Mary J. Blige is loving life – and that wasn’t always the case. The “No More Drama” singer is happily married to her husband of 10 months, producer Kendu Isaacs, and is a doting stepmother to his son Nasir, 5, and daughter Jordan, 7. Blige, 33, whom Sting calls the “heir to Aretha,” has other reasons to smile: After struggling with drugs and alcohol for years, she’s decidedly clean and sober. And she’s releasing her first DVD, Mary J. Blige: Live from Los Angeles. Blige spoke to PEOPLE about learning to love herself, attaining peace through prayer and the importance of family.
Why was this the time right to do a DVD?
A lot of the songs I did on here I never did on the tours that I’ve done prior to this summer’s. The fans were always requesting them. It’s a lot of history on here.
You’re a dynamic performer onstage. What do you do to summon all that energy?
I pray. I grab my band, and if I can’t get to them, I just pray by myself. I make sure I give God the glory for giving me the confidence to go out there and be sure about what I’m getting ready to do so my fans can look at me and say, “Wow, she’s really grown.” It took a lot to grow into a confident area. It took prayer to get there.
What’s different about you today versus five years ago?
There’s a caring for Mary J. Blige in Mary J. Blige, and she really likes herself and you can see that. Not in an arrogant, vain way – but I really like what I look at when I look in my eyes in the mirror. That gives me the confidence. That’s what people are seeing.
You didn’t like the person you saw in the mirror before?
Oh, I used to hate Mary J. Blige. I used to really hate her, and that’s probably why people are so proud, because people saw the hate in my eyes and the deep hurt and hatred for myself and it showed in the self-destruction that I (went through).
What did you hate about yourself?
I was very insecure, and I didn’t like my voice. I didn’t like my body. I didn’t like my face. I didn’t like me – period. Now I’ve grown to love and accept Mary. Whatever she is, she’s all I got.
How did you get to this point?
Through praying – asking God, “What’s the answer to this?” He said, “You have to really start appreciating the things you have.” That’s what it is. Slowly but surely you’ll start being like, “I’m all right. I’m pretty cool.” [IMAGE “2” “left” “std” ]You overcame a difficult path with drugs and alcohol. How did you do it?
I’m a spirit being, and I’m big on what you put out there is what you get back. So I just started putting out there what I wanted back, and that’s love. That’s when my husband came, and that’s when my husband started realizing that we are going to make it, because I started to love Mary.
A religion to me is a title, nothing but a word. But a way of life is treating people well, treating yourself well, eating right, sleeping right, loving somebody other than yourself.
Why was your husband the man for you?
He’s one of the most confident, nonbiased, loving men. He’s not perfect, but he’s honest with himself, he’s honest with me. I appreciate him for trying and not giving up on me. My husband comes from a background that wasn’t like mine. He comes from a place where people taught him things. His mom loved him a lot, his father loved him. He’s a very logical man, and I’m totally not logical. I’m very emotional, so I’m getting the balance I need. He’s shown me how to see things clearly.
Do you want to have kids?
I have two stepchildren and they’re beautiful – Nasir and Jordan. They’re like candy!
What are you like as a stepmom?
A lot of fun. I’m like a kid. I play with them a lot, but at the same time I’m a mother and I teach them right from wrong. I don’t scream and yell at them. I let their father do the scolding. I talk to them because they’re very logical, too. You’re not putting anything over on those kids.
Would you like to have a child of your own?
I really would, but I’m not gonna rush it. I’m realistic with myself. If it happens, it happens.