Mary J. Blige: The Billboard Cover Story and Video
Anthony Mandler

Mary J. Blige Returns With Her Ninth Studio Album And Branches Out Into Movies, Branding And Charity Work

How did you become associated with Carol's Daughter?

[Brand marketing executive] Steve Stoute, who's been a friend of mine in the music business for as long as I can remember, asked me what I thought about Carol's Daughter products. I'd already fallen in love with the product before that; it was so good. But I'd been searching for the product ever since and could never find it in any stores. So when Steve mentioned it to me a couple of years ago, I said it was definitely something I'd love to be involved with. So he took what I said to the Carol's Daughter folks and the rest is history. I'm now a co-owner of the company, along with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett and Jay-Z, as well as its spokesperson.

I also have a perfume line coming out next year under Carol's Daughter called My Life. I did all the work, smelling different scents every single day. I put in a lot of time to make this perfume work because I wanted it to smell like when people compliment me and ask, "What are you wearing, Mary?" So I made a version of what it is I wear, trying to figure out what it was that got to them.

So My Life is a combination of what scents?

I'm basically a flower girl. So it has flowery scents with just a little musk and a tiny bit of wood.

In a separate venture, you also have the Melodies sunglass line coming out.

I don't know if you watched me sing the national anthem on the World Series with the Yankees. But the glasses I wore and then took off are from the Melodies line. I had to put them on display [laughs]. I designed those myself along with the eyeglass designing company [SpyOptics]. It's my version of what I wear. I have a lot of sunglasses that I'm fond of, so I took my favorite pairs and said, "Let's try to figure out something from these." And they figured it out.

Describe what it felt like to open the first Mary J. Blige Center for Women.

Opening that center is one of my greatest achievements because it's something I've always wanted to do for other women. It's part of the charitable organization I co-founded with Steve Stoute in 2008, Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now. Our initiative is to educate, encourage and empower women. Yonkers is where I grew up and saw women destroyed, both physically and mentally. So this center is beautiful for me because maybe those women's children or their children's children can go there and get help. I'm hoping to see FFAWN and Mary J. Blige Centers all over the world. Outside of music, that's probably the one thing to which I will devote a lot of my time.

During the recent Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Conference, you mentioned your ongoing wish to do a biopic about Nina Simone. Is that any closer to happening? What other film and TV projects are you developing?

Yes. WME, [TV/film writer/producer] Cynthia Mort and I are now moving forward on "The Nina Simone Story." It's been a long time coming.

We're also working on a film, which the Lifetime Network just picked up. It's about Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X's wife, and Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King's wife, and the lives they led being the women behind such important men. It's really deep: Their lives are different but both women also go through the same things at the same time. I don't want to give away too many details about it, but it's going to be an important film.

So you're eyeing more acting projects?

Working with Cara Lewis and Randy Michelle at WME has been a blessing because they really go out for you and do what they say they're going to do. I have scripts now that they're sending over. There aren't a lot of great parts out there, so they're trying to pick the best material for me. I'm waiting patiently, but you will definitely see me in more films.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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