That’s the best way to accurately describe Mary J.Blige’s first annual Strength of a Woman festival held in Atlanta, GA, on Mother’s Day weekend. Women from all over the country gathered in the name of sisterhood, with a common goal to be fed mentally, spiritually, and musically. The weekend was jam-packed with a comedy show, concerts, and empowering summit that included veterans of the entertainment industry, and a Mother’s Day brunch that concluded the festivities on Sunday.
Sisterhood is powerful when rooted in genuine love and compassion for self and others. That theme was strong during the Strength of a Woman summit, held on Saturday at The Gathering Spot, a swanky members-only club that hosts exclusive events like fireside chats and workshops.
The summit kicked off with a panel hosted by talk show host, journalist, and our former cover girl, Tamron Hall. Actress and director Tasha Smith, legendary radio personality and actress Angie Martinez, beauty entrepreneur Supa Cent, and Blige joined her on stage for an open conversation about the power of authenticity and vulnerability, the strength of a woman, the importance of genuine sisterhood, and Blige’s inspiration behind the festival.
Hall started the discussion by airing Blige out for getting emotional backstage before coming out to speak on the panel.
“You were crying backstage. You turned your back; you were grounding yourself. What was going through your mind and body? What’s going through it now?” Hall asked.
“Um, the same thing that was going through my mind back then. I was telling Tamron it just feels so good to have had these friends that I’ve had,” Blige responded as she named her friends who came out to support her. “My friendship circle is real. I don’t play games when it comes to my space and my energy, and these guys love me. They love me for real. They’re hard on me; they give me tough love. They’re my shrinks, my therapists. My friends, when I need some wine and some Nobu, and they’re here to support me.”
The Strength of a Woman festival/summit was completely sold out—a testament to Blige’s solid and devoted fanbase. Hall asked about potential expectations for the weekend. “People start festivals, and they’re small, and of course, you start a festival and look at everybody turning out,” Hall said.
“Wow. I never envisioned this,” the icon replied. She went on to say that this festival is an idea developed in the 90s, and she’s humbled and overwhelmed to see it come to fruition.
Click here to watch clips from the panel.
Source: Paras Griffin / Getty
I briefly chopped it up with Blige about the festival and her overall presence in the entertainment industry. Because this was my second interview with the Queen of Hip Hop and R&B, I was more relaxed and ready to get down to business. But when the icon walked into the room, looked in my direction, and told me she remembered me from our first chat, my palms began to sweat, and my anxiety took over. I knew this already, but this weekend reinforced Blige’s humble, down-to-earth energy.
With almost 35 years in the entertainment industry, Blige has sustained a staying power that not many artists have achieved. She is just as relevant now as when she dropped her debut album, What’s the 411.
“Um, first of all, it is humbling, and it’s a responsibility just to keep myself together. I feel amazing. I feel great. And you know, it’s been a lot of work. It’s been a lot of hard times, and it’s been a lot of, you know, just learning how to get through those hard times. So that makes the whole thing humbling because for each blessing, it’s been a hell of a trial to complete. So that’s why it’s like not like, something that I take lightly. Like, wow, this is amazing that this is even still happening, it’s humbling. And I’m just so so grateful,” the singer said.
During our conversation, singer, actress, entrepreneur, and our former cover star Kandi Burruss stopped by to greet Blige and congratulate her on such a powerful weekend. I captured a genuine, heart-warming moment between the two, which reinforced the spirit of sisterhood. Check out the clip below.
The warm embrace showed me that you can never do it alone, no matter how established your career is. Blige, a woman who has received close to 100 awards throughout her 34 years in the entertainment industry – including nine Grammy Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, and two Academy Awards – acknowledges that this festival wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her peers. Burruss accepted the thank yous and said, “But you’re killing it,” Blige replied, “I know, I know, but thank you for helping me kill it.”
Kandi Burruss developed a blueprint to success that is admirable. The mother of four manages multiple businesses while acting, appearing on her various reality TV shows, and performing with her Xscape group members. With only 24 hours in a day, the 45-year-old hustler proves that you really can have it all. With a schedule like that, it’s crucial to schedule self-care to keep yourself grounded.
“I don’t really have a lot of time for myself, but I enjoy simple things. I like just sitting with my homegirl and her doing my nails. We sit up here and talk trash and laugh together. I like sitting with my husband just catching up on my favorite shows. I don’t have to do a lot. I like simple stuff,” she said.
If you’ve learned anything from watching Burruss on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, you know that money and business are her first language, and she speaks it fluently. She confidently pursues new ideas and goals because she’s a firm believer that if you think it, you can achieve it.
“If you can conceive the thought, you can make it happen. That’s the one that stuck with me since I was young, and I just go for it. I feel like there’s nothing that I can’t do. I keep telling myself even when something seems impossible, or I feel like this is bigger than what I’m capable of, I’m like, ‘No, it’s not. Let’s figure it out.’”
She might be onto something here…
NY Times Bestselling author and TV personality Toya Wright knows that the strength of a woman starts from within. The mother of 23-year-old Reginae Carter and 4-year-old Reign Ryan Rushing makes sure to uplift her daughters in a way that she didn’t receive growing up. A few weeks ago, I interviewed Carter, and she said her confidence started at home with her mother. Wright agreed and said pouring into her children was – and still is – essential for their self-development, especially in the age of social media.
“My family didn’t really use the love word and (tell me) you’re beautiful, even though I heard these things from strangers. I told myself with my kids I’m always going to give them affection, I’m always giving them love, I will always remind them that you are everything, you are beautiful, you are worthy,” Wright said.
Raising two young women with a 20-year age gap has been quite the experience for Wright, but it’s also been the ultimate learning lesson. That said, she has fully embraced the journey and is committed to raising confident, self-aware women who have the tools to handle whatever the world throws their way. Looking back on her life, Wright says the encouragement she gives her children now are all the things she would’ve told herself 20 years ago.
“20 years ago, I would tell my younger self to keep believing in yourself. I would tell my younger self that nothing beats failure but a try. I would tell myself that you are enough; you are worthy. Like you know, all of the things that I say to my girls today I would pour into my younger self because I didn’t have that,” she said.
The Strength of a Woman summit peeled back the various layers of womanhood. From accepting yourself for exactly who you are to dealing with your trauma so that you can become the best version of yourself, the event completed its mission of empowering women to recognize the various strengths that women embody.