In this week’s cover story, Mary J. Blige talks about her transformation in “Mudbound” to play Florence, a 1940s matriarch in Dee Rees’ awards-bound drama about race and poverty in the Mississippi Delta.
Blige also looked back on an online talk show that she started last year with a big scoop: her inaugural guest was Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “Hillary was my first gig,” the R&B superstar tells Variety. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this, the launch has to be important.’” She was surprised that Clinton agreed. “And petrified to do the interview,” Blige says. “Because I’m not a journalist. But I became one. I’m an actress so I turned that thing on and made it happen. That was a nice conversation.”
After the interview posted, some bloggers mocked Blige for serenading Clinton with a song about police brutality. “That was going to be my first female president, so I’m going hard for people to hear her voice and see her other than a politician,” Blige says. “They took one piece of the song and played it everywhere. And then they felt stupid afterwards, [because] the interview was great. That’s the problem—people take a piece of something that they don’t understand and pick at it and tease it.”
Blige was hurt. “It was a moment for me where I was like, ‘I’m actually interviewing Hillary Clinton.’ That was close to graduating from high school. My people didn’t accept it. So I was like, ‘Here’s another hit.’”
Like many people, Blige was shocked by the outcome of the election. “I was surprised how the women weren’t in her favor,” she says, about Clinton not winning more of the female vote. “It doesn’t add up.” But she thinks Clinton should run again in 2020. “I mean, if I was her, I would because she’s strong,” Blige says. “She’s done it. You see everything she had to take that wasn’t fair.”
And she had a few choice words about Donald Trump’s presidency so far. “We used to be a country that people looked at and respected,” Blige says. “Now we’re a country that people look at and judge. The integrity of the United States is lost. Is this a reflection of who we are? Look at who our leader is.”