There's an old saying that mentions one of the greatest forms of love a person can ever endure in life is self-love. Singer, actress, and now author Mary J. Blige is a perfect example of that motto. Throughout her entire career, which spans over three decades, Blige has been very vocal about the past struggles she faced in life and love, mainly through her music.
But in recent years, following her divorce from music producer Kendu Isaacs in 2018, the Power Book II: Ghost star has used her story and platform to encourage self-love to countless fans.
During a recent interview on Today with Hoda and Jenna, Blige candidly discussed the events that led to her self-love journey and how she was finally able to accept herself, flaws and all. Alongside those topics, the 52-year-old also provided tips for those attempting to find their self-worth and opened up about solo dates.
Mary J. Blige On Her Self-Love Journey & Not Feeling Like Enough
While promoting her new children's book Mary Can, which was inspired by instances that occurred in Blige's adult life, the "Family Affair" songstress revealed that one of the things that pushed her to start healing was the negative feelings she experienced after being told in a past relationship that she wasn't enough.
Although Blige didn't publicly name the person who said those words, the star shared that she knew she lacked self-love during that time because of how long she stayed in the union despite being treated terribly.
"I actually started to believe it because when you love someone, and you don't love yourself, that's what happens. You stay longer. I stayed a very long time, and one day I just got tired of hating myself and feeling that feeling... I was searching for a way to heal, not be insecure, and not go through all these things that I was going through, " the singer said.
Blige would reveal that the breakthrough moment that propelled her self-love journey into overdrive occurred after watching a sermon by Bishop T.D. Jakes, in which he talked about the importance of self-love and self-worth.
The vocalist explained the main words she resonated with were how one's opinion and beliefs about themselves outranked what anyone else thinks. Following that sermon, Blige disclosed that was when she started saying positive affirmations to herself.
"He said, 'What you think about you, and say about you, and believe about you is more effective and important than what anyone can say about you.' When I tell you, that thing clicked. It just really really clicked for me," she stated. "That's how I began to move out of the relationship and moved out of that dark place because I began to speak the words, like the title of my album Good Morning Gorgeous: 'good morning Mary, good morning gorgeous, good morning I love you, good morning I need you, good morning you're beautiful, good morning you're a masterpiece.'"
Blige added that after "speaking positive words" over her life, things started to change for the better.
Blige's Advice to Those Struggling with Their Self-Worth
As the conversation shifted over to the advice that Blige would give others dealing with a similar situation and are trying to begin their self-love journey, the I Can Do Bad All by Myself actress said that the main thing that people should do during this process is start by saying positive affirmations even if they don't believe it.
"So this is what I did. I never thought I was gorgeous ever in my life. So I had to speak something I didn't believe. I didn't believe I was gorgeous, so I started saying, 'good morning, gorgeous...' Just saying it, no matter how bad I didn't believe it or how bad it hurts, just say it. I said it. I kept saying it, and after a while, it began to manifest in my heart. It began to manifest outside my body, and I began to actually see it. I felt it," she explained.
Blige suggested that many start by speaking positively about themselves because she feels that is the primary way to help people figure out how "great" they are without being dependent on others' approval.
"You have to keep you together. You can't depend on your husband. You can't depend on your boyfriend," the "Just Fine" singer continued. "I'm just saying this out of experience. You can't depend on your family to say you're great. You have to figure out a way to know you are great."
Blige On Solo Dates
In addition to self-love, Blige expressed the importance of appreciating one's company by taking yourself out on a solo date and the value of friendships. When asked what a solo date night looks like for her, Blige mentioned that the dates consisted of going to dinner, watching a film, and drinking wine.
"The dates with Mary are very intimate... We'll go to dinner, we'll watch a movie, and then we'll just drink some wine. We'll just chill, give ourselves a hug, you know," she exclaimed while laughing.
Blige also added that one of the places she and her girlfriends often frequent is Nobu. As the host questioned Blige on who she would consider to be her best friend, the star said that she has a tribe that consists of a "team of amazing women" surrounding her whom she loves wholeheartedly.
With this conversation, it appears that Blige has figured out one of the secrets to being fulfilled in life: the mastery of self-love and having a good community around you.
Mary J. Blige on why she says ‘good morning, gorgeous’ to herself
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This post is in partnership with Ulta Beauty.
Gone are the days where we prioritize “the grind” over our own wellbeing. #Teamnosleep is canceled. Millennial women are prioritizing themselves and their rest above all else, and we love to see it. We’re seeing proof of this powerful shift everywhere we look, but especially in the #softlife hashtag that’s been trending all over social media. The soft life movement is all about pursuing the path of least resistance, choosing ease over struggle, and relaxing in your vulnerability.
xoNecole and Ulta Beauty have identified six beauty influencers who are fully embracing the “soft life.” They’re rejecting the notion that their worth is measured by their professional output, how many followers they have, or how hard they’re hustling. Each of these creative powerhouses has learned to make self-care a non-negotiable in their lives while walking into the fullness of their most authentic selves. There will always be a demand for more content amidst the ever-changing algorithms, but as influencers like Tiffany Renee, Caitlyn Davis, and Alanna Doherty know all too well, you can’t properly show up for others until you fully show up for yourself first.
Read all about how these six beauty influencers are approaching the soft life on their own terms.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
As a full-time content creator and founder of the college clothing label HBCU Yearbook, Caitlyn Davis is no stranger to hard work. She started gaining followers while attending undergrad at FAMU, filming natural hair tutorials for YouTube in her dorm room. From there, she steadily picked up ambassador gigs for popular online fashion and beauty brands. “[They were] paying us around $300 a month,” she remembers. “I thought I was doing something with my money. I was like, ‘What? I'm getting paid to do something that I love?’ It became a snowball effect.”
After linking up with a cousin who had just become a makeup artist, Caitlyn fell in love with the idea of creating beauty content. “Beauty just elevates your personality,” she tells xoNecole. “And because it does that, you just feel better about yourself. And when you do that and show other people and they start learning and getting better at makeup and beauty, their personality and confidence starts to elevate as well.”
Caitlyn admits that maintaining a healthy work-life balance doesn’t come easy for her. She’s a self-proclaimed workaholic who takes pride in her business. “[I’ve learned] the soft life is working hard for what you want but knowing we're deserving of the best life has to offer, including rest.” When life gets overwhelming, she turns to the great outdoors. “I go on hikes,” she says. “There’s something about being in nature, being grounded, hearing birds, the trees moving, and water [flowing] that immediately de-stresses me."
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Tiffany Renee grew up on a farm in Tennessee, where her first introduction to the world of beauty and fashion came via Tyra Banks. The smizing supermodel’s competition series “America’s Next Top Model” drew this southern girl in. “Beauty wasn't really a thing [in the environment I grew up in],” she says. “So I've got to give it to Tyra. A lot of my posing and wearing my makeup a certain way had a lot to do with Tyra and how she coached those models. As I got older and started experimenting more with makeup, I just grew to love it more and more.” Tiffany says she sharpened her makeup skills by learning one thing at a time, starting with winged eyeliner. Next brows, and then lashes. Along the way, she made it a point to develop the techniques that worked for her face rather than copying and pasting from YouTube tutorials.
After moving to Atlanta in 2012, Tiffany began to rack up followers on Instagram with her beauty, hair, and fashion content. She even created an online community called “Curl Gang,” which celebrates the beauty and versatility of natural hair. With all she’s accomplished, Tiffany says she’s most proud of shedding her tough exterior and learning to be vulnerable. “My life has been pretty tough, so that made me a tough woman,” she tells xoNecole. “In my relationships, I've always had this tough persona on the outside, but really, I'm internally very much a soft person.
“For me, taking on the soft life was doing the work to break that mold, and accept that it's okay to be vulnerable,” she continues. “It's okay to be expressive. It's okay to love people. It's not just about the tasks of my life, but more so about my well-being. I’m actively deciding not to hold onto things that make me [have to] be tough.”
Hometown: Napa, California
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Kinya Claiborne is living proof. This lifestyle influencer has a professional resume that would make any recruiter salivate. She’s worked in print, television, and radio, and has even overseen public relations for billion-dollar projects. But like all creatives at heart, there came a point in her career where she felt a calling elsewhere. “My job wasn't sexy,” she admits. “I still loved my job and I loved working in corporate America, but there was a void. There were other things that I also loved that my job wasn't fulfilling.”
Inspired by the DailyCandy newsletters she used to read in college, Kinya launched her own lifestyle magazine called Style & Society which covers fashion, beauty, health, wellness, entertainment, travel - all the things Kinya loves. What started as a creative outlet turned into a booming business. Her readers wanted to know more about her, which led her to posting photos of herself inside her stories. “I started Style & Society back in 2013. The term influencer didn't exist back then. Brands started contacting me and wanting me to do product placements and campaigns. That's how my social media following started growing. Then eventually, the term influencer came about, and at that point, I had already been doing it.”
As you can tell from her Instagram, Kinya is always well put together. Her early beauty memories include getting her hair done at the salon with her mom and wearing different lipstick colors to school. Kinya says she’s always been a girly girl. but she’s as resilient as they come. The Northern Californian survived the Route 91 festival shooting in 2017. She also lost her brother to suicide. From her perspective, being soft isn’t just about pampering yourself, but showing up for those around you. “You can't just look at someone and know how they're feeling,” she says. “It’s so important to check in, because even a phone call, text message, or just saying hello to a stranger could really change their path.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
For Taylor Winbush, presentation is everything. Embracing that belief has gotten her far. “My mom would always say ‘dress how you want to be treated,’” she says. “She would always dress up to go to the grocery store, making sure her hair was always done, and she was fresh-faced. She taught me that when you look better, you feel better.”
As a dancer and theater performer, Taylor got to hone in on her makeup skills early. “I remember even from a young age, when I used to take ballet classes, they would make you do your makeup way in the back of the mirror to make sure you'd be able to see it [far from the stage].” After moving to Atlanta in 2019 to pursue a career in acting and commercial modeling, Taylor discovered she could book more gigs if she added “content creator” to her resume. As a beauty lover, it came naturally to her, and it’s paid off tenfold.
At the start of the year, Taylor stepped out on faith and decided to work for herself full-time. She acknowledges that it’s a risk, but nothing a little discipline can’t manage. “As long as I'm doing my part, then I truly and firmly believe that God will handle the rest.”
Aside from constantly developing her self-discipline, Taylor says she’s embracing the soft life by taking care of her physical and spiritual temple. “I'm a super giving person, so I would give a lot of my time to friends and family, making sure everyone else is taken care of before me,” she says. “There's a saying that if you help someone build their sandcastle first, then what will you have left to build? I’m learning you have to take care of yourself first in order for you to help someone else.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Fashion and beauty haven’t always been a welcoming world for curvy women, but that hasn’t stopped influencer Thamarr Guerrier from accepting her rightful seat at the table. This bubbly and effervescent content creator started her lifestyle blog, Musings of a Curvy Lady, back in 2012 on her lunch break working as a nurse. “I started [my blog] as a way to promote personal style and beauty in this body of mine,” Thamarr shared on her site. “Visibility matters and you’re going to see me. I’m going to take up all the space and bring my own chair to the table.”
Thamarr’s beauty memories stem all the way back to childhood. “I was obsessed with watching my mother do her hair and makeup in the mirror,” she says. “I played dress-up in her clothes and would sneak and put on her mascara. I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to wear lipstick.”
If you peep her IG feed, you’ll notice Thamarr documents her globetrotting in head-turning looks that will make you want to book a one-way ticket to your nearest island. But it’s actually not her extravagant travel experiences that bring her the most peace. It’s the little things, like sipping a glass of wine during her skincare routine as Kacey Musgraves plays in the background. “After a shower, I always feel a little better, especially after a crummy day,” she tells xoNecole. “It’s also my favorite place to shed a tear or two. After my literal and sometimes emotional cleanse, I feel renewed. I talk positively to myself as I pamper myself with my favorite products. Taking the time and being purposeful as I go.”
Thamarr’s interpretation of “the soft life” is to live and love in a way that makes her inner being the happiest. “If it brings me peace, it’s the soft life for me.”
Hometown: Bridgetown, Barbados
It’s hard not to feel a spark of joy when you browse through Alanna Doherty’s IG page. It’s chock-full of Alanna dressed to the nines in bright psychedelic patterns. Her lush ‘fro bounces back and forth in all its glory as Alanna jams to her favorite tunes. Alanna is happiness personified, but her initial introduction to beauty was quite the opposite. “I started loving makeup and beauty products because I felt they were necessary in order to cover up my insecurities,” she tells xoNecole. “I’m finally starting to truly fall in love with them this year. I no longer need a full face of makeup to make me feel good. I’m perfectly happy going without any at all now, but love that I have the option to play with makeup. It’s more of a creative process now and I LOVE that!”
Alanna’s bold and colorful aesthetic is brave and inspiring. And when it comes to the soft life, she’s honest enough to admit that she’s figuring it out along the way. “For years I’ve been putting my own self-care behind work and I’m now starting to realize its importance in my life,” she says. “I’ve still got a long way to go but ‘the soft life’ to me would be creating the space to focus on myself and taking the time to enjoy it. I see long walks along the beach, spas, more hot yoga, and relaxing on the balcony.”
Featured image courtesy of Tiffany Renee
Congratulations are in order for Cori “Coco” Gauff, who won her first 2023 US Open on Saturday. The 19-year-old defeated Aryna Sabalenka in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win, making her the first American teenager since Serena Williams to win the coveted title. After her win, Coco gave an inspiring speech about not giving up.
"Thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me," she said. "Like, a month ago, I won a (World Tennis Association) 500 title, and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title, and people were saying that was as big as it was going to get. Three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy now.
She continued, “I’ve tried my best to carry this with grace, and I’ve been doing my best so, honestly, to those who thought you were putting water in my fire, you were actually adding gas to it. And now I’m really burning too bright right now."
Many celebrities, including Coco’s idol, Serena, took to Instagram to share their excitement about Coco’s win. “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Amazing!!!!!!!! @cocogauff,” Serena wrote on her Instagram story. Coco also praised Serena and her sister Venus for their contributions to tennis during her trophy presentation and post-match conference.
“Crazy. They’re the reason why I have this trophy today,” she said. “To be honest, they’ve allowed me to believe in this dream. Growing up, there wasn’t too many just Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was literally at that time when I was younger, it was just them that I can remember.
She continued, “And obviously, more came because of their legacy. So it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through they made it easier for someone like me to do this. I mean, you look back at the history with the Indian Wells, with Serena, all she had to go through, Venus fighting for equal pay.
“It’s just like it was crazy. And it’s an honor to be in that kind of lineup as them, and I’m looking at it, and she’s won this a lot of times.”
Along with her trophy, Coco also walks away with $3 million in prize money. As her fame continues to rise, we’ll be sure to get to know the Florida native better. But for now, here are three things we do know about Coco.
She still lives at home with her parents
As a 19-year-old millionaire, one would think she would have her own nice pad in the trendiest neighborhood, but Coco actually still lives with her parents. Coco made the declaration in a recent Instagram Live after her big win. When someone asked her about using her prize money to pay off debt, she revealed that she doesn’t have debt because she still lives at home with her parents.
Her aunt gave her the nickname Coco
Coco is named after her dad, Corey. However, having the same name became confusing for the family, and thus the nickname was born. "I believe it was my aunt who said, 'Oh, we should just call her Coco,'" she in an interview with Sports Illustrated Kids in 2021. "When my dad was growing up, people used to call him Co and I guess they just said, 'Oh, Coco’s a cool nickname.' Ever since then, I’ve been going by Coco. For sure more people used Coco than Cori."
She’s open about her Christian faith
After winning, the tennis phenom dropped down to her knees and prayed. Coco reflected on that moment with her Monday interview with Today. "I was just saying thank you, and I understood all the tough times were just to make that moment even sweeter," she said. "I think if it came easy, I wouldn't feel as appreciative as I did in that moment, clearly."
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