Despite a difficult childhood and adolescence, Blige has topped the R&B charts for years.
Born in Yonkers, an absent father and a molestation incident at the age of five took a toll on young Mary: She dropped out of high school at 16 and first turned to drugs during her teen years. Blige's big break came when she attracted the notice of a young Uptown label exec named Sean "Puffy" Combs, who worked with her to create her 1992 debut album, What's the 411? She's since gone on to record nearly a dozen multi-platinum-selling albums: her music evolved along the way, from gangsta rap and ghetto angst into a more expansive, expressive sound. Following in the grand tradition of singer-slash-actors, as of late Blige has taken a stab at acting, in films like Rock of Ages.
Early in her career, Blige dealt with drugs, alcohol addiction, and depression. An ultimatum from her boyfriend, record exec Martin "Kendu" Isaacs and the 2001 death of Aaliyah helped her ditch the drugs, drink, and drama. Blige has said she was in several abusive relationships with men, including a protracted affair with Jodeci front man K-Ci. She eventually settled down with Isaacs and in 2003 the two married. She's now a stepmother to his three kids. [Image via Getty]