"It was beautiful," Blige says of getting married, "because it taught me that ... when you actually invite somebody else in your life, you gotta give up yourself."
Mary J. Blige is loving life – and that wasn't always the case. The "No More Drama" singer is happily married to her husband of 10 months, producer Kendu Isaacs, and is a doting stepmother to his son Nasir, 5, and daughter Jordan, 7. Blige, 33, whom Sting calls the "heir to Aretha," has other reasons to smile: After struggling with drugs and alcohol for years, she's decidedly clean and sober. And she's releasing her first DVD, Mary J. Blige: Live from Los Angeles. Blige spoke to PEOPLE about learning to love herself, attaining peace through prayer and the importance of family.
Why was this the time right to do a DVD?
A lot of the songs I did on here I never did on the tours that I've done prior to this summer's. The fans were always requesting them. It's a lot of history on here.
You're a dynamic performer onstage. What do you do to summon all that energy?
I pray. I grab my band, and if I can't get to them, I just pray by myself. I make sure I give God the glory for giving me the confidence to go out there and be sure about what I'm getting ready to do so my fans can look at me and say, "Wow, she's really grown." It took a lot to grow into a confident area. It took prayer to get there.
What's different about you today versus five years ago?
There's a caring for Mary J. Blige in Mary J. Blige, and she really likes herself and you can see that. Not in an arrogant, vain way – but I really like what I look at when I look in my eyes in the mirror. That gives me the confidence. That's what people are seeing.
You didn't like the person you saw in the mirror before?
Oh, I used to hate Mary J. Blige. I used to really hate her, and that's probably why people are so proud, because people saw the hate in my eyes and the deep hurt and hatred for myself and it showed in the self-destruction that I (went through).
What did you hate about yourself?
I was very insecure, and I didn't like my voice. I didn't like my body. I didn't like my face. I didn't like me – period. Now I've grown to love and accept Mary. Whatever she is, she's all I got.
How did you get to this point?
Through praying – asking God, "What's the answer to this?" He said, "You have to really start appreciating the things you have." That's what it is. Slowly but surely you'll start being like, "I'm all right. I'm pretty cool."