Mary J. Blige taking a sip of her very own Sun Goddess wine in the video for her life-affirming latest hit single “Good Morning Gorgeous” is a win we all celebrate. Neither her success nor her pain has ever felt solo. Instead, it feels emblematic of Black womanhood in America. There’s so many parts of Mary that we all see in ourselves. It’s a tale of not just struggle, but also of triumph and evolution. And it’s a journey so many of us have taken with her since she asked, “What’s the 411?” with her culture-changing debut album way back in 1992.
Thirty years and counting, she’s not just still standing, she’s thriving. “It took me a long time to get here,” she tells EBONY contributor Danielle Young. For so many Black women, Mary has been our mirror. So her victories are collective wins. And we love to see it. Good Morning Gorgeous is her 15th studio album. Power Book II: Ghost, one of 50 Cent’s hit Starz series where she plays drug queenpin Monet, just ended the last episode of its second season with its highest ratings to date heading into an already guaranteed third season. On top of all that, our girl is holding down the Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar as the only queen in the crew. And, best of all, she’s finally in love with herself and can fully appreciate her fruits.
“I feel good. I feel amazing,” she sings from her DJ Khaled-assisted anthem “Amazing,” also from her Good Morning Gorgeous album. One of her many truths that she rap-sings on that track is “It’s so hard to fake when everything I do is real.” That’s the DNA to the soundtrack she’s created for herself and for us. As with her many other hit singles, “Good Morning Gorgeous,” she tells Young also comes from a very real and deep place.
“[The song] is a positive affirmation,” she explains. “It’s something I had to say to myself to pull myself up out of a very negative situation where someone was never happy with me. I was never enough. I was never good enough. I was never smart enough. Everybody was better than me in the whole world. And instead of dying, I had to find a way to love on myself and pull myself out of a negative situation. And those words were the words, after prayer, that came.”
“What do I say to myself?” she continues. “How do I speak of positivity into my life and ‘good morning gorgeous, good morning beautiful, good morning patience, loving, smart, intelligent, talented, whatever it is’ is what I feel I needed to build myself [up] because I was being torn down and not being told those things. So, I had to learn how to give it to myself.”
Like so many of Mary’s songs, this one has also hit Black women at our core. Acknowledging how seen we feel through her, we have taken to social media to show that there’s just something about her truth, especially in “Good Morning Gorgeous,” that allows us to also show ours, in both our strength and in our vulnerability. And that’s exactly what is on blast for all to see in the very emotional and moving compilation of TikTok videos from Black women of all shades, shapes, and ages, rocking all kinds of hairstyles, in response to the song. “Loving my Gray locs & the skin I’m in” with a heart and prayer emoji before sending out a two-hand kiss is one message. In another, a deaf woman signs “I wake up every morning and tell myself, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous.’ One mature beauty with closely cropped locs, dressed in a white nighttime shirt with “Sleep” written on the front, lip-syncs lyrics like “all the times I should have been gentle with me” from her bed. “Why did I hate myself?” asks the caramel-complected woman in the spring green dress that follows her as every single one of them affirm “the power of Mary.”
“Soul survivor” is the camaraderie so many of us share with Mary. Even when the nine-time Grammy winner who has 31 total nominations is racking up achievements that will never be in the realm of possibility for almost all of us, she grounds it in something so real and so tangible. Speaking with DeDe in the Morning days before her Super Bowl performance, Mary did just that when citing her “two Oscar nominations” for Best Song and Best Supporting Actress in 2018 for her film Mudbound. But the historic double nomination first, she shared, wasn’t just noteworthy for an awards’ sake. Instead, it hit during a difficult time in her life.
“They caught me off guard,” she explained. “I was at the beginning of a divorce, paying alimony, going through hell, feeling like nothing, feeling terrible, and those Oscar nominations came like 'whoa,' like 'whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.' I didn’t even know that I could do this. I wasn’t even expecting that. So those two I’m really proud of because it’s a whole new chapter of my life. I’ve gotten awards for everything else, but this is a whole new chapter that I’m studying, still trying to be the best in.”
For personal reasons, she tells Young she doesn’t watch herself acting that much. “When we look at ourselves, it’s not what y’all see,” she says, speaking for herself and fellow actors. “We only see the mistakes and things that need to be fixed.”
Fortunately, her expansion into the wine business with Sun Goddess by Mary J. Blige is not one of the areas she needs to fix. Perhaps that’s because it all happened so effortlessly. “It wasn't even something that I was even thinking about,” she shares. “I was on tour with Maxwell in 2016 and he was about to put a wine out and I was hanging out with some of his friends who are the winemakers and they’re Italian and I was drinking a lot of Pinot Grigio that night. And one of them says to me, ‘Mary why don’t you do your own wine?’ and I mean, without blinking or stuttering, I said ‘absolutely I will’ because I like it so much.”
She has put her all into this too, learning the history of wine, “actually going up to the vineyards, looking at the grapes and holding the grapes” in what she describes as “a labor love.” Sun Goddess, she notes, came out at the perfect time when we were all locked down and “it went crazy,” she marvels. “It sold out on wine.com like over and over again. That’s when everything was really, really virtual because it was the first quarantine, and it was summertime, and I was drinking, and everybody was drinking.” Today, it’s at a liquor store near you, she assures, so toasting Mary’s Super Bowl performance might just serve as the perfect moment to get some Sun Goddess in your life.
And of her Super Bowl performance, Mary is especially grateful to the most high, as well as to Dr. Dre, whom she shares personally called her and everyone else to participate. “When things like this happen, I’m like “That’s God …. It means so much because we made it to a certain age. We made it to 50. We made it to the Super Bowl,” she beams. “We have an opportunity to shine and bless people with love and get people through things with this moment and this means so much to me. It’s really amazing.”
Never forgetting about us, the many Black women who have stood by her through thick and thin, she’s using this huge moment to remind us to take care of ourselves by joining with Hologic, the innovative medical technology company whose primary focus is improving women’s health, in their first-ever national campaign in nearly 20 years of business. Created by the 100% Black-woman-owned CHÉ Creative, the 15- and 30-second ad spots titled “Her Health is Her Wealth” features Mary traveling from the set to the studio to the gym and to the boardroom while still making time for her annual Well-Woman visit, driving home the point that if Mary can do it, we can do it too.
Of the many Mary fans still rooting her on, she says “I love it. I truly do. I’m so blessed to have women even think about me. It’s hard out here. So, to have women love you, it’s just a blessing.”
And that’s exactly what Mary continues to be. She’s at a place where she’s cool with herself, just like she’s made it okay for us to be cool with ourselves.
“What I love most about who I am in this world is my ability to want to learn more and to be patient,” she shares in self-actualized glory. “The trials and tribulations have taught me to be patient and to have humility and that’s what I love most about me in this life, and I don’t take it for granted.”
And neither do we.