*Mary J. Blige said she had heard of Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling book “The Help,” but had never actually read it before she was asked to provide a song for its film adaptation.
Set in civil rights era Mississippi, the story follows a group of maids who risk their livelihood just to stand in their own truth. The women, two of whom are played by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, are asked to share their true experiences working for white families – all for a book authored by one of the more socially-progressive white women in town, played by Emma Stone.
Blige, who wrote “The Living Proof” for the soundtrack after watching a screening of the film [scroll down to listen], says her lyrics were inspired by the journey of these three very different women.
“The inspiration came from when I saw just how all of the women through the film were just holding each other together no matter how bad it got,” she said during interviews for the film in New York. “First they didn’t want to help write the book. All of the maids were like, ‘I don’t wanna do it.’ And then one of them got in trouble, or got set up and was sent to prison, and then they all came together and was like, ‘We’re gonna do it.’
“But Aibileen was the one who inspired me the most,” Blige said of Davis’ character, “because she was the one who had the voice first.”
With nine Grammys on the mantle and her 10th studio album, “My Life II: The Journey Continues,” due Oct. 4, it would appear that Blige has not only found her own voice, but has become the voice of a generation. However, the South Yonkers-bred singer admits she still finds it difficult to overcome some of the self-esteem issues that took root during her childhood.
“It’s not as hard as it used to be, but it gets hard sometimes,” said Blige, 40. “You wish that your mom didn’t work so much so that she could give you the parental guidance that you needed, you know? You wish that your dad didn’t walk out on you so he could tell you that you were beautiful, and so you wouldn’t have to look for some man to tell you that you were beautiful, or have low self-esteem. So now, I’m constantly working on myself every day to believe that, which I’m believing. I’m beginning to believe it.”
Blige says she gets tons of positive reinforcement from her husband, family and close friends, as well as an overwhelming amount of unconditional love from her fan base. In the bonus audio below, Blige recalls how two fans in particular continue to serve as the biggest reminder of her musical gift.