mary J. Blige hassomething come tell you around fighting AIDS, producing ahot brand-new album and also doing the tough work the living through joy.

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mary J. Blige hasa wonderful body, fit and also surprisingly curvy. Todayit’s poured into a pair that formfitting jeans, a chicorange turtleneck, and dark animal leather boots. Huge, darksunglasses collection off she trademark blond hair bob wig.She’s curled increase in a chair in a little room at theBeverly Hills Hotel ~ our having lunch downstairs, herlegs dangling end the arm. She stares the end the windowas her husband-manager Kendu Isaacs put a CD-R ofsongs from her new album, growing Pains, in theroom’s outdated CD player. As the beat-driven musicstarts come play, mar drops her head contempt forwardand nods tough to the beat. Her whole upper torsojooks in classic B-girl style. She sings along to thewords, going right into her very own zone. This is career-high musicfor mar -- some of her best singing, strongestsongwriting, and also most influenced production ever. Butit’s likely to further alienate plenty of of the fansthat vibe to Miserable Mary, Addicted Mary, depression andSuicidal Mary. The brand-new material is a extension ofthe procedure begun on she Grammy award–winning2005 album, The Breakthrough -- Mary’schronicling the her brand-new and hard-won states of mind andbeing. She happy. As soon as told that the album,which was then a month and a fifty percent from gift released,would likely inspire grumblings of dissatisfactionamong some of her old fans, mar swings she legs around,sits increase straight, and says in that internationally famousno-bullshit voice, “Thank you. That’shonest, what friend just gave back. I favor that.”

Actually,throughout our conversation, honesty is what mary J. Bligegives me. It’s well-known that celebrities come tothis newspaper to send a small love come their huge gayfollowing, yet often enough, it is justbusiness. This is different. This is deeper. “Themajority of mine fans room gay,” mar saysmatter-of-factly. “The majority of lock are, and also Ihave to really make certain that they recognize I’mpaying fist to the reality that they support me, andI support them.”

Asked in ~ whatpoint she realized the the youngsters had made she theirown, she instantly replies, “I establish thatyears ago. Like, probably during...was it ShareMyWorld or Mary? it was probably duringthe mary album that ns realized I had actually so many gay fans,because among my managers at the moment was gay and also him andall his friends were die-hard mar fans. And also thenthere’s a lot of gay ladies that love mary J.Blige -- a slew of gay women. And that’s never ever beensomething to stroked nerves me. Never. Since we’re allpeople in ~ the end of the day.” She pauses because that asecond, climate continues.

“When Iwas farming up,” she claims thoughtfully, “myneighborhood was complete of everyone -- black, white,Latino, gay, straight. A lot of human being that ns knewwere gay, but they were an excellent people. They to be goodpeople. That not favor they were alien. Theywere simply people. That was simply something thatwas always in me. I’ve never been a judgmentalperson since I have actually been v so much hellmyself…”

and you yourselfhave been judged, ns say to her.

“Exactly.I’ve to be judged so lot that I’d be a fool,or I’d it is in dead wrong to myself, come havesomething an unfavorable to say about anyone that’sdoing something that’s their choice, friend knowwhat i mean?”

In the fightagainst AIDS, Blige has done more than support from thesidelines. She has actually jumped in on our side. Longtime pan knowof she involvement with AIDS organizations andawareness programs prefer Minority AIDS Project and also herbeing a spokeswoman because that MAC cosmetics’ Viva Glam IIIand IV campaigns. The death of she friend and also songwriterKenny Greene (who to be responsible for countless ofMJB’s at an early stage hits, many notably “Love NoLimit” and also “My Love”) was her personalimpetus because that involvement in the cause. Yet it wasnoticing the silence roughly the condition that finallyprompted Blige to take action.

“I wasmotivated,” she says, “by the fact that itcame and also was therefore huge, and also then all of a sudden itdisappeared, and also it to be the thing that anyone sweptunder the rug. It was the elephant in the room thatnobody’s spring at. The made me it is in like, Oh, thisis ideal at ours front door. This deserve to touch us. Sowhy i will not ~ I want to get connected withsomething the can aid save all our lives, saveeverybody’s lives? it is why I wanted to getinvolved, due to the fact that I knew that…” Shepauses. “I had friends that… among my gayfriends the was a songwriter with me, Kenny Greene,was one of my really great friends and he died fromAIDS. I was like…” She sighs deeply and fallssilent before resuming the conversation. “Andthen anyone was simply dropping off, dropping off,dropping off, but no one was saying anything.”

of course, partof the silence is rooted in homophobia, one of two people inflictedor absorbed. Or both. And while lot mainstream conventionalwisdom (catch the layered oxymoron there) has actually it thatthe African-American and hip-hop neighborhoods are morehomophobic than whites, mary doesn’t watch itthat way.

“Thereal hip-hop,” she stresses, “the realpeople don’t also care about that. They’lllove you and accept girlfriend no matter what since theyknow that they are. There are a many of civilization trying tofigure out who they are and what they’re gonna be.There’s a most confusion in that. Confusioncauses a lack of identity.

“I’ve heard a pair of men say foul things,and those men are not around me anymore since whenthey speak things prefer that, i’m looking at themlike, What provides you therefore scared? friend don’tknow that you are? ns guess it every boils down to themnot being sure around themselves and also what they wannado, whoever the is. Ns won’t say any names. AndI nothing dislike castle or noþeles -- it simply makes mewonder around them period.

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’Cause ifyou’re no sure about that, climate you ain’tsure around a lotta things!” she laughs.