It’s been two months since R&B great Mary J. Blige received a hail of criticism for her participation in a Burger King ad that went in her words “terribly wrong.”
Aside from a standard statement from her public relations team, Blige has been quiet until today, when she sat down with Hot 97’s radio personality Angie Martinez to discuss the much-lampooned commercial that was characterized by many as offensive to African-Americans for its presumed promotion of the stereotype that Blacks love chicken. The Grammy Award winner admits the advertisement was a mistake, but she was certainly misrepresented in the version of the ad that leaked online. MJB swore she went into the opportunity with good intentions, but things did not work out was planned.
“It’s just something I thought would have been a great branding opportunity that’s what I thought it was,” Blige said. “I went online to listen to the remix I did with Fat Joe and I’m looking for that [song] ‘Another Round’ and all I could see was Burger King and chicken and the buffoonery. It just broke my heart. People were just going crazy and I understand the laughter and the jokes and the stuff that was happening. That’s all good. You’re supposed to do that when something like that happens. It made people’s websites go up. It made people get more ratings on their radio stations, but the thing that hurt me is when people started to say vicious negative things that didn’t happen.”
Asked by Martinez why she didn’t respond when the public visceral was at its peak, Blige said, “Everyone was doing what they were doing and saying what they were saying and I just felt that there was no need for me to say anything. Everyone was running with it and just crucifying me and going crazy. I said it’s too much going on for me to try to stick my head out there and say anything, so I just pulled back and I watched everyone and everything.”
While her management team did issue a response immediately after the firestorm erupted, Blige said her quiet observation of the criticism taught her a lot.
“What this did was exposed everyone and everything that was in my life and it showed me who my friends are,” Blige said. “But so many people reached out to me on a level of we knew what you were trying to do. We saw how it went terribly wrong.”
To those people and the many that were offended by the ad, the multi-talented entertainer issued a mea culpa.
“It was a mistake when you look at it at the end of the day, because people look at it as a mistake, but I did it as something that wouldn’t come out like that,” Blige admits. “I want to apologize to everyone who was offended who thought that I would do something that was so disrespectful to our culture. I would never do anything like that. I thought I was doing something right.”
As for the rumors that she was paid over $2 million for the spot, Blige dismissed those claims.
“It wasn’t a money thing; it was about a branding opportunity.”
Alicia Keys: "I'm an All-New Woman on My New Album"
Alicia Keys is on the verge of a new album, and the Grammy-winning chanteuse says she feels like a new woman. In a recent video message to fans, Keys gave an update on the album's progress and said she's entered an all-new phase of her life and career.
“I’ve come to this place that the album is about to be ready and I feel just so crazy excited,” she said. “It’s like I’m a different person. I’m a new person. Everything is new, from being married and having a baby… I’ve become so much more intelligent and I survey the landscape more and try to come up with what’s the best thing for me, what’s the best thing for [my son,] Egypt, what’s the best thing for our family.”
The ebullient wife and mother didn't give away the title of the new album, her fifth, but she did tweet "#AKNewDay," leading some to speculate that it will be called New Day. Fitting given the renewed perspective she describes.
“I am hungry, I am an animal right now. I am just ready to be set free in a whole other way,” Alicia said, describing her eagerness to share what she's been working on. “When it comes to sharing this music with you, I am like a caged animal that’s dying to escape.”
Venus and Serena Williams to Join U.S. Olympic Team
The U.S. Tennis Association has announced that Venus and Serena Williams will be among six players who will compete for the U.S. women's tennis team in the London Olympics in July. The sisters will play both the Olympic singles tournament and as a team for the competition the will take place at the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon.
Serena is a 13-times grand slam singles champion while her sister is a seven-time grand slam champion. Together, they've been undefeated in Olympic doubles competitions landing gold medals in 2000 and 2008. Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko, and the world's number one-ranked doubles team Leizel Huber and Lisa Raymond have also been nominated for the Olympic team.
Amar'e Stoudemire on Gay Slur: "I Should Have Known Better"
The embattled NBA player caused a stir when he fired back a tweet containing a homophobic slur at a disgruntled fan who blamed Stoudemire for the Knicks' failure this season.
The fan wrote, "@Amareisreal you better come back a lot stronger and quicker to make up for this past season mannnnnn deadasss!!!" To which Amar'e responded, "F**k you. I don't have to do anything f*g."
Now Stoudemire is apologizing to the fan, as well as others offended by his choice of words. "I apologize for what I said earlier. I just got off the plane and had time to think about it. Sorry bro!! No excuses. Won’t happen again,” he wrote directly to the fan.
He also tells TMZ, "I should have known better and there is no excuse." The recently engaged baller adds, "I am a huge supporter of civil rights for all people. I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan."
Stoudemire was also fined $50,000 by the NBA for his insensitive remarks.
Jordin Sparks: "You Can Hear the Smile In Whitney's Voice"
Jordin Sparks is almost ready for her big screen Hollywood closeup. In a mere month, the American Idol alum will make her feature film debut in Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 classic. Adding to that distinction, the 23-year old got the honor of duetting on "Celebrate," the upbeat and '80s-inspired R. Kelly-produced single from the film's soundtrack, and the final recording made by pop music icon Whitney Houston.
BET.com caught up with Sparks while she was in the recording studio and she talked all things "Celebrate" — recording the song and making the video. Plus she shared her special on-set memories of Whitney while shooting Sparkle.
"Celebrate" has already become the feel good jam of this summer. What was it like to record it? Were you in the studio with Whitney?
I would have loved to be in the studio with her, but with Whitney’s schedule it got so crazy [we never] found the time to get together, so we recorded it separately. But it was amazing to be able to go in after she had already finished her part. When I was singing, I could hear her vocals on the background of the song. It was so cool because you could just hear the smile in Whitney’s voice when she was singing it. So that in turn made me more super excited to sing the song and put more emotion into it.
Tell us about the video’s premise.
When we did the song, we planned on it being Whitney and me, but she’s not here, so we wanted to make it a tribute to her. So it’s fun, upbeat and exciting — there are clips from the movie and the main cast is in the video, too. It’s me, Tika Sumpter, Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Omari Hardwick, Goapele is in it and Mike Epps. We’re all just having a good time [and the premise is] they all come over to my house singing along to Whitney’s music. And we’re missing her and celebrating her as well. It’s actually pretty simple, but when you watch it and hear her voice along with it, it makes it so much more.
Have you wrapped your head around the fact that you've duetted with one of the music industry’s biggest icons on her very last recording?
I don’t think I have wrapped my head around it. I kind of get rendered speechless. I grew up listening to her. Whitney was this supernova, an amazing entertainer and vocalist. To even be in the room with her and get to talk with her was something that I could have only dreamed of. But then she was my employer, later my coworker and then she became my friend. And we did a song together. It just blows my mind really. But it’s also a little bittersweet. Even though I got a chance to do the song with her, it was her last recording. So now her legacy and my story are forever intertwined — it’s crazy for me to think about.
Have you seen Sparkle yet?
No, not yet. Hopefully I will before the premiere. They keep telling me, "It’s not perfect yet, not perfect yet." I’m like, "Okay, we’ve got a little over a month here.” I’m excited to see the movie and I can’t wait for everybody else to see it, too.
Can you tell us one of your favorite moments with Whitney on the set of the film?
One of my favorite ones is when we were having a little dance break while we were waiting for the cameras to change. All of us were just being silly, we were doing The Dougie and she walked in and was like, “What is that?” So we taught her how to do The Dougie [laughs], which was super fun. And there was another time where I was singing under my breath — sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it — and I was singing “I Have Nothing.” And she grabbed my shoulder and gasped and I said, “What?” and she said, “I forgot I sang that!” I was like, [laughs] “What? How could you forget? That was one of the biggest songs ever in life. Every girl sings this song.” And she was like, “I don’t know. You know, it’s just been so long.” Then she started talking to me about the story behind her recording it — how she was pregnant and she didn’t want to do it and she just wanted to get it over with. And I think she said they did the song in three takes. And at that moment my jaw was on the floor. I was like, “This is an incredible moment.”
You’re attending this year's BET Awards and I’m sure you’ll be looking fabulous. How hard or easy has it been maintaining your current weight?
I take it day by day. If I eat something a little crazy or if I feel sluggish, I know I have to eat better the next day and work out. I work out, I do circuit training so I try to keep my heart rate up whether I’m doing cardio, lifting weights or jumping rope. I like to mix it up. I also take Zumba classes — I love those, those are a blast. But I think the way I’ve maintained [my weight] is that I really changed my eating habits. I used to eat because food tastes so good. I love food, it’s one of the best things on this planet. But I changed the way I was thinking. I started asking myself, “Hey, am I eating because it tastes good? Or because I really need some more? Am I really still hungry?”
Speaking of the BET Awards, can you tell us your favorite moment from a past show?
I was there in 2008. And the BET Awards I attended was the first red carpet I did after I won American Idol, so it was a big deal for me. One of the moments that stuck out for me was Beyoncé on the red carpet. She wore a silver dress with that metal belt. Her hair was down and I just remember standing on the red carpet and she walked behind me and I didn’t even know what to say. She looked so incredible. But I also loved the Michael Jackson tribute they did a couple of years ago on the show. I thought that was incredible. I know they’re going to do something for Whitney this year, so I’m excited to see who they’ve chosen to be a part of it and to see how many different songs they sing of hers because she has so many amazing songs.