Mary J. Blige was sent to etiquette school early in her career

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Mary J. Blige was told to take etiquette classes to become a more polished performer at the beginning of her career.

“They tried to change me earlier in my career. They did send me to etiquette school, and all types of stuff, but I just couldn’t feel it because I didn’t feel like myself,” the star told us.

But she added, “I just did it because that is just who I was — and I wasn’t standing upright. I had to grow into these gowns, and grow into walking with my back up straight.”

The R&B icon celebrated the debut of her documentary, “Mary J. Blige’s My Life,” at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center on Wednesday. The nine-time Grammy winner — and two-time Oscar nominee — also shared that fame and fortune did not bring her happiness.

“I don’t care if I have $1 billion. Let me tell you something: Just because you have money, it means nothing if you are not happy in your heart, and your spirit, and with yourself,” she told us.

She also shared how she once suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, and wouldn’t have made it through without music.

“Music was a vessel God used to save my life,” she said. “If I did not have music … I probably wouldn’t be here.” She said of her challenging childhood in Yonkers, “There were so many things that happened … My mom struggling to raise us as a single mother. My dad not being around as a little kid, letting us struggle in a place that was terrible. I love him and respect him now, but I was angry for years about it.”

Blige hopes her story can serve as an inspiration to other women facing difficult times. “I want women to stay strong. If I could come through all the stuff that I’ve come through, you will come through it, too, no matter what it is,” she said of her film’s message. “Stay strong. Don’t let anybody tell you what you should be, or what you should do. If you are in a bad situation, and it’s embarrassing, so what? Talk it out, stay strong.”

Blige serves as executive producer on the project with Sean “Diddy” Combs. The film streams via Amazon beginning June 25th.

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