Mary J. Blige Didn’t Truly Feel Beautiful Until 2016

Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige has been making hits for three decades. She’s undoubtedly earned her crown as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, and she’s inspired countless people around the world in the process. But even stars like Blige struggle with self-doubt and self-image.

Mary J. Blige smiling on a pink background
Mary J. Blige | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Mary J. Blige had a difficult upbringing

Mary J. Blige has made no secret of her tough childhood. She grew up in housing projects in Yonkers, New York and witnessed poverty and violence at the height of the crack epidemic firsthand.

As a child, Blige experienced sexual abuse by people close to her; as an adult, she was in a publicized tumultuous relationship with Jodeci singer K-Ci. When she was a teenager, she began to turn to different coping mechanisms including drugs and alcohol to escape their situation.

Blige reflected on her childhood in her 2021 documentary Mary J. Blige’s My Life. “Growing up in an environment like that, there were so many things that could happen to a little girl,” she lamented. “You just turned to anything that can numb you from feeling sad, from feeling depressed, from feeling hatred, from feeling self-hate, just so much. So you turn to substance abuse; you turn to whatever makes you feel good.”

She even admitted that while she dreamt of being a famous singer one day, she suppressed her dreams in her mind because she didn’t want others to tear her down. “It wasn’t like I was running around telling everybody I was going to be a singer,” she confessed. “I didn’t dream big or think for a moment that it was like, ‘OK, I’m going to be this big star,’ because our environment didn’t tell us that. Our environment told us that this was it.”

“In that neighborhood, someone would get jealous or mad at you for having something — for having a smile, for having a dream,” she added. “If I was ever dreaming, I didn’t dream anymore, especially when we became teenagers. It just got worse, so I said, ‘I’m not going to let these people see me smiling too much. As a matter of fact, they’re never going to see me smiling.’ I never smiled when I was a teenager.”

Mary J. Blige started feeling beautiful in 2016

Blige continued to dominate the hip-hop scene in the 1990s and 2000s. Still, she didn’t truly believe that she was as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside. In a January 2022 interview with Elle magazine, Blige admitted that that self-acceptance didn’t come until as recently as a few years ago.

“I didn’t feel beautiful — like for real for real, not just ‘Hey, I’m pretty’ but actually believing it — until about 2016,” she said honestly. “If you’ve been beat down mentally by someone, you’re never pretty enough. You’re never smart enough. Nothing’s ever good enough.”

In 2003, a decade after she was in her relationship with K-Ci, Blige married record producer Kendu Isaacs. But in 2016, she filed for divorce from Isaacs. In the following years, she became a history-making Academy Award-nominated actor, starring in hit TV shows such as The Umbrella Academy and Power Book II: Ghost.

Mary J. Blige’s career today

Today, Mary J. Blige is on top of the world. In late 2021, she released two new songs called “Good Morning Gorgeous” and “Amazing,” both of which are, unsurprisingly, about her loving herself from the time she wakes up bare-faced in the morning and feeling great throughout the day.

In February 2022, Blige will be making a highly-anticipated return to the Super Bowl halftime show stage alongside music greats Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem.

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