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by JENNY SHERMAN
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE ERLE | October 29, 2010 | People
Anyone familiar with the music of Mary J. Blige knows about her past. It’s impossible not to—listening to her nine albums in succession is like tracing an audio time line of her life: growing up in a rough neighborhood in Yonkers; struggling with substance abuse and bad relationships; developing her music and identity; and eschewing all the drama for a more serene existence.
Along the way, she’s racked up a trove of accolades and awards. She has dabbled in acting, started a record label, established a charity for women and co-executive produced the soundtrack to the movie Precious, among other endeavors.
Which brings her, today, to a very good place. We caught up with Blige to find out what she has been working on, how she rejuvenates and where in Manhattan to find a slammin’ pair of heels.
GOTHAM: This year has been busy for you, with a fall tour to support your last album, the launch of your perfume, My Life, and the introduction of your Melodies by MJB line of sunglasses.
MJB: I’m not getting any younger. I’ve got a lot of things I want to accomplish. The HSN fragrance launch was just amazing—we broke records. The way the sunglasses are turning out, people love what they’re seeing. I believe that’s going to be successful as well.
Can you fill us in on another current project: the biopic on legendary singer Nina Simone that you landed the lead role in?
We were supposed to be shooting right now, but it got pushed back. I’ve been learning French. I have to get right back into it after I get off the road. I’m so excited. It’ll be incredible.
You’re also involved with The Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now.
My foundation, FFAWN, is everything that Mary J. Blige’s movement is about, from my music on down, which has been to uplift women and empower us and help us to realize how strong we are. Sending all these young women to college and opening The Mary J. Blige Center for Women in Yonkers—all of that is very rewarding to me.
When will your next album hit?
I can’t give you a date right now because we’re deep in creative mode. I have a title, but I’m not gonna give it up yet. I’m excited about working with a couple of people that are going to be on this album.
How would you describe your fashion style?
I’ve grown to know my body and what fits and works for it. I guess I can say my style is “less is more.” I can’t do a lot of makeup, I can’t do a lot of accessories, and I have to wear clothes that fit the lines of my body or it’s gonna look like, What does she have on? I guess I call that safe dressing.
Mary J. Through the Years
We have to ask: What’s the best shoe store in Manhattan?
There are too many! Between Barneys and Madison [Avenue]—which has all the shoe stores on it—there’s just too much stuff. Bergdorf’s, you go in there and you’re just gonna spend all your money.
Is shopping still a guilty pleasure?
I’ve really calmed down a lot with that. That’s definitely a guilty pleasure. And going out to eat. I love food, I love to eat. I’m a foodie. I’ll try bone marrow on toast.
Really? It’s good?
It is so good. God, you have not been! It’s great.
What do you do for a break from your busy schedule?
Mandarin Oriental has the best spa in New York. Lately I’ve been treating myself to massages and getting as much rest as I can, because when you have to deal with so many people in the world, it’s draining. You have to replenish by going home, reading. Every morning I have a daily routine that I read—something spiritual to keep me going. That’s how I give back to myself. I need it.
Styling by Marni Senofonte for margaretmaldonado.com
Makeup by D’Andre Michael for margaretmaldonado.com
Hair by Kimberly Kimble for margaretmaldonado.com
Manicure by Lisa Logan
Photo assistance by Ken Tisuthiwongse & Jai Lennard
Digital technology by Emily at Green Capture
Studio and equipment by Canoe and Hudson Studios
Digital retouching by A.I. Digital Imagination, Hollywood
Slideshow: Photographs courtesy of Corbis; Steve Erle (2010)
TOP PHOTO: Mastice georgette side-collar dress, Gucci. 725 Fifth Ave.; gucci.com. Epidote and diamond earrings, and ocean jasper and wood bangle,Kimberly McDonald. Bergdorf Goodman, 745 Fifth Ave.; bergdorfgoodman.com. Buffalo horn and diamond bracelets, Monique Pean. Barneys New York.; barneys.com. Quartz and gold bracelet, H.Stern. 645 Fifth Ave.; hstern.net. Cognac diamond bracelet, Fred Leighton. 773 Madison Ave.; fredleighton.com. Ring, Cartier. 653 Fifth Ave.;cartier.com