Taking the stage Friday for ESSENCE Fest’s Strength Of A Woman panel, Mary J. Blige sat down with Tamron Hall to discuss her life, it’s ups and downs, and the things she’s learned in her 25-year career.
Later, Blige was joined by Girls Trip stars Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith, Claws star Niecy Nash, Mudbound director Dee Rees, singer Monica, and Planned Parenthood’s Director of Special Projects and Engagement Kristi Henderson, where they dished on womanhood and overcoming personal struggles.
The ladies also shared poignant advice on what they’d tell their 15-year-old selves. It’s advice that’s useful no matter what your age.
"Love yourself because people will love you for who you are in the future. It's a tough question to answer because I don't know anything other than this journey. I'd probably tell my 15-year-old self, 'Yo, you're gonna be in a movie with Jada Pinkett.' But, seriously, I would say love yourself because my teenage years I didn't. I wasted a lot of my time on a lot of things, not wasted my life, but there's a lot out there to see and do. And, I would have made myself have a conversation with my mother because by the time I was 17, I had that conversation with my mother and I probably could have saved her two years of crying, not knowing what she was going through while I was figuring out what I wanted to do. I probably would have gotten closer to who I've become."
"You know when I was on my own for the first time, I was twelve years old. So, my 15-year-old self was going through stuff way before most. For me, I oftentimes dig back to that age to remind myself of that fearlessness. I think I accomplished so much back then because I wasn't thinking about every single plan and position. Your purpose is already there, you just have to find your way to it."
"I would tell my 15-year-old self: perspective. All these little girls you're not fitting in with, the cool kids won't be the cool kids in, like, five years. Be yourself."
"I would tell myself to use the women in my life as an example of what not to do because the women in my life did not believe in love, they believed that all men are horrible, they believed that bad luck followed you everywhere you go, all these random things that I felt like...I would tell myself that's not going to serve you. Stand in a place where you believe the best is yet to come."
"I would just basically tell myself that it's okay. At 15-years-old it was rough and I brought a lot of pain out of my childhood into my adulthood that I'm just now dissolving. And, that pain held me back and I wish I had know then that pain is just a part of your journey and it's not because you've done something wrong or because you're cursed or you're a bad person, we're all going through it. We all have pain, we all have a story. And, so, all we need to do is support each other through it and I wish I had know that, Jada, it's just a part of it, baby. It's going to be okay."
"I would tell my 15-year-old self that it's okay to be bossy. Growing up a lot of people would be like, "But you're so bossy," and I internalized that to mean that there was something wrong with me because I was such an outspoken person, because I had a strong personality. And, I'd never heard them tell men or boys, "Oh, you're too bossy.' So, I would tell all the young women and my younger self it's okay to be bossy."