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"Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" Mary J. Blige has influenced a generation of artists with hits like "Real Love" and "Be Without You." She has also had a successful acting career, including playing Betty Shabazz in the TV movie Betty & Coretta.
Betty & Coretta - Trailer (1:56)
A short biography of Mary J. Blige who redefined R&B with her mix of rap, pop, and gospel sounds in hits like "Real Love," and "No More Drama."
Angela Bassett, who stars as Coretta Scott King in the Lifetime Original Movie, "Betty & Coretta," remembers and honors Martin Luther King. "Betty & Coretta" premieres Saturday, February 2nd 8/7c.
Mary J. Blige, who stars as Betty Shabazz in the Lifetime Original Movie, "Betty & Coretta," remembers and honors Martin Luther King. "Betty & Coretta" premieres Saturday, February 2nd 8/7c.
Focusing on the extraordinary women behind the two men who would change history, "Betty & Coretta" tells the similar true stories of Coretta Scott King , wife of Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Betty Shabazz, wife of Malcolm X.
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Mary J. Blige was born on January 11, 1971, in the Bronx, New York. When a recording of the 17-year-old Blige singing karaoke booth came to the attention of Uptown Records, the company put her under contract immediately. She sang backup until the 1992 release of her first solo album, What's the 411?, a record that re-defined modern soul. Blige has had several No. 1 Billboard hits and has won nine Grammy Awards.
"After I met [Kendu Isaacs], everything changed in my life. He was the first person to ever challenge what I did: 'Why are you drinking? Why do you hate yourself? You don't need to be around people who tear you down. You're beautiful, Mary.' He was the first man to ever tell me that."
Born on January 11, 1971, in the Bronx, New York, Mary Jane Blige has won over millions of fans with her music. But before becoming a successful hip-hop singer, Blige endured a hellish childhood marred by violence, alcohol and drugs. Her mother, Cora Blige, was a nurse and an alcoholic; her father, Thomas Blige, was a jazz musician who played the bass guitar, as well as a Vietnam War veteran who suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. "My mother went through awful abuse from my father," Blige once recalled. "He left us when I was 4, but he'd come back from time to time and abuse her some more."
Hoping to escape from her father, Blige and her mother moved to the Schlobohm Houses, a public housing project in Yonkers. The projects offered only more horror: "I'd hear women screaming and running down the halls from guys beating up on them. People chased us with weapons. I never saw a woman there who wasn't abused. It was a dangerous place. No one wanted anyone else to get ahead. When I was 5, sexual stuff was done to me. My mother was a single parent, a working woman. She left us with people she thought could be trusted. They hurt me."
Blige found escape from the terrible world of her childhood in church and in music. "I loved being there because I wouldn't be hurt," she said about going to church. "I felt wanted and special, and when I was 12, I sang the hymn 'Lord, Help Me To Hold Out Until My Change Has Come.' I was praying as I sang it. I felt the Spirit." However, by the time she turned 16, she had dropped out of school, stopped going to church, and become addicted to drugs and sex. "I ended up becoming my environment," Blige said. "It was bigger than me. I had no self-respect. I hated myself. I thought I was ugly. Alcohol, sex, drugs—I'd do whatever it took to feel a little better."
It was Mary J. Blige's voice that rescued her from the tragic life into which she was quickly falling. "Everyone talked about the karaoke machine at the mall," she remembered. "So I went in and recorded Anita Baker's 'Caught Up in the Rapture' on a cassette tape. I didn't think it was anything big." After four years of sending out her demo tape to no avail, Blige managed to get the tape to Uptown Records CEO Andre Harrell, who was blown away by her beautiful, powerful and soulful voice. He signed Blige to a record contract in 1992 and assigned a young up-and-coming music producer named Sean "Puffy" Combs to work with her. Blige released her debut album, What's the 411?, later that year, and it instantly became a huge success.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
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