Back in January, Mary J. Blige strolled into the GM Design Center looking a little out of place. After all, this was Warren – not Hollywood. With her hands tucked into her jeans, she was cutely clad in a ski jacket, a beret, Louis Vuitton boots and a Polo sweater. The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, who will return to Michigan for an April 25 co-headlining show with Jay-Z at the Palace of Auburn Hills, told an avalanche of publications, including us, during a brief press conference (where we, of course, asked the queerest – and hardest! – questions) before her GM Style performance that she’s simple. Concerning style? Maybe. But Blige’s life’s been anything but simple – and anyone who read the Dec. 4 issue of The Advocate, where the no-more-drama (!) diva appeared on the cover and discussed fighting AIDS and ditching anti-‘mo men, knows that. And how about parading the stage in those four-inch pumps – simple? We don’t even want to try.
I saw you on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’ – you were fantastic. How do you dance in those heels?
It’s what I do! Nah, I make sure they’re comfortable; they have to feel like sneakers, like I gotta be able to move around in them all night long.
Yeah, you worked it. And I loved you on the cover of The Advocate. What was that like?
That was fun because you got to let people know that no matter what people do, that’s their business – and who are you … to judge it?
How did you celebrate when you first heard (your new album) was No .1?
I mean, I just immediately do what I do: I thank God for everything and I just continue to work (laughs). It’s really – it’s a blessing, and I guess I wanna say ‘thank you’ to my fans, ’cause they make it possible. And that’s the way you celebrate: You let them know that you’re really grateful for what they went out and did for you.
Now your album is ‘Growing Pains.’ You’ve gone through quite a bit of growing pains; can you share some of the things that you’ve been enlightened with over the last couple of years?
Basically just really learning how to love Mary J. Blige, no matter what is going on. Be happy whether rich, poor, fat, skinny – whatever. Just try to push through the discomfort of those things. And it’s not easy; that’s why it’s called growing pains, and I’m still a work in progress – and it’s a lot of that and how to respond or react to certain things. It’s just – it’s real stuff, it’s not, ‘Are my jeans fitting me better?’ It’s mental, spiritual stuff (laughs).
What do you love most about Mary J. Blige right now?
I guess the confidence; her progress and the confidence that she’s – she’s not beating herself up over anything anymore, and she doesn’t really care about what people have to say, if it’s negative. She’s really trying to focus on the people that want something positive for her, and she wants something positive for herself.
I was with you at your birthday party last year, and you had just come from the studio – and here you (are again) on your birthday doing more work stuff. And I’m just wondering: What do you do to take time for yourself, since you’re always working on something new?
I look around and kind of embrace the fact that God has blessed me with a husband and he’s blessed me with some children. And it’s not all perfect and gravy but it’s – it’s something that I dreamed of and prayed for all my life, so I have to look at how someone like me who’s come form nothing – the projects (and) who’s had nothing, who’s really been in the music business where I’ve known nothing, but now I know something and I know how to keep my life together – and so I just bathe myself in all of that. That’s what gives me extra energy to come out after like a year tour or whatever and go do press in the middle of it. I get the energy from the love. I have to get the energy from love to do what I’m doing.
You’ve been an inspiration to young people – especially young women. Can you give them some words of encouragement, especially with these rough economic times? You’ve come through a lot your self … give them some words of encouragement and tell them how you came through.
By the grace of God I’ve come through. Seriously. And what it’s taught me is to believe in myself when no one else is – and it’s hard because you have so many people saying you’re supposed to look like this; you’re supposed to be like this; you’re supposed to do like this. (But) what do you believe? And what do you think? And that’s what’s gonna come across. Whatever you think in your head about you or whatever you believe in your head about you is what people are gonna see. So if you’re thinking ugly, that’s what everyone is gonna see; if you’re thinking, ‘I’m smart and I’m strong and I’m beautiful,’ that’s what people are gonna see.
Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z
The Heart of the City Tour
7:30 p.m. April 25
Palace of Auburn Hills