Mary J. Blige Bares All In LA Confidential
Mary J. Blige, to me, is the true definition of the strength of a woman. She’s been from the bottom, to the top, to the bottom and back up to the top. Blige, 42, has been an indomitable force in the music business for more than two decades, ever since Sean “Diddy” Combs, her friend, mentor, and executive producer of her first album, took her under his professional wing. She has gone on to sell more than 50 million albums and is the only artist to have won Grammy Awards in four categories (R&B, Rap, Gospel, and Pop), having been nominated for the award 29 times, and winning nine. She has also begun an acting career. She’s been in the requisite Tyler Perry movie and last fall completed the upcoming Lifetime Network film Betty and Coretta, about the widows of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., in which she stars as Dr. Betty Shabazz opposite Angela Bassett’s Coretta Scott King.
She’s featured in the newest issue of LA Confidential where she leaves no stone unturned as she dishes on her past drug use, including sniffing cocaine at the Grammy’s, and how she used alcohol to cover up the issues that she had within herself. She blames her drug addiction on being molested when she was just five years old and says she is still reminded of the incident when she smells a certain type of lotion. She also reveals how she was affected by Whitney Houston’s death and why she never sought out rehab to help her with her drug and alcohol abuse.
KEVIN SESSUMS: I think a lot of Betty Shabazz’s empathetic—even wounded—dignity can be traced back to when she was the daughter of an unwed teenager herself back in Detroit. Can your empathy, your dignity, be traced back to your own wounded childhood?
MJB: I still have the child within me. She’s more around now than ever. She wasn’t around in the early days because I was pushing her back. I didn’t want anybody to hurt her.
KS: Somebody did hurt you. You were molested. I’ve written about my own molestation—though some people think those kinds of things should be kept to oneself.
MJB: Yes. That was very hard to deal with—my molestation—and sometimes I do go into that again. But I can’t do that so much anymore. That’s a prison.
KS: You’ve spoken openly about your addictions as well.
MJB: What I did was I chose to learn how to drink socially and it didn’t work. The test comes when you have to decide whether you’re drinking to be social or drinking to cover up something again. To cover up depression. To cover up guilt. Shame. Abandonment. All of that, man. Once I realized, “There you go again,” I had to stop. Whitney Houston’s death really affected me. Her death is another reason I stopped. I really do think I’m done. I looked at how that woman could not perform anymore.
KS: Were you afraid to do a more structured program of recovery because of your fame?
MJB: I don’t know why. But I didn’t want to go to rehab. I believe that anything man himself can do for me, God can do for me in a greater way. I decided to pray and to seek God on my own. I just stayed in The Word. And it worked.
KS: Do you consider yourself a born-again Christian?
KS: And yet you’ve come out in favor of same-sex marriage. A lot of people would say that is not compatible with your born-again Christianity.
MJB: I would say this to those people: I’m not God. God said not to judge anyone lest you be judged. That’s it. Who am I to point my finger? You’ve got to walk in love. To say you do not want people to be happy is so mean, so not me.
KS: And yet people do have some good reasons, as you have had, for not being happy. Poverty. Molestation. How old were you when you were molested?
MJB: I was 5. Mmmm … yes. I was 5. I don’t want to go into the details. It’s something that hurt me really bad. I’m still the same way. When I open up to trust you, I trust you wholeheartedly. And then when you betray that trust, it closes me up.
KS: You become that 5-year-old again.
KS: What you carry around with you the rest of you life—I can only speak for myself here—is the complicity in your own molestation, how you are a participant in it. It goes way past guilt.
MJB: Right. You’re so right. And the quiet. The quiet. I always think about how quiet it all was. It was abnormally quiet. It was just quiet. And there are certain smells that… mmmm… well… someone was using this lotion on their hands an hour or so ago. I smelled this lotion and I had such a flashback about it all. It’s weird that we’d be talking about all this right now after me just having that flashback.
KS: Well, there’s nothing noisier than a Grammy Awards show. What was winning your first Grammy in 1995 for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group like? Were you still using?
MJB: Back then? Shoot. When I got that Grammy I was high. Not at the Grammys I don’t think. But I was drinking like a crazy person. Still sniffing cocaine going in.
KS: Even when you were using were you a believer in God?
MJB: I loved God, but I didn’t love myself. When I would get really, really high and the daytime would come, I would feel like God was watching me. And that’s when I’d start to go into this panic thing. I remember one night I was soooooo high. And as I was trying to go to sleep there was this dream… mmmmm…. Gosh, man, I don’t know if I should be telling you all of this. But let me put it this way. I believe in God so much that I would not let the enemy win my soul. You know what I’m sayin’? God loves me no matter what. He loves me high. Sober. Gay. Straight. I can’t let the world tell me anything different. That’s how I survived, knowing He loved me no matter what. Because if I don’t believe that God loves me when I do wrong, I’m dead.
KS: There is a Langston Hughes poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, in which he writes,
I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
What are the tributaries in your life that have flowed into your own river of soulfulness? MJB: Life. That’s it. Life. You start from day one. And what we spoke about earlier—when I was 5 years old. That dark moment. That one dark moment. It only happened once, but after that there was so much else in my childhood that happened. So many dark moments—which all added up and that’s what sprung on the drug addiction, trying to numb it all with the drugs. The depression. The lack of love for myself. The lack of people loving you around you. The abandonment issues. Daddy not being there all the time. Mommy not knowing how to handle it all. Although she loves you, she abandons you at some point too. I’m not saying that to be down on my mom. She was just a cursed woman as well. There have been so many other dark moments that I can’t even talk about. I have given the world so much and even in the middle of all that stuff there has been so much shit going on. It was all those tributaries that gave me such deep soul. But it is those same things that now have taught me how to be strong. In the past those were the same things that were killing me. But I made it out. I made it out.
You can read the entire interview here.