Now, I don’t know Mary J. Blige nor am I endorsing the singer for sainthood, but I have noted that when she publicly declared a moratorium on displaying her inner demons in public and followed that up with the song, “No More Drama” she meant it.
Clearly the woman has done some inner work at sorting out her chaotic childhood and cleaned up her behavior because there was a time when she had a reputation for being problematic. While she has always been a very popular recording artist she clearly wasn’t always a happy person. I won’t recap her background but suffice it to say it includes much of the non-beneficial behavior that we’ve discussed at this and the BWE forums.
What I’ve found very interesting and increasingly more encouraging is how she’s branched out musically, working with a wider variety of artists like Elton John and U2, how she went on a specific fitness and styling regime which had a noticeable impact on her appearance and softened her image and her specific advocacy work on behalf of women and girls.
I wrote about FFAWN, The Mary J Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation For the Advancement of Women Now when they broke ground last year. I will offer a caveat about celebrity charities in that they can be tax shelters or mismanaged but then there’s the precedent set by Paul Newman with his Newman’s Own line where the proceeds all go to charitable endeavors.
Yesterday, I was reading how Blige has teamed up with NASA to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math). Here’s a snippet from the press release:
NASA is collaborating with award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). http://www.nasa.gov.
A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuts this week on NASA TV and the agency’s website at:
NASA’s Summer of Innovation (SoI) project and Blige’s Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) have much in common. Both show students the many possibilities available if they follow their dreams and reach for the stars.
Isn’t this great?! Encouraging education is always a good thing. Young girls need other women steering them towards something else beyond sexual objectification and other limited definitions. Especially compared to the steady barrage of dysfunction as evidenced by Fantasia’s suicide attempt over her unresolved issues and man-sharing a married loser/user or Jill Scott’s public wincing over a married black guy who’s chosen a white woman or the celebration of perpetual baby momma status by Badu or the drunk driving arrest of the singer who shares my name or Alicia Keys singing about empowerment but marrying a man who clearly lacks character or …geez I could go on and on here! I can still enjoy some of their songs (with diminished capacity as their public badges of dishonor are waved more vigorously) but I don’t want to BE them.
I’m aware there was also some squirmish with Howard University granting and revoking MJB an honorary degree and an incident involving her husband a while back but the lesson learned is in how she responded. She didn’t feed the monster. She didn’t throw a pity party or ask to have her problems “understood”. She simply moved on. That’s the sign of true growth – or at the very least a crack team of crisis public relations specialists.
I tend to lean towards personal growth because she has an active Twitter account that she personally participates in corresponding with fans and foes alike. She has yet to claim a third party hacking in response to losing her cool because she’s used restraint. It’s a lesson in celebrity decorum as well as a prime example for us all.
I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor towards more humanitarian initiatives which she’s free to do because she’s not wallowing in conflicts or excusing poor behavior.
Updated with the offical PSA. Go Mary!