As if we didn’t love Mary J. Blige enough, she went and added Monet Tejada to the mix. Back in 2020, when Mary teamed with rapper/TV mogul 50 Cent to enter the Powerverse as the brash queenpin for Power Book II: Ghost, it was a risky move. At the time, Michael Rainey’s Tariq St. Patrick wasn’t exactly a crowd favorite. But, in Mary fashion, this move also turned to gold or, in her case, platinum. 

Prior to joining the Powerverse, she had already received double Oscar nominations for her role as Florence Jackson in the 2017 period film Mudbound, and her song “Mighty River.” She also played hitwoman Cha-Cha in the popular Netflix comic book adaptation The Umbrella Academy in 2019. Still Monet, she says, has given her more confidence as an actress. “Being so comfortable with that character, making her be able to come to life so quickly,” she says, “makes me know that I can do that for other roles.”  

Right now, she’s still here with Monet for the show’s third season. When we first met her, Lorenzo Tejada, her kingpin husband, was locked up, and she, with the “help” of their three children Cane, Dru and Diana—and a boost from Tariq, held the streets down. Even with that success, however, she always had an exit plan. Her “nephew,” the college basketball star Zeke, going pro was her ticket out of the life. Those plans changed significantly when her daughter revealed that Zeke was her son with shady drug dealer Mecca, her first love. At the end of last season, Monet successfully plotted to kill Mecca but also ended up losing Zeke. In this third season, she is stuck in the grief of losing her child and is seeking revenge.

“I'm definitely coming from a real place,” she says about channeling both Monet’s grief and thirst for revenge. “I always say, if you haven’t experienced it, I would never wish divorce on my worst enemy, because it's definitely like death; it’s definitely grief. And then, as a woman being hit with all that alimony, it was very upsetting, and I wanted revenge.”

Image: courtesy of Mary J Blige.

These emotions of where she once was, says Mary, allowed her to give Monet “this heaviness” because “she lost Zeke, and she lost her exit strategy. She lost two things: she lost money and she lost her kid [and] I lost a big part of my life, and I lost a lot of money so I could give that [feeling] to her.”

Monet’s relationship with her daughter Diana after the loss of Zeke is “not good because Diana is the reason why Zeke is dead, and everything is the way it is. She blew up the spot with the birth certificate and Mecca. She told everything so Monet’s not feeling her,” Mary explains. “She’s not really feeling that husband either because he has her back in the position she was trying to get out of.”

What Mary is feeling, however, is an appreciation for being on this Ghost journey with longtime friend Method Man, who plays shady lawyer Davis Maclean representing Monet, Tariq and others. “When we yell ‘cut,’ it’s fun, it’s laughter, it’s jokes,” Mary shares. “He’s just a great person, a beautiful person. When we do our scenes, it’s fun because he’s just an amazing actor and I learn a lot of things just watching him.”

Because Mary is a boss in all the legit ways, Monet is not her only big move this season. Case in point is her talk show, The Wine Down with Mary J. Blige, on BET, where she chats with other celebrities and friends like 50 CentTaraji P. Henson, and Caresha (bka Yung Miami from The City Girls). Mary likens the show’s format to LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The Shop on HBO where “everybody has something to say.” Instead of only asking the questions, she answers some too. She and her guests have genuine conversations so “people get to see a human side of us.”

“I never wanted to do a talk show because I don't like studio audiences. I don't think I can handle that,” she confesses. “But during the first big quarantine in the pandemic, it was an idea that came to me while everybody was drinking and going through all this hell, and I was like ‘what if we as celebrities reach out to do something [to] let everybody know that you're not alone in this and we're all human beings going through things too. And let y’all see a human part of us as well.’”

Getting in touch with that human side has also led the undisputed queen of hip-hop soul to release her own adorably titled Mary Can! children’s book. That, she says, also comes from a very real place. “When I was going through all that hell with someone telling me ‘I couldn’t and I can’t and I won’t and I will never’ and I said why don’t I take all this hell and turn it into heaven for some little kid out there and let them know if Little Mary can do it, you can do it too.”

What Mary has done for the grown Little Marys throughout her career is see and affirm them. Last year that affirmation manifested into the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit in Atlanta. “A festival on Mother's Day, what better way to celebrate us than on Mother's Day,” she says. Ms. Lauryn Hill, Summer Walker, Jeezy, Coco Jones, Method Man, Muni Long and more check in this year from May 11-14. “Last year it sold out and this year it should be even more successful.”

When it comes to living up to expectations, Mary says she doesn’t. “I just live my life and try to do the right thing. I don’t try to be transparent; I just am transparent,” she says. “I got to try to be the best me and be a better version of me every time. Reinvention is healthy.”

Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.