Appropriately named The Breakthrough, Mary J. Blige's latest album reflects not only the struggles that the singer has overcome, but her renewed faith in herself and positive new outlook on life. Gayle talks to Mary about her journey of self-acceptance, her husband and her plans for the future.
Despite her success, Mary says that for many years, she was leading a self-destructive lifestyle marked by substance abuse and harmful relationships. After much soul-searching and hard work, she says she's managed to put that darkness behind her. "For the first time in my life, I can truly smile for real," she says.
Mary says her husband, Kendu Isaacs, helped her turn her back on alcohol and drugs and focus on herself. "He came as someone I had not seen or recognized ever in my life as a real friend—a person that challenged me to say to myself, 'What are you doing?'" she says. "The questions he asked challenged me to step out of my environment and look back in."
Mary says the songs on The Breakthrough honestly reflect her transformation, including "Take Me as I Am," which reveals a grounded Mary J. Blige who's being true to herself. "I cannot stress how important it is for me to accept myself," she says. "And I have accepted myself." Mary says she hopes fans will connect with the lyrics and be inspired to make positive changes in their lives, too.
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul says her next steps in life may include the launch of her own fashion line. "I'm so serious about it and it has to be not just my name thrown into stores," she says. "I want to take time with it." With her hands-on approach, Mary says the clothing would be designed with the African-American woman's figure in mind.