Mary J. Blige is a hip-hop heavy weight. Since the release of her debut studio album, What’s the 411?, in 1992, the 51-year-old performer has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and has won nine Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, 11 Billboard Music Awards, and six ASCAP Pop Music Awards. She’s also faced her fair share of hardships, including a painful divorce in 2016. Here’s the inside story on Mary J. Blige’s ex-husband, Kendu Isaacs, and their contentious split.
Blige’s 2018 Divorce Left Her Broke
Mary J. Blige married music producer Martin “Kendu” Isaacs on December 7, 2003. At the time, Isaacs had already been married once and had two children with his ex-wife. Though the union lasted more than a decade, Blige filed for divorce from Isaacs in 2016. While she admits the marriage had many problems, the “Real Love” singer says she ultimately decided to call it quits when she discovered Isaacs had been unfaithful to her.
“Infidelity was the reason why I left,” Blige explained in a 2017 interview with Entertainment Tonight. “Because that’s a complete disrespect.”
The decision ended up being an expensive one for Blige, who was ordered to pay more than $30,000 a month in spousal support to her unfaithful ex-husband. She had to work hard to be able to afford the payments, which is something the singer admits she really resented. “I had to give up all this alimony, and I didn’t have no more money to give because he had spent it all,” she said in a 2022 interview. “So, I had to go, you know, I had to go on tour, and make all the money back to pay the alimony.”
Blige also revealed that she wrote her 2022 song, “Rent Money,” about her struggle to make ends meet as a result of the divorce. “I didn’t have no money to pay my rent and all this other stuff,” she explained. “But it’s also a metaphor like, I didn’t have my soul. I was just drained of everything. So it was time for somebody to pay; sometimes you just feel like somebody gotta pay.”
Blige Says Isaacs Damaged Her Self-Esteem During Their Marriage
Unfortunately, Blige’s bank account wasn’t the only thing that Isaacs negatively affected during their 13-year marriage. The “Not Gon’ Cry” singer says her ex caused her great emotional pain and always made her feel like she was unworthy. “Obviously I wasn’t enough,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “Every day there was a question of, ‘Why don’t you do this? Why aren’t you this? Why don’t you know how to do this?'”
Blige also explained that when she first got together with Isaacs, she was recovering from a serious drug addiction and relied too heavily on her then-husband for support. “I wanted a savior,” she said in a 2019 interview with Self. “I’d been hurting so long, and so much, and so bad…[But] he did not deserve that credit.”
After Her Divorce, Blige Has Focused On Self-Care To Restore Her Self Love
Rather than let anger, bitterness, and a broken heart get the best of her, Blige says she made a decision to empower herself after the divorce. She told Self that she asked herself: “How do I come out of this unburned, unscathed? This is my life that was taken from me…. I don’t want to come out of this and be mad at the world, and be mad at every man on the planet.”
Blige says she’s learned to love herself again by putting her needs first and focusing on the things in life that keep her balanced and make her happy. She told Self that she starts everyday by reciting the same positive affirmation to herself: “Good morning, Gorgeous. I love you. I got you. I need you.” The singer also makes an effort to eat well, drink plenty of water, and stick to a structured daily schedule that includes regular workouts and strength training.
Blige encourages her fans to remember that everyone goes through hard times, and it’s okay to reach out for support. “It’s okay to just not be okay,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “But, you know, don’t stay there. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”
As Blige Cares For Herself, Her Career Has Flourished
Blige’s positive post-divorce attitude has been great for her career. In 2019, the singer—who earned an Oscar nomination in 2018 for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Mudhoney—starred as Cha-Cha in the popular Netflix series, The Umbrella Academy. In June of 2021, the OG hip hopper celebrated the 25th anniversary of her album, My Life, with the release of the documentary, Mary J. Blige’s My Life.
Later that year, Blige launched her own record label, Mary Jane Productions, in conjunction with 300 Entertainment. In early 2022, she released her 14th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous—a title that was clearly inspired by her morning affirmation practice. Blige performed at the 2022 Super Bowl LVI halftime show alongside fellow hip hop legends Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent. She was also recently listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
If Blige has taught us anything, it’s that a bad relationship doesn’t have to destroy you. The superstar singer overcame a devastating divorce and came out stronger and more successful than ever. She’s an amazing role model for anyone seeking to rise above their circumstances.