Mary J Blige
Photo: C.J. LaFrance/Stringer
The hip-hop songbird and president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN) on manners, music, and her mission.
1. It's not always my fault. I grew up in an environment where people were constantly "frowned up," and I assumed they were upset because of something I'd done. But the most beautiful thing has happened to me: I'm unlearning self-blame. Now I can say, "No, that's not about me. That's their burden, their bump in the road."

2. Good manners are underrated. As a kid, I would visit my grandparents, aunts, and cousins down South, where it was all about "Please. Yes, ma'am. Thank you." My family loved it when I showed humility and patience. Even now, I can't stand rudeness.

3. A lie is a lie, period. I'm scared even to tell a little white lie, because it will keep on building. You'll have to tell another lie and then another to cover that first small fib.

4. I'd bring a radio to a desert island. I couldn't just sit in silence! There'd come a moment when I'd need to hear Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan. And classic hip-hop—Rakim, KRS-One, Biggie. That music makes me move.

5. All I've ever wanted to do is help women. I saw women in my family and my neighborhood getting beaten up by men. I mean, destroyed. When I was 5, I told my mother, "I can't take this anymore. I'm going to do everything I can to save women." Since that day, it's been the most important thing to me. It's the reason FFAWN exists.

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