Why Mary J. Blige is right to hail herself "a leader, a queen, a living legend"

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Christobel Hastings
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The global superstar received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 BET Awards ceremony, following in the footsteps of musical icons such as Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and James Brown.

She made history last year when she became the first double Oscar nominee in both the Best Supporting Actress and Best Song categories for her breakout role in Mudbound, but it seems the new reign of Mary J. Blige is only just beginning. 

That’s because the worldwide music icon and screen queen has been honoured with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the 19th annual BET Awards, for being “a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment, making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era”.

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The award was presented by another icon in kind, Rihanna, who celebrated the legendary singer’s unique sound and style, and thanked her for her paving the way forward for women in the music industry.

“Mary J. Blige: you have set the bar for relatable, timeless, classic music. You opened multiple doors for female artists in this industry. And on behalf of all the women who came after you — like myself — thank you for being you so we can feel comfortable being ourselves.”

In true superstar style, Blige then served up her own tribute, in which she hailed herself, “a leader, a queen, a living legend”. Following her speech, she performing a career-spanning medley of hits including her Nineties singles “Real Love” and “You Remind Me,” throwing it back to her original look in white shorts, backwards baseball cap and thigh-high boots. 

In case you’ve forgotten just how much of an icon the Queen of Hip Hop Soul really is, allow us to refresh your memory. To date, Blige has racked up an impressive collection of awards since her ground-breaking multiplatinum debut album “What’s the 411? in 1992, including eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe nominations, as well as 50 million record sales over the course of her 25-year career.

When she steps on stage at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles to receive her award on June 23rd, Blige will follow in the footsteps of veteran artists such as Anita Baker, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and James Brown.

If that wasn’t reason enough to tempt you to tune in, there’s plenty of star performances in the ceremony, including Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Migos, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lizzo, Mustard, Lil Baby, Yung Miami of City Girls, Lucky Daye and Kiana Ledé. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Cardi B, especially as she leads the pack with no fewer than seven nominations this year.

There’s more to Blige than her dazzling awards shelf, though. At the age of 18, she became the youngest and first ever female artist to be signed by Uptown Records, while her raw, emotional songwriting on her landmark album “My Life” made it onto Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Albums of the 1990s,” thanks to her “superhuman ability to make you feel her…and a rare gift for pouring her heart into a recording, to make her soul come through the speakers.”

“It feels great to have been around for so long, to have the legacy that I have,” she told MAKERS in 2017. “When I remember what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished, and the negative things that anyone has to say, means nothing because I worked hard. I worked for everything I have.

“And now there’s a new generation standing on my shoulders, like I stand on Aretha’s shoulders, and Chaka’s shoulders…I would want them to continue to believe in themselves, and don’t be afraid of who they are so we can have great music that’s diverse.

“Be yourself ‘cause no-one can do that better than you. 

Mary J Blige stars in Mudbound, for which she also received an Oscar nomination

The songstress’s musical renaissance is set to gain steam later this year when she teams up with Nas for a joint summer tour, which launches July 11th in West Palm Beach, Florida. Earlier in the year, they released their new musical collaboration, which is aptly titled ‘Thriving.” It’s filled with all sorts of motivational nuggets we need in our lives right now, like “Time for us to go and get the money y’all / Floodgates open, gonna take it all.”

Intriguingly, when she premiered the single on the Ebro Darden’s Beats 1 show earlier in the year, she also teased a mysterious new project which  is “definitely going to be out before July.” Will it a be a new album? Another Netflix drama? With Blige, the possibilities are endless. 

Image; Getty


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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.

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