From 1995 to 2018, Mary J. Blige has continuously brought her authentic brand of Black Girl Magic to the cover of ESSENCE.
Scroll through for a quick trip down memory lane and then be sure to grab your tickets to see Mary light up the stage at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival in New Orleans this July.
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“I was just thinking about where I was going to go hang out later, probably,” says Mary. “I remember Sam Fine did the makeup. Kenya did the hair. My mind was so clouded. All I remember is just wanting to hang out; wanting to get somewhere and do what I did.”
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“It’s marking a change, but I was fighting, as you can see,” says Mary. “I wanted to do right, but didn’t know how. So she won (points to the image of the herself wearing all black on the cover). She just kept winning.”
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“I was in a horrible relationship with this not too cool person, and I was playing it off like I was alright, but I wasn’t,” says Mary. “It looks pretty and all of that, but it was not a happy time. This was the Mary album, actually. I remember that whole dark hair period time and I remember just being so depressed.”
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“Once you get to the end, you start to accept what it’s going to be. And so I accepted it,” says Mary. “That could have been life or death. I was like, ‘Alright, I am what I am. I’m an alcoholic, a drug addict, a chicken…Acceptance makes you look flawless. I remember looking at this picture and being like, ’Wow.’ It made me happy, I’ll tell you that. It made me feel like I was pretty.”
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“Once my husband came in my life…I was struggling so hard because I was being convicted for not ending up like that anymore (points above to the 1997 cover). This was conviction time. This was no more alcohol; no more hanging out, he wasn’t having it.”
“It was hard because I never wanted anybody to see the depths of me the way that he could see me. I never wanted to trust that someone could even take care of that.”
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“It was a moment of happiness; a moment where I felt, ‘Wow I’m one of these superstar beautiful women too. I’m about TO cry,’” says Mary. “I was like, ‘I got to go see Janet. I have to meet Janet.’ And I’ve always loved Beyoncé. I was taking a picture with the beautiful women and now I’m considered one of the beautiful women.”
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“I was coming into my spiritual strength, finding out who God was and what He says about me is true and what [people] said about me that’s negative is not true. I was coming into this place where you couldn’t shake me or take away anything that God had already given me. I was working on my spiritual muscles even more there.”
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“I look exactly like my mom in this picture. If I showed you pictures of my mom as a young woman, she looks just like that.”
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“I was getting my model on and that’s what was happening here,” says Mary. “I was like, ‘Yeah okay, I guess I can try the model thing for pictures’ and that’s what happened right there.”
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“The purple is just supposed to represent royalty. That’s what it says in the Bible anyway — that’s what it represented then.”
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For this special June 2012 issue, Mary J. Blige took the wheel and was ESSENCE’s Guest Editor. Makes sense — Mary is our girl. She has graced ESSENCE’s covers 12 times and been an ESSENCE Music Festival headliner 10 times!
12 of 12 Dennis Leupold
2017 saw Mary release an empowering new album and land a breakthrough role and a spot on the soundtrack for the Netflix film, Mudbound—which earned her two Oscar nominations— all while dealing with the end of her 16-year marriage. "Shedding Mary J. Blige for Florence gave Mary J. Blige some confidence... like a lot of it," Blige told ESSENCE. "[On set] I could hear people whispering, 'She's so beautiful.' And I was like, 'Who the hell are they talking about?"
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