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From growing up in a housing project to Oscar nominee: the evolution of Mary J. Blige


ABC/Randy HolmesMary J. Blige has come a long way from growing up in the notorious Schlobohm housing project in Yonkers, New York, to becoming an Oscar-nominated actress.

Recalling her childhood to Vulture, she says that a then 19-year-old Sean “Puffy” Combs was the one who helped polish her signature tomboy style for future fame. 

“What I loved about Puff is he immediately saw — I mean, instead of a tight dress, he put a baggy Armani suit on me with some Teflon boots,” she says. 

“I wore a miniskirt sometimes… but I wore boots with it. But I hated skirts, I hated dresses.” However, Mary’s insistence on wearing baggy suits and boots was her armor for survival. 

The superstar continues, “I worked with a lot of men and and grew up around a lot of men. I didn’t want them to look at me like that. I kind of sat like them, talked like them, even subconsciously, so they wouldn’t look at me like a girl.” 

In time, Mary transformed from having an “obstinate attitude in elementary school,” as a coping mechanism to being molested as a child, to feeling “very depressed” until she met her estranged husband and former manager Kendu Isaacs

Mary admits that her latest album, Strength of a Woman, showcases the anger she felt after their split, saying, “I was just hurt… hurt, hurt, hurt, pissed, pissed, pissed… scorned. Then bitter.”  

But, in light of her divorce, it appears that Mary’s moving on to a bright new chapter in her life. 

When asked about her the impact of her Oscar-nominated role as Florence in Netflix’s Mudbound, she replied, “I learned that I’m a really powerful woman… I learned that I’m powerful because I don’t have to say much to be heard.” 

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