Reigning R&B Queen Mary J Blige, who won three Grammys for her album, The Breakthrough, recalls the night she rubbed elbows with celebrities at Oscar parties. "I found myself hanging out with Oprah. It was like, 'I cannot believe that she would want to hang with me," she told Entertainment Weekly.
"For me, I'm always the underdog. It was mindblowing. Nicole Kidman was like, 'Hi, Mary J!' Wow," she says. "And then here comes Meryl Streep, and I'm like, 'I love your work! I don't know if you really know who I am.' She was like, 'I know exactly who you are.'"
And Mary J knows herself. Her music has evolved to a point where she is attracting attention from mainstream fans but she finds it a tricky balancing act. She says she "not going to chase what they like" in music, lest she stray too far from her urban roots.
"They like me. So I'm going to give them Mary. And that's that."
She told EW that she's not in to treadhopping. "Certain sounds on the radio, I'm like, 'Nah. Not doing that.' When you just blatantly jump on something, it doesn't work for me. It might work for a Mariah. It might work for even a Beyonce. But Mary J Blige is looking for some sort of organic thing," she says in her trademark way of referring to herself in the third person.
Her new album, Growing Pains, drops December 18. Discussing the lyrics, she says, "It's all about the empowering of women. I'm trying to make them comfortable and strong."
Even as her music continues to evolve, Mary J hasn't forgotten her troubled past - which included a rough childhood and battles with substance abuse - and she says she winces when she hears about new artists being hounded by the media.
On Amy Winehouse she says: "They're human beings, and they're young, in a business that doesn't give a hoot about you. It's just sad. I hate to see any of these females go through it. I was young, and I did dumb stuff - I was doing worse than that."
Blige's life still comes with its share of complications, but she's staying positive: "It takes so much to get to a certain point in your life. It was painful. But it was pain for a great cause. And that's to make Mary J Blige better."