To call Mary J. Blige anything other than an icon is to undercut her status as one of music’s tastemakers. For nearly 30 years, she’s innovated and elevated. She has given words to the most human feelings and experiences and given the world much-needed doses of the realities of being a Black woman across the 20th and 21st centuries.
Blige has been a superstar for the entirety of my life—by the time I was born she was gearing up to release her sophomore effort, My Life, after her multi-platinum debut had bottled the essence of heartbreak. For her, longevity is a given, for she is quite literally the sound of a generation.
In addition to her role as the rose of hip-hop, Blige is also a fierce trendsetter in the realms of beauty and fashion. For years, fans have urged her to release a line of thigh-high boots (a staple in her wardrobe), though I would personally enjoy boots and shades designed by her. In beauty, she brought styles prevalent in her native New York to the forefront, bringing lined lips, defined curls and blonde, blonde, blonde to global consciousness.
Some of the key players in her looks over the years have been makeup artist Sam Fine (who did Blige’s makeup for her 2001 Essence cover), Nzingha Gumbs and Kim Kimble.
For the past two decades, Blige has cultivated a relationship with makeup line MAC, serving as the face of their Viva Glam campaign in both 2000 and 2002 and then releasing her own line of lipsticks through the brand’s initiative in 2019. As much as she is a part of the fabric of music, she is equally as important culturally, having inspired women of varying ages to love themselves—while also serving major glam.
As Blige celebrates her 50th birthday, Essence gathered some of her most unforgettable beauty moments. Check them out below.