Oprah: That's all you knew. When you look back at pictures of yourself wearing everything you own...
Mary: [Laughs] Every gold chain...
Oprah: What do you think of that woman?
Mary: I know she was confused. What else could you think of a woman who changes her hair color from red to blonde to brown in a month? It was crazy.
Oprah: Did wearing all that stuff make you feel more valuable?
Mary: Not until I'd had a drink. That's when I got some confidence with everything I had on. I'd look in the mirror and feel good. And, yes: Buying all that stuff seemed to quench something in me—but only for a second. Then people would say, "Wow, Mary, your record is hot," and I'd feel pretty good. But at the end of the day, the clothes, the shoes, the gold chains weren't all that satisfying.
Oprah: Did that surprise you?
Mary: Now it does, because I understand what makes a person happy. I'm like, "Why do we spend our money on all this stuff?"
Oprah: This is my theory: The more stuff you have, the worse you end up feeling, especially if you didn't have anything in the first place. Is that true for you?
Mary: Recently, yes. But I have PMS days when I go back to excessive spending. I still have a lot of work to do on myself. Change doesn't happen overnight.
Oprah: We're all women in process—and progress, I hope. I grew up poor, and as long as I wasn't exposed to what everyone else had, I was okay with poverty. But the first time I realized, "Darn, we really are poor," I began to have problems. Here's what I'm saying: If you get lots of stuff and you haven't fixed the hole inside, the stuff only puts a magnifying glass on that hole. You think, "I've got all this stuff, but I still feel horrible. Now what?" When did you start to realize that the possessions and acclaim would never be enough to make you love yourself?
Mary: After No More Drama. I had the biggest record in the country, but I didn't feel it. I was slowly killing myself, drink after drink.
Oprah: Were you drugging as well?
Mary: By then, the drugs were gone. I went from cocaine to hard liquor to wine. Along the way, I started to see that the clothes, the jewelry, the cars weren't enough. I'd see confident women and think, I want what she has. Watching you inspired me. I even watched Beyoncé Knowles and thought, She's so young but so confident. What does she have? Is it Mommy-Daddy love? It was.
Oprah: I used to look at people with two loving parents and think, "God, what's that like?"
Mary: Exactly. I read one of Beyoncé's interviews, and she referred to her mommy and daddy. I just cried. I broke down. I told my husband, "I wish I had that." The nurturing and loving show. [Mary's father abandoned the family when she was 4 years old. She was sexually violated by a male caretaker the following year.] It was later, when I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that I found out who I am. I'm a child of God. God is my mommy, my daddy. That's the only thing that'll keep my head up. If I don't remember who I am in him, I'm done.
Oprah: What brought you to that point? I know 9/11 was traumatic for you.
Mary: Yes. And Aaliyah had just died. [Recording artist Aaliyah's plane crashed on August 25, 2001.] My life was her life. She was surrounded by people who weren't telling her the real deal. We weren't close friends, but I'd talked with her a couple of times. I very well could've been the woman on that plane.
We Hear You!