Mary J. Blige Steps Into Acting


By Staff Writer

Original Source:

In 1995, Mary J. Blige won her first Grammy at the age of 24, but she wasn’t in her right mind for the most important moment of her young career. In 2013, Blige confessed to LA Confidential that “When I got that Grammy I was high…[I was] still sniffing cocaine going in” to the event.

Like hundreds of other emerging singers, Blige struggled with the pressures of fame and wealth; however, in Blige’s case, there was one more complicating factor — she was also dealing with the emotional aftereffects of childhood sexual abuse. At 5, Blige was molested by someone close to her, which led to a spiral of “trying to numb it all with the drugs” in her teens and 20s.

She had one more form of escape: her music. She’s compared it several times to “literally singing for your life,” using the escape of music to shut down a mind that was still reeling from the darkness of her childhood. And people noticed. They still do — Mary J. Blige’s otherworldly voice has sold 75 million albums.

That likely wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t gotten sober. Her husband was an instrumental part of that decision; rather than just nagging her to quit, he constantly asked her probing questions about the motivations behind her substance abuse: “Why do you do this to yourself?” According to Blige, his constant questioning led her to begin asking the same questions of herself.

Two more milestones led to her sobriety. First, the 2001 death of singer Aaliyah: although it was not addiction related — she died in a plane crash — it prompted Blige to begin thinking more clearly about her own mortality.

The second turning point came with the drug-related death of Whitney Houston. To hear Blige tell it, it wasn’t so much the death itself as the careening downward spiral of Houston’s career: “I looked at how that woman could not perform anymore,” Blige said. For a person whose identity is wrapped around her ability to stop a room with her voice, that may have been more terrifying than death itself.

Blige didn’t go to rehab. Instead, she turned to her faith, and quit cold turkey. And now, she’s enjoying a career that’s blossoming, instead of spiraling downward. She recently received a Golden Globe nomination for “Mighty River,” the song she contributed to the Mudbound soundtrack. More surprisingly, she was also nominated for her acting performance.

Although she didn’t win either category, the nominations themselves will likely serve to hypercharge an already-active career — particularly on the acting side. Blige says she has more potential roles in the queue, but she “can’t talk about them until they become real.”

Let’s pray they do.