For a global superstar to give up control of their carefully-crafted public image is a big deal - that’s what hip-hop soul queen Mary J Blige realised when she booked her most prestigious acting role to date.
The artist has revealed that her role in Dee Rees’ powerful story of race relations in the segregated Deep South pushed her to let go of professional vanity and cast off her “manufactured, material, vain” public persona. Launching on Netflix on 17 November, Mudbound stars Blige as matriarch Florence: “I had to shed her once I saw Florence’s wardrobe and when I found out I couldn’t wear any lace-fronts and I couldn’t get a perm and I couldn’t wear lashes and I couldn’t wear nails,” she said in an interview with Press Association . It’s certainly a big change from the flamboyant glamour normally associated with Blige – after all, this is the woman who helped define 90s fashion with her iconic head-to-toe leather outfits and peaked caps.
Blige has revealed that her time on the set of Mudbound felt like a very personal challenge. Speaking to The Edit, ahead of the film’s release this Friday, the 46-year-old admitted she had been going through heartbreak because her 13-year marriage to former-manager Martin Isaacs had collapsed and she was going through a bitter divorce. “The heaviness you seen in Florence came from what I was personally dealing with,” she said. “I was very depressed, and not sure what was going on in my life.”
Blige has always been honest and outspoken, both about her personal life and about social issues. In a recent interview with Stylist, Blige and her Mudbound co-star Carey Mulligan spoke about wanting to see more women directors in the film industry.
After 20 years as a musician, Blige is now serious about courting Hollywood. She’s moved from New York to Los Angeles, and has already been tipped for an Oscar for her performance as Florence.