Mary J. Blige is the First Person in Oscars History to Achieve This Feat

Mary J. Blige has become an icon in the music industry over the past three decades and is the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. In more recent years, Blige has established herself as a successful actor as well as musician. The Grammy-winning singer even made history herself at the Academy Awards.

Mary J. Blige on the red carpet
Mary J. Blige | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Mary J. Blige in ‘Mudbound’

In 2017, Blige appeared in the Netflix period drama Mudbound. She starred alongside Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, and Rob Morgan as Florence Jackson, the wife of a World War II veteran (played by Morgan).

Mudbound was a monumental moment for Blige in her career. She had acted in things before, but Blige’s role in Mudbound put all of Hollywood on notice and showed that she was more than just a singer attempting to act.

Blige discussed the movie in a 2020 interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell on her web series No Filter with Naomi. Blige values the opportunity to be in the movie, but admitted that it also almost became a setback to her acting career. “After I did Mudbound, there was all these roles coming in for me to play that same type of woman. I said no,” Blige admitted. “I said no, and that’s when I got The Umbrella Academy.” 

Blige knew that she had to keep switching up her roles and not fall into the trap of being typecast. “I told my agency, ‘I don’t want to be typecast as that woman because then I’m not going to be able to go anywhere,’” she recalled. “So that script for The Umbrella Academy came in and it was all action and it was all anger and it was all everything that I needed to get out of my system at the moment.”

Mary J. Blige on the red carpet
Mary J. Blige | Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

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Mary J. Blige made Oscars history

Mudbound was well-received by audiences everywhere, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Blige was nominated for Best Supporting Actress as well as Best Original Song at the 2018 Academy Awards, and attended the ceremony after her tumultuous divorce from ex-husband Kendu Isaacs.

Despite not winning either award, Blige’s Oscar nominations made history regardless. She was the first person in the Oscars’ nearly 100-year history to be nominated in acting and songwriting categories in the same year. Her nomination also made director Dee Rees the first Black woman to direct a film for which an actor was nominated for an Academy Award.

The following year, Lady Gaga became the second person to be nominated in both acting and songwriting categories for A Star is Born, with “Shallow” taking home the award for Best Original Song.

Mary J. Blige with flowers
Mary J. Blige | Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Mary J. Blige’s acting career after ‘Mudbound’

Since Mudbound, Blige has become a sought-after actress for many dramatic roles. She played the villain Cha-Cha in Netflix’s hit superhero series The Umbrella Academy. She currently plays the bad-to-the-bone Monet Tejada in Starz’s Power Book II: Ghost. And she’s set to play music icon Dinah Washington in the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect.

Blige told Campbell that acting is an “extremely” therapeutic release for her “because you get to give all of this energy to something on a piece of paper, and what makes it real is what you really feel.”

“I get to give anger or I get to give sadness or strength or whatever I’m feeling or wherever I can grab it from — my past, from something bad that happened, from something good that happened — and give it to this character and let them live,” she mused. “That’s therapeutic for me because it gets it out of me — the things that I can’t deal with or do anymore, or won’t do, I have to give it to the character.”