Since the beginning of her career, Mary J. Blige has produced music that serves as the soundtrack to the lives of Black women from all walks of life.

A Star Is Born

After being discovered by the late legendary Andre Harrell, the Bronx, NY, native signed to his Uptown Records at the age of 18, and the rest has quite literally been history.

Coming out the gate swinging, Blige had already shifted the landscape by not only becoming the label’s youngest signee, but its first female artist as well.

Fast-forward to 14 studio albums and a whole lot of life experiences later, and the 52-year-old Blige says she is more focused on her own mental health than ever before, noting that she has stepped into a chapter of her life where she no longer has to chase success. Instead, amazing opportunities find their way to her organically.

On Chasing Success

“This era of my life is proof of that right now because I’m not chasing any money, I’m chasing mental health. I’m chasing spiritual awareness,” Blige told AfroTech. “These are the things that are super important to me, and once these things fall in line, everything else comes. The success of your business, the success of everything. You know, when you’re good with you, so that’s why that’s so important to me right now.”

While this may be where she is in life right now, Blige admits that this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, she revealed that it took a life-altering experience for her to realize that changes needed to be made to not only protect herself but the brand that she’s worked so hard to build.

“That moment was when I got a divorce and got hit with all of that alimony,” the “Hello Gorgeous” crooner recalled. “I was like, ‘OK.’ I never realized that this could happen to me in that way, and I was like at the bottom… I had nothing when I left out of that marriage and I had to work. I had my name, you know, so I had to work and so I did. I went on tour, I had to do everything to make that money to pay out the alimony.”

It was a wake-up call to never allow anyone to have that much control over her life ever again.

“I realized that I put my life in someone else’s hands that wouldn’t take care of me,” Blige said. “Now, I’m all over my business. I’m all over my finances. I’m all over my life because that was a painful feeling. I felt so weak and helpless, and I never want to feel like that again. So that’s my aha moment… my divorce.”

Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit

What’s more, Blige realizes the impact that she’s had on others by being an open book through her music, which is why she wanted to take things a step further through her Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit. After its 2022 debut, the event is returning to Atlanta, GA, for the second consecutive year.

She said, “I’ve been doing concerts and shows for years, and after a couple of my shows, before I even came up with this idea, I’ve just watched women, and I’ve realized just how much they really love and respect and hang on to my every word and want to do what I do, and I’m like, ‘Wow, what’s another way to give back other than a concert?'”

Blige continued: “[I can] give them a piece of everything that I love, and the Strength of a Woman Festival is some of everything that I love, including people and events. It’s entertainment. There’s female empowerment. There’s comedy, uplifting women, so why not give them a whole festival of a Mary J. Blige concert? They’re already crying all night to ‘No More Drama,’ but now you have women speaking on having no more drama in their lives or what they listen to on the treadmill and what gets them going via different panels, and there’s some really powerful, powerful women doing that.”

The Queen of R&B and Soul has also partnered with PepsiCo once again. This time, the company is donating $200,000 toward the “inaugural ‘PepsiCo x Mary J. Blige Strength of a Woman Scholarship,’ and funding local organizations reflective of the summit’s programming pillars.”

What's Next For MJB?

And while the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit is kicking off in May, there’s a lot more where that comes from in regard to the projects Blige has coming down the pipeline.

She has been tapped to executive produce two original Lifetime movies inspired by two of her biggest hits “Real Love” and “Strength of a Woman,” which premiere on June 10 and June 17, respectively.

Photo Credit: Strength of a Woman

Additionally, Blige exclusively told AfroTech that she has plans in motion to one day launch a line of boots — something that her fans have been speculating given that her shoe game is always on point.

“It’s in the works,” she said, chuckling. “For some reason, this is taking longer than everything else, but we’re gonna get there. Trust me. Everything else is here so that’s on its way.”

The Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit kicks off Mother’s Day Weekend, starting Friday, May 12, with programming that runs through Sunday, May 14.