Mary J. Blige’s My Life explores the emotions and life of musical icon Mary J. Blige during her sophomore album titled My Life. That album struck a chord with a generation and spoke to their pain and struggles. It should come as no surprise that Mary J. Blige herself was struggling at that time. While the documentary, directed by Vanessa Roth, does talk to Mary J. Blige about the hardships of that time, it is more a reflection. Indeed, she has come far and part of what helped her, she acknowledges, were her fans.
A Look Back To The 90s
The documentary talks about Mary J. Blige’s early childhood, parents splitting up, and moving to a neighborhood that sees smiles as a sign of weakness. However, the documentary doesn’t wholly focus on Mary J. Blige, but brings together when she was discovered, touches on her first album, the immediate catapult into stardom, and the effects on someone unprepared and adrift. The main focus is acceptance of one’s self. It’s precisely why Mary J. Blige resonated with the masses. She spoke to the struggle and pain a lot of young adults from poor, marginalized communities face. Mary J. Blige gave them hope and let them know they were not in it alone.
Mary J. Blige’s My Life also discusses the album with those who helped bring the album to fruition, including Sean “Diddy Combs” and other stars like Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson about what that album and Mary J. Blige meant to them. The documentary is a celebration. Mary J. Blige touches on abuses she suffered, both as a child and a woman, as well as substance abuse. Though there is little detail or specific information provided, that’s because the documentary focuses on present-day Mary J. Blige, both surprised and blessed, that she is still here. She never expected to live that long because of everything she went through.
Documentary That Speaks To Emotions
Most documentaries tempt viewers with “shocking truths” disclosed only on the documentary. As such, this documentary may feel lacking to many. However, fans of Mary J. Blige will love hearing her story and feel moved by the amount of love she has for her fans. She credits them with helping her move forward without giving up. Not everything has to focus on details on trauma. The pain and finding a way through can be essential.
As Mary J. Blige talks about her life back then, the art and animation, along with the music, are beautiful, painful, and hopeful, all wrapped in one. We see a child who didn’t dream because the people have a short, specific list of what they claim is possible for Black women. Few of us are allowed to deviate from that list. To see someone break through the limitations imposed by corrupt, biased people in this world, and witness her still live, thrive, sing, and act (Mary J. Blige can act), gives hope to future generations. A hope that they are seen and can someday become more.
A Beautiful Celebration
Mary J. Blige’s My Life is honest. Even though It may not go into specifics of the bad parts of Mary J. Blige’s past, that’s because it wasn’t and never was about that. It is about her now, looking back on herself then. It’s about celebrating the woman, the icon, and a career and music that still entrances listeners today. It’s about the wonder that was and continues to be Mary J. Blige.
Feature Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios