Mary J. Blige On Struggle to Embrace Beauty Without Wigs and Makeup

"Dee stripped me down all the way to what I truly am."

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Mary J. Blige is a double Oscar nominee for her role in “Mudbound.” (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

For Mary J. Blige, stripping down to become a sharecropper’s wife in Jim Crow Mississippi was a scary thing. Although her Oscar-nominated portrayal in “Mudbound” has been praised, the singer was used to hiding behind blonde wigs, lashes and nails. Yet the stripped-down look commissioned by director Dee Rees made her realize her true beauty.

“I’m used to my nails now, and I’m addicted to lashes,” she told The Cut in a Sunday, Feb. 4 interview. “I’m Mary J. Blige. I mean, like, this is what I do. I wear wigs, I wear bob wigs, and I had to completely strip down to my own natural hair texture, which I’ve always been afraid of. Dee stripped me down all the way to what I truly am, and people were complimenting me. People were saying how beautiful I was. I didn’t know I was that beautiful for real. You understand what I’m saying? I didn’t know that.”

And while the glam was nixed for “Mudbound,” Blige is also used to dressing in a more rugged fashion. When she burst onto the scene in 1992, she didn’t fit the mold of a pop star but the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.” And Sean “Diddy” “Puff Daddy” Combs knew just how to dress her.

mary j. blige
Mary J. Blige previously said she felt “insecure” about going makeup free. (Steve Dietl/Netflix)

“What I loved about Puff is he immediately saw — I mean, instead of a tight dress, he put a baggy Armani suit on me with some Teflon boots. I wore a miniskirt sometimes, a pleated miniskirt, but I wore boots with it. But I hated skirts, I hated dresses, because I sit like this” [leaning forward with elbows on knees and spread legs]. “I can’t sit like that with a miniskirt on.”

But when Blige did make the transition to glamour, it wasn’t necessarily an easy one. The singer explained she fought against wearing lipstick and short shorts in videos until she did the latter and realized it wasn’t so bad.

Still, Blige acknowledges she’s not perfect.

“I’m just learning how to stand up straight, and I have to remember to posture myself straight on the red carpet,” she said.

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