Mary J. Blige Inspires Other Women

June 4, 2010

Mary J. Blige is looking to share her world.

This summer, the nine-time Grammy winner is hosting a weeklong event called "Mary J. Blige Honors Women" with the goal of raising $5 million for her foundation and to provide college scholarships to graduating seniors at Women's Academy of Excellence, the only public all-girls school in the Bronx where more than half of students receive public assistance.

Ms. Blige, a Yonkers native, will kick off the week June 9 by signing copies of the book "Souls of My Young Sisters" by Dawn Marie Daniels and Candace Sandy at Barnes & Noble, where 20% of the book's proceeds will go to her foundation, the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now Inc. Other events include a fashion show at the Museum of Modern Art put on by fashion designer Catherine Malandrino, an auction at the Steuben Glass Flagship Store on Madison Avenue and a benefit concert featuring performances by Ms. Blige and Queen Latifah.

Proceeds from the week will fund scholarships for 59 graduating seniors at the Women's Academy of Excellence, which the foundation worked with last year, inviting students to participate in its Empowerment through Education and Encouragement Workshops. These monthly workshops cover topics such as career readiness, self-esteem and personal finance.

"I come from a very broken-down family, my mom is disabled and I've always wanted to go to college to show her I could take care of her and make something of myself," says 19-year-old Giselle De Jesus, a senior at the Academy who will receive a partial scholarship from Ms. Blige's foundation to attend the University at Albany-SUNY in the fall.

"Learning how Mary came from a place that was horrible and pushed herself forward to become what she is today, inspired me to know that I could do the same no matter where I came from," Ms. De Jesus says.

Ms. Blige, a victim of sexual abuse at a young age, says she was forced to grow up faster than she should have. After the success of her first album "What's the 411?" she developed a drug and alcohol problem and "almost lost myself and my career," she says. "I needed a mentor in the worst way and didn't receive the help and resources that I needed until much later in life."

Her third album, released in 1997, was titled "Share My World" and its upbeat, happier music reflected her efforts at the time to regain control and lead a healthier lifestyle.

After staying clean for a decade and getting her life back to what she describes as in sync, she decided she wanted to help other women reclaim their lives.

"This foundation is so real to me because it represents a lot of the things that I went through in my own life. And even through the struggle, I have been blessed to be able to pursue my dreams," Ms. Blige says. "I want other women to have that chance too."


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