Mary J. Blige, Singer, Songwriter, Actress & Philanthropist
Mary J. Blige tells the story of what music means to her, and how it ultimately saved her life.
- To my 15 year old self, I would say believe in who you are. You are going to move people. Don't be afraid of the power that you have. Just go out there and let people see you. I was born in the Bronx. My Dad was a funk band musician and my Mom was a soul queen. She got a scholarship for singing but she got pregnant with my sister. So her dream died. My family didn't really encourage singing for me because singing was an escape for them. The children feel it the worst especially living in the Projects. We kinda just had to block everything out in order to survive. I knew that I could sing because my school teachers would ask me to be in talent shows and I would blow everybody away. I definitely used singing as an escape from the environment that we were living in. I felt like I had wings. Like I could fly and get away from any situation. Like I was alive. They drove to my house when they heard the tape and wanted to hear me sing in person. I blew him away obviously but it wasn't an overnight success because Uptown Records didn't know what to do with someone like me. This girl that's from the hood, what are we gon' do with her? So I was kinda shelved for a little while until Puffy came into my life. And he was from Harlem. What Puffy saw in me was what was in my eyes, what was in my heart, what was in my walk, what was in my talk. It was pain. It was struggle but it was also a little twink of belief that something was gonna happen. When my first record took off, we were still living in the Projects. People are buying your records. They wanna see you. People in the neighborhood wanted to kill you for it so you pluck this girl from the hood and throw her in all of this stuff and so she's gonna survive the only way she knows how. I was resorting to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. People from the outside looking in would think that everything was great. But I was in a hell. I was spiraling down. I didn't think I was gonna make it. It was like Woah, okay now what? Sing for your life, literally. Sing for your life. ♪ Ooh baby, I'm going down ♪ ♪ I'm going down ♪ ♪ Cause you ain't around, baby ♪ ♪ My whole world's upside down ♪ I didn't think anybody would pay attention to my call for help. But my fan base did. They all came out and they bought my record. When I was finally trying to wake up, I realized that, I can't do this anymore. I can't sell death and oppression. I can save lives. I have to figure out a way to uplift us and be a woman of empowerment and strength. So I took all this depression and all this oppression that I was dealing with and just put it in my music. I made the choice. I chose life. I hope that my audience are inspired by the words of my songs and I hope that they can see my strength, see my courage, see that I'm never gonna give up. I still have problems just like you. I still cry. I'm not playing a game out here. It's real. It makes me feel like I'm doing my job. Whatever I've been sent to this earth to do. So now that I have it and I love it, I'm never gonna let it go.