Mary J. Blige’s Strength Of A Woman Festival Aims To Be The Next Great Cultural Fest For Black Women

As a cultural icon, Mary J. Blige has accomplished so much in music (hello, Time100 Most Influential People of 2022 list) and on TV (don’t forget about “Monet” on Power). Now, the Queen of Hip Hop Soul has spearheaded her own inaugural festival set to take place only in Atlanta; an idea she brought to Pepsi right after she performed at the Super Bowl this year.

“It’s the Strength Of A Woman Festival,” Mary told Uproxx in an interview. “We’re bringing all women together in Atlanta, where all the fans reside, and just sharing information and uplifting and empowering women.”

And, the experience was nothing short of spectacular. A loving sense of connectedness and warmth was present as many exciting events took place over that Mother’s Day weekend. It was a celebration that involved enriching attendees with meaningful panels during the day and, at night, live performances from the newer generation of artists like Baby Tate and City Girls and legacy acts such as 90s R&B group Xscape — and of course, Ms. Blige herself.

Everything was so well thought out, it was surprising to learn that the idea wasn’t something Mary and her team were planning for a while. According to the PepsiCo president of Multicultural Business and Equity Development and creator of Pepsi Stronger Together, Derek Lewis, they only had 10 weeks to make it happen with the goal for women “…to feel really inspired to go do greater work in whatever field they’re in personally and professionally.”

“The entertainment part obviously is tremendous, but for me — I really give a lot of credit to Mary and her team about their vision for this event — I would classify this as entertainment with a purpose,” Lewis proclaimed during our chat. “We are going to have massive engagement, entertainment, and excitement from an experience standpoint with the music, but it goes beyond that.”

“It was something that just came to us,” Blige explained. “Like, why don’t we do this? Because when we go to the Essence Festival, people are like, ‘I’m going to see Mary.’ So we’re like, ‘Hmm, well, let me just get my own festival and have everyone come to that festival every year.’”

For this to be the event’s first run, it was one of the smoothest conference-style festivals I have ever attended, while still having room to improve and expand each year. Especially with the Black-owned food trucks (shoutout to Fowl Play for holding it down with the lemon pepper wet hot wings) and empowering panels. I also loved the fact that I was able to enjoy Mother’s Day with my mom, who practically raised me on Blige’s music, while still being able to turn up to City Girls. Balance.

Mary has always been a great example of what the strength of a woman is all about. She has shown us what it means to overcome adversity while coming out on top and what it looks like embrace every enriching you want to do.

“Do not be held in a box,” she offered as advice when I asked how a person can achieve this. “Do what it is you want to do. Don’t let people tell you who you are. Know who you are and don’t be afraid of that. It takes confidence to get to the point where you’re not listening to every little word, and social media doesn’t help. Forget social media for a second. Be honest with yourself.”

Guidance like this is why being there for Mary was a no-brainer for “I Am” artist and festival performer Baby Tate.

“I think the entirety of my career has been based around the strength of women and making sure to remind women of their strength, and empower them through my music,” Tate told me after her performance. “It feels amazing to be on this lineup with so many women that I look up to, and that I am inspired by, and that empowers me when I listen to their music. It’s just great to be here.”

I also spoke for a bit with singer-songwriter Sevyn Streeter about how Mary can connect with every single emotion through her music and she named “As I Am” as the one song that uplifts her.

“I don’t care if you are a woman and you want to cry about something, or you want to go celebrate with your girls, or you want to remind yourself who you are, you want to look in the mirror and say, ‘Hello, gorgeous,’” she told me. “I think that’s just the power and the beauty of Mary J. Blige.”

Strength Of A Woman Festival is expected to return to Atlanta every spring, and it’s exciting to think of where they might go from here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

Uproxx was hosted for this event by Pepsi. However, Pepsi did not review or approve this story. You can learn more about the Uproxx Press Trip policy here.