“During Mudbound and when I was married, I was feeling so low. I had to pay myself the highest compliments, even if I didn’t believe it, just so I could build myself up…”
Mary J. Blige might look like a strikingly confident superstar, but she’s admittedly struggled with self-acceptance. That’s the truth the Super Bowl headliner is sharing in ELLE’s February 2022 issue, on newsstands February 1.
For ELLE’s “State of Black Beauty” feature, the Hip-Hop icon opened up about her iconic platinum blonde hair, the inspiration behind her upcoming album Good Morning Gorgeous, and navigating self-acceptance through beauty.
In a vulnerable moment, MJB told ELLE’s Beauty E-Commerce Editor Nerisha Penrose that while she fully accepts herself now, she didn’t feel that way until six years ago.
“I didn’t feel beautiful,” said Mary J. Blige. “Llike for real for real, not just ‘Hey, I’m pretty’ but actually believing it—until about 2016.”
“When I shot Mudbound, I was at my point of no real confidence,” she added. Compliments from everyone on set helped build her self-image and forced her to readdress herself correctly. Every morning she would tell herself, “ ‘This chick is beautiful,’ ” she said.
“So I started to believe it and started to pay myself high compliments to get past that feeling and that fear.”
Imagine being this gorgeous and not fully feeling like it for all of those years.
See more excerpts for Mary J. Blige’s ELLE magazine cover story below.
On why she felt uncomfortable in her own skin, attributing her discomfort to a mix of insecurities, including a childhood scar under her left eye and a tumultuous 13- year marriage to her ex-husband and former manager:
“If you’ve been beat down mentally by someone, you’re never pretty enough. You’re never smart enough. Nothing’s ever good enough.”
On how Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shake Your Thang” video inspired Blige’s now-iconic platinum hair:
“As a teenager, she was sitting watching television in the Schlobohm housing projects in Yonkers when Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shake Your Thang” video came on. Blige’s gaze drifted to their intricate blonde asymmetrical cuts. “When I saw Salt’s hair was platinum, it was done. Game over,” Blige says. “I used peroxide to lift my hair color all the way up to platinum [blonde],” she remembers fondly.”
On how reinvention has been her coping mechanism for escaping ‘hell’ and why she doesn’t think her hair gave her strength:
“It’s not just the hairstyles and the clothing and the skin. It’s how I reinvent myself through trials and perseverance. Am I going to quit? No, I’m going to go to the next level. It’s painful to go to the next level because change is hard. But people see me come out and they think, ‘It’s just her skin or her hair.’ No, it’s her. It’s me. I’m really choosing to be a better, stronger person,” she says. The looks are just a bonus. “I won’t say hair gave me strength. I’d say I give my hair strength. Whatever I’m wearing, I’m able to have the strength to carry it now, which I was not able to have in the last layer of my life. Hair is beautiful, but I can’t carry it with confidence if I’m not confident. Because then it’d just be a weave, or it’d just be blonde hair, or my [natural] hair.”
On performing for this year’s Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar and how the all-star lineup of hip-hop heavyweights is also showing the genre’s versatility:
“Hip-hop is East Coast. Hip-hop is West Coast. Hip-hop is Europe—this is why it’s going to be so major, because this is what the Super Bowl is showing to people: It’s not just one thing. [Hip-hop] is everywhere.”
On her upcoming album Good Morning Gorgeous, which drops on 2/11 and how the title has become a daily mantra:
“During Mudbound and when I was married, I was feeling so low. I had to pay myself the highest compliments, even if I didn’t believe it, just so I could build myself up. I would do it in the morning, because that’s the time when your hair is not done and you don’t have on makeup. You’re just kind of dealing with yourself for real.” She still wakes up and recites the same words: “Good morning, Gorgeous. I love you. I got you. I need you.”
What do YOU think about Mary J. Blige’s ELLE magazine cover?
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