In 1992, Mary rose to stardom with the release of her debut album, What's the 411?, but it took almost 10 years for her to become the artist she is today. For years, Mary dealt with her troubled childhood by abusing drugs and alcohol. In 2001, she decided to turn her life around after the loss of a close friend, the 9/11 tragedy and the death of fellow hip-hop star Aaliyah.
Mary has been sober since 2001 and is now more successful than ever. What's her secret? Mary says she's taken responsibility for her life. "I can't change the world, so I've got to try to change myself to make life better for me," she says.
Strong faith and a loving husband—record producer Kendu Issacs—have also helped Mary make a "breakthrough." "The breakthrough is the self-love," she says. "I believe that I deserve way more than what I believe I deserved in the past. I believe I'm smart, I'm beautiful, I'm strong, I'm loved, I'm protected."
As a testament to her self-confidence, Mary sings "Take Me As I Am," another hit off her award-winning album. "[This song] sounds like it's a battle cry for women who have lost themselves but then found themselves," Oprah says.