As the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige has left an irreplaceable mark on fans and the music industry alike, but her laser focus on self-love is just as inspiring. For HEALTH‘s October issue, she opens up about the lessons she’s still trying to learn, her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, and her trick for staying positive—because as far as Mary’s concerned, life can be only what you make it.
On singing to survive as a little girl: “I didn’t have big dreams and goals. I think because of the environment we lived in, it was hard to dream. Because if you dream or you smile too much, people would hurt you. Hurting people hurt people. But I was a singer, and people would always ask me to sing. I didn’t know that it was going to become this. I just thought God gave me a gift to survive, and that was my survival tactic, to sing. I would feel better about my environment; I would feel better about how we were living. I would feel better about everything if I just sang.”
On how the murder of George Floyd affected her: “This has affected me the same way it has affected the world. So much emotion, outrage, and anger has caused us all to respond the only way we knew how. It was traumatizing to see them kill this man for no reason—and so many of us every day for so many years. We have had years of frustration and years of being ignored, but all of this has brought change. We still have a long way to go, and this is why Black lives will always matter.”
On the hard lessons she’s learned about loving herself: “Self-love is the hardest thing to feel because we live in a world where everybody is hurting. Until you get satisfied with who you are, other people won’t ever be satisfied. That’s the growing process. That’s learning how to love and hug yourself and say, ‘You know what? I love you, Mary. I love you, Beautiful. I love you, Gorgeous. I love you, Smart Woman. I love you, Talented Woman.’ That’s a practice I do every single day.”
On what isolation during the pandemic has taught her: “I’m going to take away a real appreciation of this me time. I was already liking me, and now I have grown deeper in love with myself because I love my own company. I don’t think any of us realized how fast we had been moving. I really appreciate this rest and this silence, so that I can hear more clearly what’s going on. When you’re by yourself, you’re either going to be your own best friend and be honest and real with yourself, or you’re going to be your own worst enemy and deceive yourself. It’s been so clear to me that I am my best friend.”
The October issue is available for sale on September 11th.
[Photo Credit: Itaysha Jordan for Health Magazine]