It is clear even before Mary J. Blige appears for her cover shoot on a balmy Thursday morning in Brooklyn that the singer is her own weather event. A gust of nerves and angst passes through the airy salon. Not even 100 percent of the correct vibes—glowy mirrors, purple patent swivel chairs with the sheen of hard candy, and walls bedecked with fellow icons like Macy Gray and Lil’ Kim—can assuage the jittery crew. In the back of the salon, the singer’s go-to stylist, Jason Rembert, is reviewing a rack of clothing pulled for the photoshoot, caressing a yellow-and-black-printed puffer coat. The bustling ceases when Blige’s car pulls up to the front, everyone standing still in their spots as if Queen Elizabeth’s carriage were making its way down the Brooklyn street.
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul emerges from her Range Rover wearing her signature “ghetto fabulous” style: a logo-heavy Gucci bucket hat, cropped leather jacket, shorts, matching thigh-high Gucci GG monogram boots, and chains—lots of them. She flashes a nervous smile to the chorus of workers standing on the sidewalk and heads to her glam trailer to prepare for look one: a sumptuous floor-length, espresso-brown faux-fur coat.