Incredible singer Mary J Blige got away from poverty and with ingenuity, she became a global whiz. Fame flawlessly embraced her pushing away her drug addiction and an oppressive relationship from her life. Mary J Blige got steady and grabbed an opportunity from celebrity status. But her colleague Whitney Houston didn’t.
In a 2013 interview where Blige was discussing the ‘oversexualisation’ of young women in music and her own refusal to strip down to sell more records, the multiple award winning singer said:
‘I never slept with anyone to get where I am, but they were after me to do that. I fought hard.’ So have things improved at all over the past 20 years? She lets out a snort: ‘It’s definitely worse.’
As a child, Mary J Blige was sexually abused; as a result, she became dependent on alcohol and drugs as a young star and was involved in a violent relationship with another music star. Interestingly, Blige’s hubby kept telling her that:
“You’re so beautiful, you need to be a model.” But you can be the most beautiful person in the world, and if you don’t feel like it inside…’ She shrugs. ‘I’m proud of getting to a point where you can’t tell me I’m not a beautiful person in my heart.’
Coincidentally, the couple shared a $12m chateau in New Jersey where she grew up.
‘I can look straight across the river at the pier where I used to go as a teenager and sing, and ask God to help me and show me a way out.’ Geographically, it’s a matter of a few miles; metaphorically, another world entirely”.
At age 21, Mary J Blige released her debut album, ‘What’s the 411’?, produced by Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs (as P Diddy was then known). Its raw, gritty sound was entirely unlike anything the glossy, chart-friendly divas of the day, such as Mariah Carey, Whitney.
Blige was immediately named ‘the Queen of hip-hop soul’, introducing a new era of R&B. Her next album, ‘My Life’, was released two years after the fact, and overflowing with tunes of pain and poverty, it sealed her reputation. From that point forward she has been named among one of the 500 Greatest albums ever by Rolling Stone magazine.
Blige has released over nine albums and won as many Grammys since the recognition. She has additionally collaborated with everybody from U2 to Elton John, and Jay-Z to Method Man and numerous other top artists. She performed at President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and has sold 50 million albums and 15 million singles to date.
She has lived out poverty to newfound wealth, despite the fact that it was indeed a tough journey. She bought jewelry and clothes with her money, drank a lot, and started taking a lot of cocaine. During the drugs and-drinking years, she once took steps to punch a female journalist in an interview, and was sent for behavior lessons by her record label.
Mary J Blige is now on a happy scale, compared to many years back. As indicated by Blige herself, she could not have possibly been alive at this point.
She describes the decade she spent “spinning out of control” in an alcohol- and cocaine-fueled fog as “the way I was living, I should have been dead.” She really went through hardships, but has moved on.
Blige experienced childhood in a little apartment in Yonkers with her mom, sister, five cousins and two aunties. Her dad, a Vietnam veteran, left when she was four, while her mom cherished them with what she could adore them with. Blige was sexually abused at five years old by a family friend, but she covered her feelings of disgrace and never talked about the episode to anybody until very nearly a decade.
The 52 year-old said,
‘I felt like it was all my fault,’ she says. The tough surroundings did not, however, hamper her dreams. ‘I knew that we weren’t supposed to be living where we lived; that environment didn’t connect with the dream I had in my heart,’ she tells me. ‘I knew something was supposed to be different.’ Blige knew she could sing. ‘My friends and family always told me I had a talent. I could hear it myself,’ she said.
At 17, she recorded a version of Anita Baker’s ‘Caught up in the Rapture’ on a karaoke machine in the local shopping mall. Her mother’s then-boyfriend had a friend who’d recently been signed to Uptown Records, to whom he passed on the tape.
The CEO of the label came to the family’s cramped apartment to hear the teenage Blige sing and signed her up, initially as a backing singer. Four years later she released her first album to both critical acclaim and huge commercial success.
For a long time I didn’t think I was physically attractive, even though people would say I was,’ she says. ‘Because we don’t love ourselves enough, we hang out with the wrong people, we go out with the wrong guys, because we don’t believe that we deserve better.’ She speaks from experience, having spent six years in an abusive relationship with K-Ci Hailey of the R&B group Jodeci. ‘No one held a gun to my head and made me do anything. So I can’t point the finger and say it was his fault,’ she has said. And the fiery relationship gave rise to many of her biggest hits, such as ‘No More Drama’.
She openly admits she very nearly lost it all:
‘All the money and fame in the world couldn’t change what was going on in my heart,’ she has said. ‘That’s how messed up I was, and how depressed I was. I was drinking, I was doing drugs, so I couldn’t even feel or see anything, and that made it all right for the moment, until I had to come down and go look for some more.’ Her nadir came in the summer of 2001, when she was 30 years old, drinking heavily and hoovering up cocaine, sometimes staying up for three days at a time. Both her voice and her mental health were deteriorating. ‘One day, I was in Tampa, Florida, I’d been partying the night before, and I was just feeling horrible. I could feel myself slipping away. And I thought: “I don’t want to slip away because of alcohol and drugs and loneliness,” ’ she says, turning towards the window as she wells up. ‘I was losing my voice, I was dying, and I prayed: “God, Lord, I need to change, help me to change.” And in my darkest hour, my moment of slipping away, he [Isaacs, then her manager] called me. That’s me praying for change,’ she said.
With Isaacs’ support and a renewed belief in God, she went cold turkey, giving up alcohol and drugs. Some of her contemporaries have not been so lucky, of course. Whitney Houston’s death affected Blige deeply.
‘Going to her funeral was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. She was such a gift from God, such a star — her voice was like no other,’ she sighs. ‘Same with Michael Jackson [who was one of her biggest inspirations]; two such amazing gifts. And no one was there for them.’ As for Amy Winehouse, she says, ‘It was so painful to watch,’ referring to the never-ending press coverage of her downfall. She had hoped to sing with Winehouse one day.
Loneliness, she believes, is an insidious disease in the music industry.
‘You have thousands of people around you because you’re this big star, but no one around you really cares,’ she asserts, more in sorrow than bitterness. ‘I saw a tragic situation coming for me and I looked around and I saw that nobody cared, not really. They were happy for me to suffer, to drink myself to death, as long as they were getting what they needed.’ She has stern words for the people who continue to allow it to happen: ‘The industry makes its money on people’s demise.’
From Isaacs’ first marriage, Blige is the stepmother of Nas, Jordan, and Briana. She does not have any children of her own.
‘Despite the fact that these children are not biologically hers, Mary J Blige says she actually feels like they’re her own children.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Mary J. Blige’s net worth in 2023 is $20 million. Meanwhile, she has a new tune out titled ‘Still Believe In Love’ which features rapper Vado.