Born on January 11, 1971, in the Bronx, New York City, 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."
- What's the 411?
- My Life
- Mighty River
- The Breakthrough
- Waiting to Exhale
- The Umbrella Academy
- "Mary J. Blige Biography: Singer (1971–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks).