Mary J. Blige hit the streets in 1992 with What’s the 411?, an album full of modern soul and hip-hop production. Born and raised in Yonkers, NY, Mary introduced the world to her autentic style in her first music video, Real Love. From rocking a baseball jersey, hat, knee pads, and combat boots, contrasted with bamboo earrings, curly golden locks and a tennis skirt, Mary unappologetically owned her urban-chic style. Real is what the singer has been throughout her career.
With an ever-evolving style, Mary continues to remain true to herself. Recently, the actress gave serious lewks for the September/October Issue of Cultured Magazine.
Never shying away from her musical roots, signature blonde hair or style, Mary’s contributions to the culture have put her in a lane of her own. Since 1992, the singer, actress, and philanthropist has bared her soul to fans and remained unapologetically herself. It’s no wonder she was crowned the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.
As Mary J. Blige jumps into her 50th year of life, we’re convinced she is only getting better. In honor of the R&B and hip-hop legend’s birthday, we counted down 16 times Mary J. Blige did it for the culture.
1. True to Her RootsSource:Getty
Following the release of her debut album, What’s the 411?, Mary went on tour, performing at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago sporting baggy clothes with her signature golden locs. She embodied the classic tomboy-chic style we grew to know and love her for. As a woman from Yonkers, NY, her style was true to her hood. Mixing her sultry voice with a feminine urban vibe, it’s no wonder she’d later be crowned the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.
2. Always RealSource:Getty
Trends come and go in the entertainment industry but Mary has always remained true to herself and proud of her humble beginnings. The singer performed at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in 2019 and gave fans a throwback to her debut single, Real Love. In the singer’s debut video, Mary sported a white baseball jersey, hat and bamboo earrings much like what she wore in her live performance.
3. Leaves Her Heart and Soul on the TrackSource:Getty
Mary J. Blige told us she’s not gon’ cry but what she has done is leave her heart and soul on the tracks. While the singer is known for her hip-hop R&B hits, she’s belted out a number of songs that had us wondering who sis was talking about (although we have a few names in mind). Her signature beehive hairstyle with black shades became a woman’s anthem about not crying over a man who wasn’t worth our tears. She performed at Urban Aid charity show at Madison Square Garden, New York in 1995 sporting a similar hairstyle look from her Not Gon’ Cry video from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.
4. Owns Her Signature StyleSource:Getty
Attend a Mary J. Blige concert and you’re likely to see three signature things — her blonde hair and short shorts paired with thigh-high boots. She performed at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and all three were on deck.
5. Owns Her Signature StyleSource:Getty
Here she is again at the 25th Essence Festival in 2019 in New Orleans wearing her signature look.
6. International Style IconSource:Getty
Even on international tours, Mary J. Blige remains true to herself. She performed at Le Zenith in 2016 in Paris, France rocking her signature style.
7. A Vibe On and Off the StageSource:Getty
Even off the stage, Mary J. Blige’s style is true to what she presents to fans in music videos and performances. The singer and actress attended the premiere of The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion at Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios in 2019 in New York City.
8. Hollywood Glam But True to the GameSource:Getty
Mary J. Blige attended the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018 in New York City. Dolled up in a stunning ball gown, Mary added a hint of her signature style with a thigh-high split showing her over-the-knee boots.
9. Signature Dance Moves We All Love (and Imitate)Source:Getty
What would a Mary J. Blige performance be without her signature dance moves we’ve all come to love, appreciate, and often imitate? But, no one can do her moves like her. She performed at the 2018 Essence Music Festival in 2018 in New Orleans, and gave fans a real show.
10. More Dance Moves We Love (and imitate)Source:Getty
Not to be outdone — by herself — Mary turned up the dance moves for fans again at the 2019 Essence Festival in 2019 in New Orleans.
11. Queen of Hip-Hop SoulSource:Getty
In case we forgot, Mary J. Blige reminded fans why she was crowned and remains the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul during her 2019 BET Awards performance with Method Man.
12. Always Down with the CultureSource:Getty
With all of the mainstream success and accolades Mary J. Blige has received, she’s remained true to the hip-hop and soul culture that paved the way for her. She performed with Nas during the Royalty tour at Shoreline Amphitheatre in 2019 in Mountain View, California.
13. No New FriendsSource:Getty
Well, not exactly but Mary J. Blige has remained down with her day one friends from the 1990s, and can often be spotted with her crew. Lil’ Kim, Misa Hylton Brim, and Mary J. Blige attended the premiere of “The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion” at Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios in 2019 in New York City.
14. More Than What Meets the EyeSource:Getty
Mary J. Blige let the world know she’s not just a talented singer, but a great actress. She arrived at the 9th Annual Academy Awards in 2017 in Hollywood where she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Florence Jackson in Mudbound. Not to be outdone by her acting skills, the singer also was nominated for Best Original Song for her single Mighty River on the Mudbound soundtrack.
15. Showing Hollywood Her Acting SkillsSource:Getty
Mary J. Blige wowed fans in her live performance of Evillene in The Wiz Live! in 2015 —
16. At the End of the Day, She’s More Than Just MarySource:Getty
We know she said she’s “just Mary” but we’ll beg to differ. She’s true to herself, rooted to the culture, she’s down, she’s talented, and she’s also Mary.