A few days ago, I was asked to interview Mary J. Blige. Excited, I bought a new outfit, got camera ready with extra makeup, and drove to Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive for lunch and shopping with MJB. This all came thanks to Radio One and their online wing, Interactive One. In pursuit of giving back to the people, they chose one lucky winner, out of nearly 15000 contest entries, to indulge in an all-expensive paid trip to Hollywood, a $2500 shopping spree and lunch with Mary J. Blige. Radio One named me as their new online correspondent, in charge of capturing the moment and interviewing Mary J.
The winner was Candis Linen. Repping Cleveland, Ohio; she was no stranger to random luck. A few years ago, she also won tickets to meet, greet, and see R. Kelly in concert. But on a sunny day in Cally, she was raining joyful tears with her mother, as they waited to meet Mary J. Blige for lunch. “When I got off the plane, the driver was there with my name, waiting for me,” said Candis, recalling the first class service she received when landing at LAX. “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s my name. That’s for me.’”
But a personal driver was just the beginning. After a night in the jacuzzi at the swanky SLS hotel, day two of her trip included the ultimate prize: Shopping and lunch with Mary J. Blige at Mr. Chow’s in Beverly Hills. Lobster, shrimp, fillet mignon, the food calmed Candis’ nerves, stopping her from crying long enough to have a conversation with Mary about faith, removing negative energy, and allowing good things to come into one’s life. She confessed her dreams of becoming a social worker. And even sang favorite songs from What’s the 411. “This was just what I needed,” said Candis, the single mother of a 7 year old daughter. “Cause you know life…”
These were all beautiful moments I enjoyed in my Ryan Seacrest role of having to push the conversation along between Mary and Candis. I had visions of American Idol, where the contestant cries and can’t put their emotion into words. So Ryan grabs their hand whispering, “What are you feeling right now?” That was me.
But still, in the midst of the mushy gushy, I wanted to interview Mary. But she was waaay across the Mr. Chow’s table cutting up a piece of chicken.
“Y’all wanna interview her?” This was the question the label rep asked an hour earlier before Mary made her grand entrance. Eyes shifting, stance a bit fidgety, it seemed as if he started sweating at the thought. “Well what do you want to ask her?”
I wanted to say, “What’s in the new crispy chicken wrap?” But instead answered, “Ya know, about her current and upcoming projects. And whatever she wants me to ask,” I stressed, pointing to Radio One’s Marketing director, Janice Salgado, who added, “We want to talk about the contest and her projects.”
“Uh, well I have to ask, cause she’s gonna be like, What’s going on?” He stuttered, pulling out his iphone. “And when you talk to her, just lead her. Tell her what’s happening, cause she don’t know what’s goin on.”
Right. Like the Marvin Gaye song with a scene of that Burger King commercial flashing.
At press time, Burger King had apologized to Mary for releasing their now infamous Crispy Chicken commercial without her approval. They pulled most copies of it from the internet. [Scroll down my blog site to the April 3 entry: “Mary J. Loves Chicken” and check the commercial.] It still cracks me up. LOL! Ms. Blige’s statement for the record was, “I agreed to be a part of a fun and creative campaign that was supposed to feature a dream sequence. Unfortunately, that’s not what was happening in that clip, so I understand my fans being upset by what they saw. But, if you’re a Mary fan, you have to know I would never allow an unfinished spot like the one you saw to go out.”
But I didn’t want a well-written statement released to Advertising Age. I wanted embellishment, emotion, truth.
So I stayed close to Candis, documenting her story of the perfect Easter Weekend getaway, thinking that if Mary was there for the contest winner, she had to come near me to get to Candis.
But every time I set the camera up for a one on one word with Mary, she managed to whizz by. I stood at the door of Mr. Chow’s, waiting for her to stop, but she ran to the SUV when paparazzi jumped from behind the bushes. At the Gucci store, I found a way to block the entrance so she’d have to stop and give me 60 seconds, but when I moved to let customers in, she slipped by again, this time looking at me, as she rushed inside the car. “She’ll be back,” said the label rep. “They went to Neiman Marcus real quick.”
I pulled out my compact and oil blotting sheets saying to myself, “Uh huh, this chick is ducking me.”
In the end, Candis met Shaquile O’Neal’s ex-wife Shaunie, and got an autograph from rapper Soulja Boy, both who just happened to stop by Gucci. She also walked away with two huge shopping bags, filled with boxes and shoes handpicked by the hip hop soul queen. “I want this,” said Candis, holding her tan Gucci purse to her chest. “Mary picked this out for me.”
But all I got was anxiety. Admiring designer racks, playing producer, getting shots of the contest winner modeling her new shoes, I waited. And waited for my one on one. An hour later, Mary’s reps were back, but MJB was MIA.
“Oh,” someone said. “She left.”
I looked at my camera girl, Fiorella, and sucked my teeth, because the opportunity was gone. I’d never see Mary again… Damn.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Fiorella Occhipinti