The Untold Truth Of Mary J. Blige

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The following article includes mentions of domestic abuse, addiction, mental health struggles, and suicidal thoughts.

For decades, the world has been gifted with music from Mary J. Blige. With more than 50 million albums sold worldwide, the "I'm Goin' Down" singer has rightfully earned her title as Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Blige is more than just a singer, though. She's an incredibly strong woman who has overcome major obstacles, and who has always used music as a refuge in times of sorrow, as well as a medium to share her innermost demons. 

"The only thing, I think, that kept us guided was the music," she said of her childhood, for example, in her 2021 documentary, "Mary J. Blige's My Life" (via Page Six). "It just saved you." And after nearly 30 years in the music business, Blige has had an undeniable influence on the industry, and is gearing up to continue making a difference with new projects on the horizon. Blige has always been honest about her life, particularly through her music, but there's more to this musician than even her biggest fans know. 

This is the untold truth of Mary J. Blige.

Mary J. Blige has music in her blood

Mary J. Blige was always meant to sing. Talent clearly runs in her family, as her father was a jazz musician, and her own talent and love for music was apparent from an early age. Sharing in her "Mary J. Blige's My Life" documentary that "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" by Roy Ayers influenced her as a child, the star said (via Showbiz CheatSheet), "I don't know what's in that record, but it was something in it that just cracked open everything in me. That was the first music as a child that stuck with me, because it made me forget that we lived where we lived."

Blige grew up in the Bronx and Yonkers, NY, and life was unfortunately far from sunny. "The real deal about my life is that my mother went through awful abuse from my father," she disclosed to Parade about her childhood in 2007. "He left us when I was four, but he'd come back from time to time and abuse her some more." The "Family Affair" singer added that abuse was prevalent among the women she knew growing up, and that after experiencing such trauma, she turned to various vices to cope. 

"I ended up becoming my environment," Blige explained. "It was bigger than me. I had no self-respect. I hated myself. I thought I was ugly. Alcohol, sex, drugs — I'd do whatever it took to feel a little better."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The music star dropped out of high school

At the age of 16, Mary J. Blige dropped out of high school, per her biography on All Music. Despite her decision to stop her education, Blige prevailed. Obviously a talented woman, a tape of the future star singing caught the attention of Uptown Records. "Everyone talked about the karaoke machine at the mall. So I went in and recorded Anita Baker's 'Caught Up in the Rapture' on cassette tape. I didn't think it was anything big," she later told Parade

It became very big, though, and from her recording eventually came a record deal. At just 21, Blige signed with Uptown Records — and in 1992, her debut album "What's the 411?" was released. Once Blige started in the music industry, she didn't slow down. Just two years after releasing her first album, the singer followed up with "My Life," which cemented her place as a star in pop culture. This sophomore effort is still widely considered her best album, even landing a spot on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Mary J. Blige has a close relationship with Diddy

Many of our favorite musicians are also producers, often working with other artists, especially at the onset of their careers. For Mary J. Blige, one of those artists was Diddy, née Puff Daddy. These two powerhouse musicians collaborated heavily on Blige's first two albums and have maintained a close relationship to this day. "I was like, 'She is gonna be big, because nobody sounds like her," Diddy recalled of hearing Blige sing for the first time in "Mary J. Blige's My Life" (via Showbiz CheatSheet).

Although the two artists were frequent collaborators at the beginning of Blige's career, they stopped working together for a time. "The reason we split up is me not understanding the business the way I needed to understand it at the time," she told MTV News in 2003, adding that her lifestyle contributed to the rift. After making up, the duo collaborated once again on Blige's 2001 album "No More Drama." 

These days, the music legends are close as ever. "Always too much fun with you!!! Keep being amazing!!" Blige wrote of her old pal on Instagram in 2020. "You're one of my biggest inspirations!!!"

She's struggled with addiction and her mental health

Mary J. Blige has been very open about her struggles with drug addiction and mental health issues, both in interviews and her music. Her classic album "My Life," for example, documented many of the difficulties she faced due to the former. More recently, in her "Mary J. Blige's My Life" documentary, the artist admitted that it's "probably my darkest album at one of the darkest times I've had," and shared even more of her suffering — specifically how she had trouble dealing with newfound success at the beginning of her career.

"I could tell it was exciting for her, but I could also tell it was a little scary," her sister, composer LaTonya Blige-DaCosta, said of Blige's quick rise to fame. Blige was willing to ease her discomfort by any means necessary, saying of her mechanisms at the time (via The Root), "[I'll do] whatever it takes for me to be comfortable — if I need to drink some more, if I need to do some more coke, whatever I need to do to loosen up and try to take this in." The star wasn't just struggling with addiction, though — she was experiencing anxiety and depression, too. Blige said of her sophomore album, "This was like a turning point. This was a decision I had to make to either live or die. Most of the times, I was just depressed and didn't want to live because I didn't love myself."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Mary J. Blige believes music saved her life

Despite the struggles Mary J. Blige has faced, she's always had one savior — music. The recording artist has credited music with saving her life. "I sang to feel better. I sang to feel free," she shared on the "Tamron Hall Show" in 2021. "... If there was no music, there'd be no Mary J. Blige."

Although Blige sees music as her savior now, there was a time when she credited her ex-husband and manager, Kendu Isaacs, for her recovery from addiction. The former couple married in 2003, per People, but Blige filed for divorce in 2016. Opening up to Self about her previous relationship in 2019, the "Be Without You" singer explained, "I wanted a savior. I'd been hurting so long, and so much, and so bad." However, she went on to add that looking back on this time, "He did not deserve that credit."

These days, Blige is leading a healthy life. "I'm very structured," she said about her routine, one that consists of a well-balanced diet, consistent workouts, and daily words of affirmation.

She made history for her acting and singing career

Mary J. Blige isn't just an acclaimed musician, she's also a celebrated actor who's displayed her talents in various mediums, including films. After appearing in Dee Rees' 2017 flick "Mudbound," for example, the multi-talented star made Oscar history thanks to her acting chops, becoming the first actor to receive a best supporting actress nomination in a movie directed by a woman of color, per Cosmopolitan.

Blige's 2018 Oscar theme was making history, evidently, as her nomination for best original song, coupled with her acting nod, made her the first person to be nominated in the same year for an original song, as well as in an acting category. "I didn't anticipate any of this. I just knew I was part of a very powerful, important film, and I was happy to be a part of it," she told Deadline of her nominations.

While Blige didn't win at that year's Academy Awards, she still has hardware to display at home. The multi-hyphenate has taken home nine Grammy Awards over the course of her singing career, including best R&B album and best female R&B vocal performance. In addition to her big screen and musical efforts, the singer-turned-actor has also been featured in a variety of television shows, like "30 Rock," "Scandal," "Empire," "How to Get Away with Murder," and Netflix's original series "The Umbrella Academy."

This singer-actor is no stranger to performing in musicals

Mary J. Blige has also taken her talents to the world of musical theater. In addition to performing as the villainous Evillene in NBC's televised production of "The Wiz Live!" in 2015, she has since been featured in other musicals, like the 2012 film adaptation of the Broadway '80s jukebox musical "Rock of Ages." "I was just super excited," the singer-turned-actor told Gold Derby of taking on this version of Wicked Witch of the West, noting of "The Wizard of Oz" adaptation itself, "It means so much to me, from childhood to now, and just period in our culture."

Adding to her television and stage acting, Blige — who had nabbed a Critics' Choice TV Award nod for her performance in "The Wiz Live!" — lent her voice to the character of Queen Essence in "Trolls World Tour" in 2020. "Doing the voice overs ... has been fun for me because it's acting. It's something that I love to do, and you get a chance to speak for these cartoon characters," she said in an interview about her work in the popular flick. "And I am a huge animation film fan. I love all types of cartoons. ... And to be a part of a huge, huge, huge franchise like 'Trolls' is just amazing. I'm so grateful."

Mary J. Blige has no children

Mary J. Blige has had multiple long-term committed relationships, but she's never had children of her own. When she was married to ex Kendu Isaacs, the star was the stepmother to his three children from a previous relationship — however, she's admittedly never had any intention of adding more to the mix. "I don't think I'll do foster care or adopt, to be quite honest," she once said in an interview with 97.9 The Box. "I barely have time for my own children. To adopt more children and not have time for them, that [would be] poor parenting on my [part]."

Although she's never had children of her own, Blige has still influenced plenty of people, particularly younger musicians. The artist has been cited as an artistic inspiration by many of today's biggest stars, and her music is still sampled on popular songs. As Jeff Redd, one of Blige's earliest collaborators, said of the singer in "Mary J. Blige's My Life" (via Vogue), "When Mary opened her mouth and sang, it spoke to a generation of children and kids who were coming out of [an area] where they raised themselves." As one of Blige's close pals, Taraji P. Henson, put it, "She gave us a face, a name, and a story. She humanized us."

This multi-talent is excited for her next chapter

Mary J. Blige has had a long successful career, and she's not retiring any time soon. In addition to her documentary "Mary J. Blige's My Life" being released in 2021, the star also announced an upcoming album called "Good Morning Gorgeous," per Pitchfork, that's due out in February 2022. "I'm excited for my fans to hear these first two songs to give them a taste of what's to come," she said of the lead singles off her new record, the titular track and "Amazing."

When Blige previously spoke with Tamron Hall about where she's been and what's to come, she shared her road to self-acceptance and how it's influenced her studio 14th album. "Wait 'til you hear it. It's gonna blow everybody's mind," she said of the project. "And it's because it's something I had to do and something I had to say when I was in my darkest, darkest moments and, you know, that life to build myself up to the to this person that I can see and accept."

At the time of this writing, Blige is also about to take to the Super Bowl Halftime Show stage in February 2022, joining the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem. "This is going to be the most epic thing in music, like in hip-hop, R&B history," she told Good Morning America of the performance.

What's Mary J. Blige's net worth?

Being the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul has been lucrative for Mary J. Blige. Per Celebrity Net Worth, the "One" singer is worth an estimated $20 million, and cited in her 2018 divorce papers that she brings in roughly $300,000 every month. While the star has faced some financial woes throughout her career — such as reportedly owing $3.4 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS in 2013, and later settling to pay an undisclosed amount to her ex-husband in spousal support — we imagine her monthly income has only increased in more recent years thanks to her latest acting role. In 2020, Blige signed on to portray Monet in the crime drama "Power Book II: Ghost," and, according to Express, is earning an impressive $400,000 every episode.

So, how does Blige spend her high earnings? A scroll through her Instagram account proves the singer-actor has an affinity for designer duds and jewelry, and the "Rent Money" hitmaker also likes to travel to tropical destinations. Blige has also spent millions on real estate, including a New Jersey mansion she purchased in 2001 and put on the market for $2.75 million about two decades later, per Realtor. If her house sells and her next chapter is as successful as her previous ones, Mary J. Blige's net worth will most likely see a major well-deserved bump.