On Wednesdays, we look at artist statements or design philosophy statements and discuss the best vocabulary to describe an artwork or design. Today we’ll look at the About page for Mary J. Blige, a musician and actress. She does the voice of Irene in the upcoming animated film Sherlock Gnomes.

Here are three paragraphs from her About page, in italics.

Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige is a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era. With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 32 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and five American Music Awards, Blige is a global superstar. In the ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base—responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Blige began moving people with her soulful voice when at 18 she signed with Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records in 1989, becoming the MCA-distributed label’s youngest and first female artist. Influenced at an early age by the music of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight, Blige brought her own gritty, urban-rooted style—fusing hip-hop, soul and honest, frank lyrics—to the forefront on her 1992 debut album What’s the 411? The multi-platinum set, executive produced by Sean “Diddy” Combs, quickly spun off several hits, including two R&B No. 1s: You Remind Me and Real Love.

Blige, who co-penned I Can See in Color for 2009’s Precious soundtrack, has branched out into acting. She appeared in Tyler Perry’s dramatic comedy, I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 2009 and starred in Rock of Ages, alongside Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand in 2012. Taking on a more dramatic role, in 2013, she starred as Betty Shabazz in the TV movie Betty & Coretta, a biographical story about the widows of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. Then in November 2013 Mary J. Blige starred as the mysterious guardian angel “Platinum Fro,” in the holiday musical film drama Black Nativity. Ramping up her acting career, Blige has guest-starred on the ABC comedy, Black-ish and the FOX musical drama Empire and most recently, starred as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West on the NBC musical, The Wiz LIVE!

Now my comments:

Many actors only give a list of the films they’ve worked on and the awards they’ve won on their About pages. It’s nice to see this example of a more detailed bio from Mary J. Blige. In the first paragraph, we get an overview of her career. Then in the second paragraph, we see details about her singing career, how she got started, and who her inspirations were. In the third paragraph, we learn about her acting career in both film and television.

Now let’s take a look at the vocabulary. In the first paragraph, we learn that this artist sings, writes songs, acts, and donates money to charities (philanthropist). She is described as one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era, which means she is someone who will be clearly remembered for their talents in this time period. We see the term track record, which we’ve seen before, to mean what she has achieved so far. A platinum album means an album that has sold a million copies, so multi-platinum means it sold multiple millions of albums. A Grammy is an award presented by The Recording Academy (a U.S. music organization) for achievement in the mainly English-language music industry. A Golden Globe award is for excellence in film or television given by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. In the last sentence, we see the phrase in the ensuing years, which means something that happened over time. A fan base is the group of people that follows someone famous, and to be intensely loyal means you support the person in whatever they do. The last part of that sentence, responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums, means that the fans are the ones that pushed (propelled) the sales to such a high level.

In the second paragraph, we see the phrase moving people. This means she moved them emotionally, or she made them feel something. Signed with means she joined the Uptown Records label, which is another way to say she made records for that company. Next, we learn who influenced her music, and we see her style described as gritty, and urban-rooted. Grit is small pieces of sand, but in art or music, gritty means something else. Here it means she talks about difficult topics in her lyrics, and urban-rooted means it comes from the city. Fusing means combining something, so in her music, she combined three things: hip-hop (a type of music), soul (another type of music), and honest, frank lyrics, which means she told the true details about life and didn’t just sing about happy topics. The phrase to the forefront means the same thing as to the front or forward, so these things are the focus of her album. In the last sentence, we learn that another musician, Sean “Diddy” Combs, provided the money for the album as the executive producer. Quickly spun off means something happened quickly as a result, and hits are songs that become very popular. R&B is another type of music, and it means rhythm and blues. To say a song is No. 1 means that it was the most popular song in the country.

In the third paragraph, we see the word co-penned, which means she wrote a song together with someone else. The phrasal verb branched out means she tried something new. A dramatic comedy is a film that is partly a drama and partly a comedy. Starred in means she was one of the stars, or famous people, in the film. A biographical story is a story based on history. A guardian angel is an angel believed to watch and protect someone. Ramping up is another phrasal verb that means to make something more intense, and a guest-star is a famous person who appears on a tv show, but not often. A musical is a movie or play where the characters sing during parts of the story.

In the Artglish courses, we include many details like these when you write your artist statement or design statement. Mary J. Blige’s bio is a great example of how rich and detailed an About page can be if you take the time to make it unique.

At Artglish, we help artists and designers to write a statement or About page that best describes their work. We focus on choosing the best vocabulary and language to help your work shine. If you’d like to learn more about what we offer, click here to get exclusive content, or check out our Courses page.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To see the complete bio on Mary J. Blige’s website, click the link below:

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