Some Of These Singers Need To Take Their Cue From Mary J. Blige

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).

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!


10 Replies to “Some Of These Singers Need To Take Their Cue From Mary J. Blige”

  1. It's weird because on MJB's first album back in 1991/92 where she had songs like You Remind Me, Real Love, and Reminisce she didn't portray any tough, ghetto, 'dark period', bad attitude, or marijuana-smoking type of image of herself and her songs were just romantic songs where some had a danceable beat and some were a little slower in beat, and I though that album was great and nothing on it was depressing or 'battle scar'-ish. I loved her voice back then.

    I think that stuff turned up in MJB's repertoire after that first album when she dated K-Ci from Jodeci and she sung Not Gon Cry for the 'Waiting To Exhale' movie.

    1. ak: I'd beg to differ about MJB's original image considering P Diddy (or whatever he's calling himself these days) "produced" her first album. Regardless, there was a point where she decided to change and we're seeing the benefit. It's someone other women can adapt and aspire to.

  2. I rejoiced when I watched her Behind the Music piece several years back. I have not listened much to her music because frankly I could not relate. I also hated the fact that bw constantly seemed to sing about pain all the time. I remember when she married but had not kept up with her since those days. I am so glad to hear that she has decided to reach out and show women that even though it may start off bad that it does not have to end that way. I am trained in Math and Computer Science. I trained in those fields when they were considered a male domain. I did not care because that is where my natural abilities lie. I am so glad to see this from her. Hopefully many more in the public eye will do the same. God Bless Her.

    1. Pamela: That's so great you weren't discouraged to pursue your studies and career trjectory. That convoersation about lack of leadership of women -- and I imagine it's less for black womenI am also tired of the "he done me wrong" and the "even though you're married/in jail/ a loser" I'm gonna looove you. I didn't seriously listen to any MJB until 1999 and none of this has consciously clicked with me until recently. All of the dysfunctinoal messages were a huge turnoff. I'd also imagine being a superstar and navigating a career like the one MJB has requires some skill. She's also showing that there's really no excuse for not getting it together.

      Khadija: I wasn't a huge fan of hers at that time either and still don't care for the hip/hop ties but I can still learn something from her example. She is a great live performer though I'll give her that. She's leaving behind a wonderful legacy of helping young girls

  3. Faith,

    You asked, "Isn’t this great?!"

    Yes, it is! I never paid much attention to Mary J. Blige (I was totally turned off by her original self-presentation and material). But I have noticed her transition to a more feminine and healthier (in all senses of the word) self-presentation. Good for her!

    As you stated in the post title, I'm also hoping that more BW entertainers take their cues from how Mary J. Blige has repositioned herself.

  4. I had no idea that MJB had a charity that was actually DOING WHAT IT CLAIMS-promoting the advancement of women. She lost some of her fans when she started loving herself and ended the dark period of her life. It's a shame-some BW didn't like the happy, peaceful MJB. I guess misery really does love company . . . Mary looks great, sounds great, and is proving that she is determined to live happily. I hope that she continues living a good life.

    1. Miss Glamtastic: Welcome and thanks for commenting. Yup I remember that some were upset when MJB declared an end to carrying her wounds like a trophy. Some preferred to mention her past misbehavior more than her changes. She gained a much wider audience when she left that nonsense behind and embraced a wider variety of music collaborators as well. Funny that it was one of my non-black roommates that got me to attend my first MJB concert as well because I admit to not wanting to be around certain people whose public decorum is vastly different from my own.

  5. Hi Faith!

    Your post dragged me out of lurkerdom, lol. I feel like you have read my mind with this post. I am so sick of the antics of Fantasia, Keyshia Cole, Monica and the others. They think they are channeling Mary but the difference is that Mary was someone who was and is committed to working through her issues, not reveling in them and looking for a pity party.

    I am a fan of Fantasia but I have been horrified by her antics. BW have to stop with this nonsense. It seriously is not a good look for us.

    1. Amaka: Hey I haven't seen you on Twitter lately. Hope all is well. When that horrid reality show revealed the depths of Fantasia's family dysfunction (which I never had to watch because so many ppl talked about it) I knew she was in serious trouble. There is no justification for one woman to support a bunch of grown able-bodied people. Not to mention the fact that as a singer (not a songwriter) she really has a limited career shelf-life and income potential. Comparing her to Jennifer Hudson we see a huge shift in functionality. There's no way it was healthy for her to go on a talk show one week after a suicide attempt. I wish her the best though because many of us are hurting.

      Hodan: I like the way MJB turned her image and life around. If she's not mired in problems and is getting her needs met she can then turn to helping others. As long as there's balance then it's a good thing.

  6. she's a great person, not just a talented musician, but a conscientious humanitarian. Love how she revamped her personality and life style, stopped playing into the angry black woman stereotype.

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