals from a section 8 community or a rich, high class audience.


TWHBW: How has the experience been as an art teacher?

Marley: My students love my style of teaching. I raise awareness to my youth but I keep it very urban. And my kids keep me on my toes and I love it. One time I was two minutes late for class and a student fussed at me about being late because if I’m late someone else would have to take over the class and they didn’t want anyone to teach them but me.

TWHBW: What types of lessons do you teach and how do you include art?

Marley: A lesson I am teaching right now is focusing on Sara Baartman. She was the first African American woman publicly acknowledged for her body and displayed because she was curvy and big boned. She was actually taken in a circus and put in a cage for people to pet her. She died at 25 and some say it was due to shame and humiliation. They cut out her vagina and brain and displayed it at an art museum in France. Recently they took her body parts out of the museum and gave her a proper burial. So we talked about that. And also we talked about Willie Lynch. I tied the two lessons together and asked ‘Do you see Sara Baartmans in your community? Do you see situations like Willie Lynch with man vs man in your community? The students are so into it. I’ve had them paint how they’d change these things in our community so you really see the emotion come out!


TWHBW: Has your family been supportive throughout your endeavors?

Marley: Well my mother is a heroin addict, I don’t know my father and as of about four years ago my sister fell into being heroin addict also. So I feel like I have to stay on the move and make a change. Yet I am actually raised by my family. My mother is actually my cousin but she’s the only mother I know since I was adopted at 9 months old.

TWHBW: It is a God given talent that you share with the world as an artist but was there any influence around you growing up?

Marley: Well my mother is a decorator, my Aunt grooms dogs, and my uncle is a barber, so I pretty much grew up around creativity. Only thing is that I took everyone’s lane and made it my own.


TWHBW: What would you like to see in your future?

Marley: I am just trying to create myself as a legend. I just want to live very comfortably. I want to be able to ride the bus and someone will recognize my work but not me physically.  I want my name famous without people knowing the face to the name. Also I would love to live out of the country . I actually plan to move to Japan! But at the end of the day, I’m just trying to be something in this world without people knowing I’m trying to be something in this world.

TWHBW: Congrats on the move soon! Why are you moving to Japan?

Marley: Well, I love comic books, and in Japan it’s on another level. I love the culture there. I feel like Japan would be the next culture I want my work to evolve into. Plus, when I come back to the states I want to be that fresh kid without even trying. (laughs)

TWHBW: Japan is pretty dope! That’s a blessing! Have you encountered any obstacles that made you think you just couldn’t go any further?

Marley: Wow. (laughs) I just had an experience recently. I never let anyone know me so this is some confidential stuff. Though mainly I have just been hustling, traveling, doing live paintings, living starving artist life, but not seeing much money rolling in for my work. Without even realizing things got out of hand, I ended up getting an eviction notice. With me moving around so much and didn’t realize rent hadn’t gotten paid. That’s when I had that thought like ‘Is this for me?’  I even wondered about getting a corporate job because I have a degree but I don’t want to work in corporate. I struggle with the thought everyday of how to get past the stressors of life. I wonder if this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. But once I do a project, I freakin’ love it. On my paint nights I never even take my pieces home, I give a piece away each night so that a guest has a piece of me to cherish.

TWHBW: What would you say pushes you to keep going every day?

Marley: When I get love from fans and people who I don’t know pushes me.  Also I realize things get taken care of without my stressing so much; thanks to my passion. I just keep grinding. My motto is don’t allow anything or anyone steal your joy. Just think about it; anytime you get mad, it’s because somebody did something to you or said something to you that you didn’t like or there was a situation that’s happened. Even if it’s a money situation, if you can’t change it immediately, don’t stress about it.



To keep up with this amazing artist follow her on Instagram at : @marleybillied

For booking inquiries contact her at: marley.billie.d@gmail.com

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