Mary J. Blige opens up about ditching her wigs and stripping down to her natural hair for 'Mudbound'

Mary J. Blige sans blond wigs, fake eyelashes, and glamorous makeup in Mudbound. (Photo: Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Picture Mary J. Blige. Chances are, she’s wearing a blond lob haircut, oversized sunglasses, and an ensemble entirely made up of leopard print.

Since the ’90s, Blige has been slaying red carpets, music videos, and performances with curated outfits that evoke a signature style. But for her Oscar-nominated role as sharecropper’s wife Florence Jackson in Mudbound, Blige was asked to let that all go.

Blige as we more often see her. (Photo: Getty Images)

The “Thick of It” singer spoke to The Cut about her physical transformation for the performance. “I’m used to my nails now, and I’m addicted to lashes,” she says of her signature style. For Blige, performing as Florence required some mental rewiring as well as a new look. “I’m Mary J. Blige. I mean, like, this is what I do. I wear wigs, I wear bob wigs, and I had to completely strip down to my own natural hair texture, which I’ve always been afraid of,” she says. “Dee [Rees, the film’s director] stripped me down all the way to what I truly am, and people were complimenting me. People were saying how beautiful I was. I didn’t know I was that beautiful for real. You understand what I’m saying? I didn’t know that.”

Growing up as a tomboy, Blige reveals it took her a long time to embrace the glammed-up life of a pop star. Her first producer, a then-19-year-old Sean “Puffy” Combs, encouraged her to lean into the hip-hop style she’d already cultivated. “What I loved about Puff is he immediately saw — I mean, instead of a tight dress, he put a baggy Armani suit on me with some Teflon boots. I wore a miniskirt sometimes, a pleated miniskirt, but I wore boots with it,” says Blige. Eventually, she did grow into the comforts — and places to hide — that nails, lashes, and a wig can provide, and for Mudbound, she had to unlearn the beauty lessons she’d spend decades cultivating.

Viola Davis sports her natural hair at the Oscars in 2012. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

It’s a notorious cliche that women who alter their appearance for a film often end up Oscar winners. But aside from winning awards, other women of color in Hollywood have spoken about how stripping down for a role has taught them to see themselves in a new light. Viola Davis, for one, described the bravery it took to leave her wigs behind on the red carpet. “I wore a wig in the Jacuzzi. I had a wig I wore around the house. I had a wig that I wore to events. I had a wig that I wore when I worked out,” Davis told Vulture in 2014. “I never showed my natural hair. It was a crutch, not an enhancement … I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful. I had to be liberated from that [feeling] to a certain extent.”

Stripped down: Beyoncé as Etta James in Cadillac Records, Mariah Carey as a social worker in Precious, and Halle Berry minus her pretty-girl looks in Jungle Fever. (Photo: Everett Collection)

It took Jungle Fever for Halle Berry to break out of what she called “gorgeous girl roles.” Once she did, she says, she was able to be more ambitious as an actor. When Mariah Carey appeared as a welfare caseworker in Precious, much of the conversation was about her makeup-free appearance. Carey may have complained about the less-than-glam character at first, but eventually she thanked director Lee Daniels for allowing her to disappear in the role. “They don’t know it’s me and, to me, that was a great gift that [Lee] gave me to be able to really go that far away from who I am,” she told Rolling StoneEven Beyoncé has had her moment in the harsh glow of a glam-free spotlight: She “threw the glamour out the window so easily and so joyfully” to gain 15 pounds as Etta James in Cadillac Records. Blige now joins their ranks as a woman who knows her beauty, with or without the wig.

Blige may have gained a new perspective on beauty, but there is one lifelong lesson she’ll be bringing to the Oscars: “If your feet hurt, you have to go home early.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.

  • Twelve killed as floods hit southwest France
    News
    AFP News

    Twelve killed as floods hit southwest France

    At least 12 people died when violent rainstorms turned rivers into raging torrents in southwest France on Monday, prompting some of the deadliest flooding in years, officials said. The equivalent of three months rainfall was dumped overnight in the region of Carcassonne in just a few hours, sending

  • Major Women's Groups Silent On Hillary Clinton's 'Abuse Of Power' Comments
    News
    HuffPost

    Major Women's Groups Silent On Hillary Clinton's 'Abuse Of Power' Comments

    Hillary Clinton set the internet ablaze on Sunday when she told CBS's "Sunday

  • Airbnb bill may limit short-term rentals in U.S. capital
    Tech
    Reuters

    Airbnb bill may limit short-term rentals in U.S. capital

    After Tuesday, when the district council is expected to vote on whether rentals on platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway can continue in the U.S. capital, Howard's listing and thousands of others may become illegal. Passing the legislation would make Washington the latest city to try to regulate the

  • EU says still time for Brexit deal as failure looms
    News
    AFP News

    EU says still time for Brexit deal as failure looms

    British and European leaders insisted Monday they could still reach a Brexit deal despite the latest failed round of divorce talks, but the EU warned a no-deal scenario was "more likely than ever before". British Prime Minister Theresa May admitted there was still "disagreement"

  • America's Housing Crisis Affects Everyone
    News
    HuffPost

    America's Housing Crisis Affects Everyone

    The American dream is supposed to play out like this: a pleasant house in an

  • Tarana Burke Reflects On The Me Too Movement 1 Year After It Went Viral
    News
    HuffPost

    Tarana Burke Reflects On The Me Too Movement 1 Year After It Went Viral

    A year after the Me Too movement sparked a worldwide reckoning, activist and

  • German police not ruling out 'terror' motive in hostage drama
    News
    AFP News

    German police not ruling out 'terror' motive in hostage drama

    A man who hurled a burning molotov cocktail then took a woman hostage at a major German railway station Monday may have acted with a "terrorist" motive, police said. Police said they found a passport issued to a 55-year-old Syrian man at the scene, and that the suspect had claimed to be a

  • Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople
    News
    AFP News

    Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople

    The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian church, which Moscow does not recognise. "A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate,

  • EU's Tusk says 'let's not give up' on Brexit, but warns of no deal
    News
    Reuters

    EU's Tusk says 'let's not give up' on Brexit, but warns of no deal

    European Council President Donald Tusk said on Monday that the 27 states remaining in the bloc after Britain leaves must be ready for a no-deal Brexit, a scenario he said was "more likely than ever before". With less than six months to go before Britain's departure, talks stalled at the

  • U.S. senator, mocked by Trump as Pocahontas, cites DNA test
    News
    Reuters

    U.S. senator, mocked by Trump as Pocahontas, cites DNA test

    Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, citing favorable DNA evidence, lashed back at U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday over his ridicule of her claim of Native American heritage, in a preview of what might be a bare-knuckles presidential showdown in 2020. For years, Trump, a Republican, has mocked

  • German police detain suspected hostage-taker and free woman
    News
    Reuters

    German police detain suspected hostage-taker and free woman

    German police detained a man who took a woman hostage at the train station in Cologne on Monday and said the suspect, who was seriously injured in the rescue operation, was probably a Syrian citizen. Germany is on high alert for militant attacks, almost two years after a Tunisian Islamist rammed a hijacked

  • As companies embrace AI, it's a job-seeker's market
    Tech
    Reuters

    As companies embrace AI, it's a job-seeker's market

    At Georgia Tech, students interact with digital teaching assistants made possible by AI for an online course in machine learning.     The expanding applications for AI have also created a shortage of qualified workers in the field. Although schools across the country are adding classes, increasing

  • Berlin expels 9/11 accomplice to Morocco
    News
    AFP News

    Berlin expels 9/11 accomplice to Morocco

    A convicted Moroccan accomplice in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States was expelled from Germany on Monday and sent back to Morocco, police said. Mounir el Motassadeq was sentenced in January 2007 by a German court to 15 years in jail for his role in the death of 246 passengers and

  • Clashes at Myanmar garment factory leave dozens injured
    News
    AFP News

    Clashes at Myanmar garment factory leave dozens injured

    Riot police rushed to the scene of clashes at a strike-hit Myanmar garment factory on Monday after protesting workers say dozens were injured when they were attacked by a mob of "hired thugs". The predominantly female workers started picketing the Chinese-owned Fu Yuen Garment Co Ltd factory

  • Jordan and Syria reopen Nassib border crossing
    News
    Reuters

    Jordan and Syria reopen Nassib border crossing

    JABER, Jordan/BEIRUT (Reuters) - The border crossing between Jordan and Syria opened to people and goods on Monday after being closed for three years, reopening a route that used to carry billions of dollars of trade for countries across the region. The Nassib crossing opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), a

  • Cuba protests US event at UN on political prisoners
    News
    AFP News

    Cuba protests US event at UN on political prisoners

    Cuba has asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to cancel plans by the United States to launch a campaign at the United Nations on the plight of Cuban political prisoners. Cuban Ambassador Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo wrote a letter at the weekend to Guterres arguing that the event scheduled for Tuesday

  • German police 'not ruling out terror' motive in Cologne hostage-taking
    News
    AFP News

    German police 'not ruling out terror' motive in Cologne hostage-taking

    German police said Monday they were not eliminating terrorism as a possible motive for a hostage-taking at Cologne central station that left four people injured. "The investigation is considering all possibilities and we are not ruling out terrorism," said Cologne deputy police chief Miriam

  • Pregnant U.S. Postal Worker Vanishes Outside Chicago Home
    News
    HuffPost

    Pregnant U.S. Postal Worker Vanishes Outside Chicago Home

    Authorities in Illinois are searching for a pregnant U.S. postal worker who is

  • 20 Cozy Fall Home Decor Ideas Under $50
    News
    HuffPost

    20 Cozy Fall Home Decor Ideas Under $50

    Cozying up the home for fall is like an introvert's Super Bowl. It involves

  • Fox News' Brian Kilmeade Calls Man-Made Climate Change A 'Point Of View'
    News
    HuffPost

    Fox News' Brian Kilmeade Calls Man-Made Climate Change A 'Point Of View'

    The co-hosts of "Fox & Friends" predictably were full of praise Monday for

  • Trump And His Supporters Seem Primed To Accept Saudi Denials Over Jamal Khashoggi
    News
    HuffPost

    Trump And His Supporters Seem Primed To Accept Saudi Denials Over Jamal Khashoggi

    President Trump jumped on the bandwagon of conservatives who argue that he should not risk a serious rupture with Saudi Arabia over a missing journalist.

  • Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople
    News
    AFP News

    Russian Orthodox Church cuts ties with Constantinople

    The Russian Orthodox Church said Monday it is breaking ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate over its decision to grant independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which Moscow does not recognise. "A decision has been made to rupture full communion with the Constantinople Patriarchate,"

  • Bain Capital co-chairman pulls out of Saudi conference - source
    Finance
    Reuters

    Bain Capital co-chairman pulls out of Saudi conference - source

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stephen Pagliuca, co-chairman at U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital, will not attend a high-profile conference in Saudi Arabia, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

  • Sears Didn't 'Die.' Vulture Capitalists Killed It.
    News
    HuffPost

    Sears Didn't 'Die.' Vulture Capitalists Killed It.

    If you've been following the impending bankruptcy of America's iconic retailer

  • Turkey searches Saudi consulate as Trump speaks of 'rogue killers'
    News
    AFP News

    Turkey searches Saudi consulate as Trump speaks of 'rogue killers'

    Turkish police on Monday searched the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for the first time since journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing, as US President Donald Trump floated the idea that "rogue killers" could be to blame for his disappearance. Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who became