An Open Letter to Mary J. Blige

by Demetria L. Lucas

Mary:

I don’t mean no disrespect calling you by your first name and all like I know you. You don’t know me from Black Eve, but we’ve cried together and grown together.  When you sat on a New York rooftop with Method Man, your vocals and his lyrics became my adolescent anthem. The undying devotion in your voice as you sang about ”sweet morning dew” spoke to everything I felt about my first love. By the time you dropped “My Life” during my senior year of high school, pouring out your heart and singing parts of my story that were yet to be written, you were my big sister. When that First Love broke my heart, I played “I’m Going Down” on repeat, ordered from Video Music Box the visual of you with your head hung low, walking down the steps. I found, perhaps, a sick comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone with the pain in my chest, the first time I’d felt that way, but unfortunately not the last. I didn’t know where my heart was headed, but I knew I’d get through it because you did.

I’ve sat front row at one of your Madison Square Garden concerts and caught chills to your breakdown on “No More Drama.” I’ve wept openly, scaring the man who was with me at Essence Music Festival, when you sang “Not Gonna Cry” because you took me back to a place where my demons were active. When you found your happy, I partied with you when the DJ dropped “Just Fine” at a club. After news of my first book deal finally sank in (it took awhile), I sat on my Brooklyn rooftop and looked out at the bit Manhattan I can see from my three-story building and played “I Dream in Color” from the “Precious” soundtrack on my iPod. I cried and waved a hand to God when you sang, “It took a long time, to get to this place… “ My wins pale in comparison to yours, but the struggle to accept one’s self and get the payoff is the same at every level.

As someone who wants the best for you, who stans for you the way these young girls obsess about Beyonce’, I have to say this: Mary, Dearest Mary, that Burger King commercial was beneath your pedestal and your laurels. Chicken, boo? Chicken?!  I’ve put on a few pounds over the years and my girls check me when I want to wear an old dress like I have my old curves. I wish you had my girls to check you about this commercial because yours let you down.

When I first heard about your Burger King ad on Twitter, I thought I was a day late to an April Fool’s joke, or perhaps it was one of those mildly amusing skits from “Funny or Die” (except for the Bobby Brown-Mike Tyson one, which was actually hilarious.) McDonald’s is known for this just-don’t–get-it mess with Black folk singing and dancing about food. I thought you were spoofing them. I didn’t believe you were forreal until a good writer-friend who had put down her pen after Whitney died, put her newborn to bed early and let go of some much needed sleep to explain 5 ways you had gone wrong with this one. I exhaled when I heard Burger King had pulled it from YouTube, even if they claim it was due to a music licensing issue.

  • omfg

    maybe she needed the money?

  • Idivinia

    Damn I haven’t even seen the commercial and already I’m cringing at how bad it sounds.

  • Bee

    Okay, I am usually one to call out stereotypical racist bullshit. But really, folks? That commercial? It was a typical stupid commercial. Of all things, folks got worked up about that? I’m done: we have our priorities all wrong as a people. Smh.

    For anyone who hasn’t seen the commercial, here’s the link where it’s still up: http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/04/watch_mary_j_bliges_new_crispy_chicken_commercial_burger_king_pulled_video.html

  • Ocean Blue

    All I know is that I couldn’t care less if I don’t ever see another fast food commercial where someone is rapping to me.

  • Amadii

    I see nothing wrong with the commercial. It’s 2012 and I like some Blacks eat chicken –so what?
    send and “open letter” to down low brothers, send an “open letter” to people who are protecting Trayvon Martins murderer, send an “open letter” to drug dealers, send an “open letter” to some politicians…but to send MJB a letter over this commercial ?? It’s chicken– NOT CRACK.
    WE have to many problems to complain about a “chicken wrap” commercial…give me a break.

  • Daebug

    I also don’t see the big fuss or down grade. Now I did see it as a omg moment, a “lol”moment, Mary singing about fastfood, but not offended b/c she ain’t keeping it down for the”blacks”.
    Just like we make a living at doing our job she is doing the same thing, it’s unfortunate that being a “celebrity” puts you on blast to be judged by the world and for that reason I would never want that life, people are to critical of what someone else should be doing better.
    I hear the uproar about Mary and Burgerking but why is a down grade when we as “black people” still go there, I havent heard any outrage about that.

  • NY’s Finest

    Idk, the commercial is corny as hell , but I don’t think it’s serious enough for an open letter to Mary. The way ppl are complaining I thought she was dancing a jig with a chicken leg in her hand. All I know is this is nowhere near as stereotypical and offensive as that Popeye’s chicken lady, now that’s something to write an open letter about.

  • TMC

    Truely, someone OTHER than Mary J. has a problem with Low Self image.
    It was a commercial !!

    So, “Black” folks have to hide and eat Chicken & Burgers?? How SAD is that!!

    You are making a Judgement call on Mary J —Maybe you can take a look at yourself Since you appear to be the major one adherered to following stereotypes yo ‘massa” has set forth for you !

  • Libby

    Some of people on here are completely brain dead. The commercial plays on some old stereotypes from the early twentieth century. Do you dance when you eat chicken? Stepin fetchit made an entire career out of it. Do you sing about chicken? Some people need to READ Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films and maybe you won’t be so dismissive.

  • Kiki @ LNS

    OMG really???? This is what this long, dramatic post is about?! I agree, it is a stupid, bad commercial. However, it is just a commercial. I didn’t see anything derogatory or racist about it. Must we continuously pick unnecessary battles of race?

  • Bunni

    Where’s the ‘open letter’ to Flava Flav with his coonery? Or the ‘open letter’ to some of these hip-hop stars hawking expensive liquor and other products that are not boons to the Black community? I’ll keep checking this site to see if/when that happens. Meanwhile, Mary, keep making that paper. There are a lot worse things to write ‘open letters’ about than a chicken wrap.

  • soulfullyreal

    I’m black and I like chicken, so BK figured if Mary J told me about it I might come pick up a tender or two. I get it. It’s called marketing and in this instance I think we’re being overly sensitive. There are much more important things to get our panties in a bunch over.

    So yeah, it was corny, and maybe not a good career move for her as far as preserving her legacy, but making it about the chicken is a lil petty. If she was singing about milkshakes (which I also love) idk if this would even be an issue. and something tells me she’s not the first black celeb to hustle chicken, so leave the Queen alone.

  • http://codeemphasis.blobspot.com Clarity Jane

    I’m sure Mary J knows her ‘worth’ and it’s probably about the big fat amount BK paid her for that joint. Get over it, it’s just a commercial…True Mary fans wont write her off for one corny ad so save your open letter for the governement.

    P.S it baffles me why some black people get riled up and offended when they are associated with fried chicken and fast food…I mean, maybe if we stop eating the shit and being the largest consumers then maybe the link wont be made…it is what it is.

    P.S again for the ‘She must need the money’ crew… In the current financial climate, even if you’re rich…who don’t need the money?? I’m pretty sure that most of us would happily take a big fat check with multiple zeros on it for singing a 2 lines about a chicken wrap. Please, get over yourselves!

  • http://1stamend-kisa-kisa.blogspot.com/ kisa

    I feel you Amadii

  • GuyverV

    no, Amadii, you aren’t the only one. the commercial was incredibly benign and kind of funny when you see the manager singing along with her. i wish someone would pay me to sing about chicken. the way this author reacts, you’d think it was this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGrqW3nx5HM. get a grip

  • http://www.thecolorcurve.com TheBlackGuy

    I thought the commercial was funny, and it’s really more a compliment to Burger King that they could even GET Mary J. Blige to sing about the snack. But I get it: black people’s image is always at stake and we just CAN’T have the Queen of R&B peddling snack wraps at a fast food chain. We’d rather her sing about an iPad, a BMW or some other white opened conglomerate product. That’s fine, right?

  • Nicole83

    +1,2,3,4 and hell 5. Very well stated.

  • http://www.blackgirlslikeus.com Toya

    I so agree with you. It wasn’t that serious! It was a chicken wrap. Not a bucket of fried chicken that she was eating out of while singing with greasy lips. If anything the commercial was awkward and poorly written. I am amazed at the things we protest so quickly to the point that they get pulled and yet things that happen every day on BET and the radio not only continue but get accolades. Call each other niggers and bitches and brag about oral sex,drug use and cars you don’t have? YOLO! But don’t sing about a chicken wrap though because THAT’S coonery. What in the world?

  • Blasé

    that pic looks too glam for a burger king ad. actually looks like the logo was dropped on album artwork.

    as for the open letters, calling this a transgression, judgment calls on her esteem and opposing her selling chicken, i think y’all are overreacting.

    points being made about the stereotypical approach are on point though. in fact from an ad making point of view, this ad is awful. she’s in a darnn awful ad, not enough reason, to lose me knickers over it. i’ve been with her through bad relationships and drugs….

    damn crispy chicken song is stuck in my hear!

  • Santana

    don’t pretend Burger King isn’t white owned.

    it’s not about “peddling snack wraps.” it’s the CHICKEN and that the commercial sucked. had this been an add for a smoothie or salad, this wouldn’t be a conversation.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    We are now penning open letters over chicken?! This was a mountain hill created out of a mole hill. Michael Stoute-marketing extraordinaire-is working over time to distance himself from MJB-daggone shame!!!!!!!!

    An open letter should be penned with cause, not just because!

    Pen a letter to young black women, and tell them about how reckless sexual behavior will contribute to their demise and add on to the rising HIV/AIDS statistics in our community. Pen a letter to the young boys and congratulate& motivate them on graduating high school and have all been accepted to college

    This was a just because, everybody is going innnn on her, let me jump on the bandwagon with validation about being a stan….#whatev!

    I still looooooooooooooooowwwwwe your works Belle!

  • Yb

    +1 black people must have selective memory when it comes to history, because we forget so much about our past in this country.

  • Shan

    +1

  • http://method2hermadness.blogspot.com girlformerlyknownasgrace

    Write open letters because, not just because- love it!

  • http://www.twitter.com/amanilovejoy Amani

    Mary singing about a chicken tender wrapped in a tortilla should be the least of ya’lls worries when it comes to this video. The commercial was just BAD… But some of you all are acting like Mary was singing Ms. Peachez song “Fry that Chicken” (see below). The more ya’ll take offense at the black people and chicken stereotype the more you perpetuate it. Let Mary get paid, but let’s hope the next time the writing, singing, and direction of the video is in better fashion.

  • Nicole83

    @ Santana, it was a chicken WRAP! Not a bucket of fried chicken, watermelon,etc. Hell she didn’t just sing about the chicken, she sang about the damn ranch dressing too. This is so irritating. We have so many OTHER battles we should be fighting but to get in all up in arms over something because we can or feel that we should, doesn’t a cause make. It’s like a relationship, we ought to be more discerning in choosing our battles. But every darn thing that comes out that we could be offended about, doesn’t mean we need to launch an open letter writing campaign. I mean its CHICKEN!!! We don’t own it, liking it aint exclusive to black folks. Of course history dictates we were used for the mockery that ensued regarding our alleged “love” (mine’s not alleged, I loved fried chicken and will tear up a damn chicken wrap too) but that doesn’t mean we need to deduce this means Mary J. or anyone else in her shoes has no self-worth and has thrown our history by the wayside.

  • OhSoNattral

    Last week we were standing in solidarity for Trayvon Martin and this week we’re back to tearing each other down. If anyone needs an “open letter” it’s the Black community. I admit when I saw the commerical I laughed until I cried because it was funny and unfortunately the commerical wasn’t supposed to make us laugh. It was poorly written and did nothing to promote her latest CD. I don’t have any issues with her singing about chicken. Celebs do commericals like this all the time to stay relevant. In my opinion, this is really no different from Aretha Franklin doing the Snickers commerical a few years ago. And nobody questioned if the Queen of Soul knew her worth.

  • apple

    so you gonna let white people dictate whether or not you can like chicken. chicken and watermelon is one of the most stupidest stereotypes ever. newsflash everyone LIKES CHICKEN and chicken isnt hurting anyone. now when she twerks on a handstand or call us niggas,bitches and hoes call me. i hate having to pretend i don’t like one of the most popular type of meats because some white people thought it would be funny to attach that meat to us. what if they had chose beef for the stereotype back then. then we’d be shame to admit we like hamburgers

  • http://Ninasgoodthoughts.wordpress.com Nina

    I don’t care if she’s singing about chicken or roasted rutabaga–the commercial’s wack, plain and simple. We’ve got more important things to be upset about.

  • http://www.olskoolblackflix.com/ Sindy

    I know it’s different in the South but Popeye’s in L.A. is nasty. Some use low-grade chicken and the sides sit for a long time so I end up making my own red beans and rice w/some strips for less headache and $.

    Popeye’s is advertising shrimps (or ‘skrimps’) that are battered, deep fried and covered in garlic pepper “butter”. Gross.

    I also agree that MJB commercial is not the worst thing in our community.

  • Tonton Michel

    This was degrading to blacks and beneath her, massive fail.

  • edub

    If Mary deserved an open letter, lord knows how many other ones you should be firing off as well. Geez. I just don’t see the harm here. I really don’t. The commercial is bad, but that’s about all I can read into it.

  • http://www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    What Mary did is just a continuation of the selling out is cool is the price is right meme. Just think, at one time we had a lot of dignity and would ride Blk entertainers for “embarrassing the race”.

    Now some of us can’t wait to post on Twitter,Facebook or God forbid a reality or talk show to put our dirt in the streets.

    I could not see Diahann Carrol, Dorthy Dandrige, or Lena Horne doing this sort of thing.

  • http://www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    *sighs*

    I know Mary ain’t the brightest bulb in the punch but she’s got to know about the stereotypes surrounding Blk people and chicken(esp fried). Why would she do this? Where is all of her money going that she needs to do such a thing? Maybe she should get a smaller house, a simpler car, fire some of her “staff” or something so she can have a lower overhead theyby affording her more flexibility in what endorsements she needs to take on to pay the bills.

  • http://www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    Amandi it’s a shame you can’t see how all of this stuff ties in togeather. Believe me, the media has been doing a hardcore “hit job” on Blk women for the past two years.

  • Whatever

    @LIBBY

    +1

    People have selective memories…. or maybe they actually believe that we live in a post racial society. I’m so f*cking sick of these lame ads with people dancing, rapping and singing about chicken. Post Racial Society Minstrel shows disguised as Advertisements.

    They used Mary for the chicken spot as opposed to the smoothie spot because THEY are playing into old stereotypes about black people and chicken. It is NOT just a commercial as many posters claim it is. Too blind and/or lazy to use their brains or research their own damn history. If history is too deep for you, at least pick up a book on advertising and see how much research goes into these ads before they ever reach the public. Mary was specifically chosen for the chicken spot.

  • http://www.chicnoirhouse.blogspot.com Chic Noir

    Libby,

    I’m thinking some of these people aren’t blk. Most of the Blk sites I read have been inundated with “WP” folks mascarding as blk folks. You can tell who they are because they show their faces on posts just like this.

  • http://www.thesupersistah.com the Super Sistah

    Love Mary, we can’t be so hard on her. What do her fans expect? She’s not made out of money. She has bills that have to be paid and she has a baby at home to feed!! Oops, did I say baby? I meant husband at home to feed. My bad.

    the Super Sistah
    http://www.thesupersistah.com

  • Georgia

    Perhaps the reason people are so incensed over this ad is because their righteous indignation is already inflamed by current issues like Trayvon Martin’s murder…no, they’re not on the same scale but taken as a whole it’s just samo, samo so everything is on watch…

  • binks

    Amen! I saw the commerical and I’ am not particularly offended. Is it corny, cheesy and could be seen as stereotypical if you are looking to be offended… sure but I don’t think it is as bad as people are making it out to be. Burger King is going to showcase a lot of commericals with celebrities to build their brand back up so are we going to be offended with those celebrities too? People are truly building an mountain out of an ant hill over this…shrugs

  • modern lady

    I really think people are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. It’s just a commercial. It’s just chicken. Get over it. No one can belittle you unless you allow them to. I was far more disgusted by the Huggies commercial that plays “whoomp there it is” while the babies poop in their diapers. That was gross to me.

  • golden_girl

    So would you rather have historical knowledge not to do such things or be rich and ignorant.

  • Nik

    Um…there were other Burger King commercials (a whole set) featuring celebrities doing stupid/funny shit to sell something from BK. Salma Hayek has one. Jay Leno has one. So I figured the commercial was one of those joke type commercials.

    I laughed.

  • http://www.purplekeychain.blogspot.com purplekeychain

    +1

    I thought I was the only one absolutely DISGUSTED by that commercial. Every time it comes on, I turn the channel.

  • The Taker

    *Sigh* Of all the things to write about, of all the things that NEED an open letter dedicated to them, sanging about chicken is NOT one of them got dammit. It’s only chicken. Its only food. Just about the entire world population consumes chicken. Imma about to eat some chicken in few minutes. Really can’t believe some of you folks. Break free from the mental chain white folks put on you. How ya’ll gonna let them make you feel embarrassed about the love for chicken. It maybe a stereotype, but I considered it harmless. “Oooh them Negros sho’ love them some chicken (even though we love and eat it too)”, F.O.H.. I have eaten a many of a chicken dish in front of white people and didn’t feel no way about it what so ever. They can kiss my ass for all I care, for real. Chicken is delicious. This is why black folks won’t truly progress, mentally or in other areas.

  • D-Ski

    Well here we go again. Confusion is lethal. I refuse to attack victims. White Supremacy=racism=capitalism=mistreatment. Family=non-white victims of white supremacy please show empathy for Mrs. Blige. Last time I checked we own less than 5% of all businesses here in the U.S. Most of us do not control resources or economics in our community. I will suggest that we become less confused and start to understand the power dynamic on this planet.

  • That’s That

    +1

    Thank you, absolutely ridiculous. I can kind of understand the outrage over the commercial if you’re one of those ppl looking to be offended by everything, but to come out of your face and say dumb ish such as “I refuse to eat chicken or watermelon in front of any white folks”… Huh? How could you allow any human on this earth to dictate when and what you eat? Mental slavery at its finest.

  • God’s Lady

    I’m sorry, I guess I’m not “evolved” enough. I just don’t see what the big deal is. Every person in America eats or has eaten chicken. Furthermore, every person has eaten at Burger King at some point as well. I think folks are being way to hard on Mary regarding this issue. Granted, maybe fried chicken is not the wisest thing to promote, but gee wiz all this “open letter” business; it’s a bit much. Just sayin’.

  • http://akamissi.wordpress.com/ AKA MISSI

    All weekend I was bombarded with my boyfriend singing Mary J Blige Burger King lyrics. He was, poking fun in disbelief that a Grammy award singer decided to add this commercial to her portfolio. He feels like her singing about fried chicken is as bad as singing about watermelon or grape Kool-Aid. I have to admit, if I would have saw the commercial with out the comments I probably would not think that the commercial is racist. But I would think that the commercial is tacky and she could have saved the embarrassment by keeping it simple. Why didn’t they have her walked in and just request the new chicken wrap? You don’t see David Beckham kicking a soccer ball into Burger King before requesting a meal.

  • Pingback: My Response to…An Open Letter to Mary J Blige « A.K.A. MISSI

  • Lilene

    THANK YOU Demetria!!!! You said everything I wanted to say about that awful commercial. I don’t know how some of these idiots can sit up here and say they don’t see the big deal…oh really? Ya’ll didn’t see the exaggerated hand-on-hip, rude black woman always interrupting others stereotype in there? Ya’ll didn’t find anything wrong about a legend like Mary J.singing her heart out about some chicken?!? Ya’ll didn’t see the other commercials with David Beckham and Salma Hayek and you didn’t notice that THEY weren’t asked to sing about the chicken wrap? Idiots acting like we can’t speak out for more than one racist cause at a time. Get out of here and take Mary J. Blige with you.

  • Fried Chicken Lover / Mary J. Blige music lover

    Obviously you do not appreciate the virtues of good fried chicken, to be so offended by another actor, who happens to be a black person – to take it this far… Get a real life and open your eyes!

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