Mary J. Blige Reveals to Tamron Hall How Making Her New Album Saved Her Life

"I had to take something so dark and nasty and turn it into something positive to save my life."

Rachaell Davis Jul, 20, 2017

Tamron Hall and Mary J. Blige have an indepth conversation about love, heartbreak and healing on the 2017 ESSENCE Festival Empowerment Stage. Touching on a range of personal experiences including her recent divorce, dealing with mental and emotional abuse in her marriage and creating music in the midst of it all, the reigning Queen of Hip Hop soul leaves no topic untouched as she opens up about the rollercoaster ride of her life that led to the release of her highly-anticipated thirteenth studio album, Strengh of A Woman.

See the full discussion in the video above.

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We are here for real reasons, real conversation but I would like to welcome the woman whose album is the inspiration for this conversation. If there's anybody who's proven her strength throughout her life and her 25 year recording career. [APPLAUSE] It is Mary J. Blige. From her 1992 debut What's the 411?, yes stand up to her current chart-topping album Strength of A Woman, Mary has always spoken openly and honestly with us. She has always been the real deal with us. And she's done it in so many ways that we can relate to. Which is why I love her and I want you to be happy and stand on your feet and let's praise the greatness that is Mary J. Blige. [APPLAUSE] [LAUGH] There you go. Okay, I think it's that one. [UNKNOWN] Mary, yes. How y'all doing. [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah I think I said, they tell us there's a lot of seats, I'm just gonna be honest I got lost when I came out so we'll figure it out. He said the left so I'm on the left. Okay my left, all right so what's new. [LAUGH]. Along with this, everything is new. I mean, the, the album. The album. Yes. :>> lm, you know? So that's really it right now. So that's it. [LAUGH]. Mary Jay, so what's new? Just another album I dropped on the world. I said in the intro. We love you for many reasons, and you're special, and you transcend all categories of music for many reasons. And it's because you are so, you're our Mary. Thank you. Thank you so much. This new album, take me through the journey that got us to this point. Boy. [LAUGH] That's why we love you. Well the journey that got us here. You know, every woman can relate a woman out there fighting for her marriage, fighting for her life, fighting for her marriage. And this I was coming from a perspective when I first started writing this album. I was trying to save my marriage and I was working really hard and you know me I said when I said and I can't be without you I really I felt I really meant that or else I wouldn't have said that because it is a lot of layers of me that has been peeled back in this relationship. And when I said to the world that I found someone, I really thought I did. So I was really trying to fight really hard for my marriage at the beginning of the process of writing this album. But then it failed, so a lot of those songs, I'm not only trying to fight for my marriage, just trying to fight for my life because Inside of this marriage I was, I just got, you know how you get torn down and you forget who you are and you don't think you're anything because of the mental abuse that you suffer? So I was trying to save my life by writing songs like Indestructible, like I can't be destroyed. So I wrote that song before I even started going through all of this mess and when it all blew up in my face, there was nothing I could do because everything was just there. I didn't have to channel anything. I was already deceived, it was already embarrassing, it was already humiliating, it was already what it was. So I had to take something so dark and nasty. and turn it into something positive to save my life. And, you know, it is what it is- [APPLAUSE] I dont know if people have seen the last 8 years of my life or the last 5 years of my life, but it's been hell. It's been ugly and it's been public and it's been nasty. So, in the midst of all that, And the stuff that people don't even know about, fighting for my life, fighting for my marriage, fighting for my morals and everything, I had to find, I discovered my strength, my strength, my real strength as this woman. And [APPLAUSE] You've chosen to be so open and take us through this experience. Why? You said it was embarrassing. You're fighting for your life. It's not just a career, this is your life. Why share it with us? Well, because I believe That I wasn't given this career or this job as a singer. Or this gift from God to sit down and say well I'm going to suffer in front of the world in silence, and die. And it's therapeutic for me as well. So You know, that's why. It's not just for me. You talk about the pain in the last few years. You and I know, when people see television and they see the lights, the glamor. You're beautiful, you're talented. They think you have it all. But you still have to go home and deal with being just married. [UNKNOWN] I have to go home and deal with just being marry. I have to go home and deal with things that people don't even, a lot of things people don't know. I work really, really hard, so hard for everything. Nothing has given to me and people don't wanna give me. [LAUGH] So I have to bust my behind and really be appreciative and Find confidence in myself so I can continue to do what I do. But you projet such confidence, I mean you are as I keep saying this authentic woman and you project confidence. How is it when you have this public Mary but then behind the scenes you're trying to find that strength of the woman you are? Well, because when, mentally you've been, how can I say it, beaten down, manipulated, in front of the world, you have to, especially when you're in a relationship, you're trying to protect the person and you're trying to hold yourself together. So when you been beaten down mentally, you go home and you suffer and you deal with that because, I'm sorry I'm not speaking for everybody else, but I was beginning to think I was nothing. You know I was beginning to think those things. You know there will be people who will say how's that possible? That Mary J, and you know that my sister was murdered, I speak out for domestic violence, awareness. I think a lot of women don't get that it doesn't matter, economic. It doesn't matter, race, it doesn't matter where you're from. You can find yourselves in these situations. Yeah. That make you feel like you're nothing. Well that's because being Mary J. Blige, the celebrity, is secondary I'm a human being first and I suffer just like everybody else. [APPLAUSE] How did you pull yourself through it? How did you see the light in the middle of the darkness? Prayer and what I did was [APPLAUSE] I prayed consistently, you know In my little prayer closet consistently. You have a prayer closet. No. Little space. Yeah, little space. And I didn't give up on myself when I was told I was fat or I wasn't optimal, I wasn't fine enough. I went hard to see if I could be fun enough [LAUGH]. So I'm a little, some of, you gotta have I had a little vanity there. I was like, I'm going hard, I gotta save myself. I wanna look good. I wanna look good for- Well, you did a great job. I wanna look good for him. I wanna look good. [LAUGH] [APPLAUSE] So yeah, I mean, yeah. I wanna talk to you, not only about the movie, but I told Mary behind the scenes two things. So she just got her hair braided for the firs time in how many years? It's been about twenty five years, thirty.[LAUGHS] And I'm getting mine braided on Monday so I'm like does it hurt? Well we want longer braids so we're in addition exchanging braid stories. I told Mary, she had polish off a bottle of red wine the other night. Her new movie- [APPLAUSE] Thanks for the red wine. Mudbound, it's phenomenal. When I tell you, you need to see this film. For so many reasons, it's a part of our history, our Black History, our American History, but it's a role of a lifetime for you. Thank you and I have to give a real big thank you to D. Reese because people don't come to me with Amazing offers for movies and things like that because I'm not a seasoned actress. Dee came to me. She believed in me and she gave me a chance to show her that I could do it. Do thank you Dee Reese for the Opportunity and the chance of to do this movie. And Dee is going to join us. The film is phenomenon. You've got see it. You can just have a Mary J weekend. Listen to the album, watch the film and just wrap yourself in Mary J