Mary J. Blige Takes on New Role to Help Diversify the Spirits Industry

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Singer, actress and multi-hyphenate Mary J. Blige has a new title to add to her resumé: spirits industry investor.

Blige debuted an Italian wine brand, Sun Goddess last year, and this summer, she’s backing a new initiative aimed at increasing consumer awareness of the need for diversity in the alcohol industry.

Blige is among the marquee names that have joined ReserveBar’s newly formed “Spirited Change Initiative” as investors. Other investors include producer Sean Combs and Thirty Five Ventures, the investment firm founded by Brooklyn Nets star and newly-minted Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant and his longtime manager, Rich Kleiman.

ReserveBar, an online spirits retailer, created the Spirited Change Initiative to provide exposure to minority- and women-owned alcohol brands, which reportedly make up less than 5% of the sector. ReserveBar says it is committing $5 million through 2024 to the effort, which will be used to give brands marketing services and exposure, including spotlighting brands on its platform.

Sun Goddess wines, which launched last year, will soon be one of the female-owned brands to be sold on ReserveBar. “Going to Italy, and being immersed in this new world, as a wine lover, was a dream come true,” Blige says, in an emailed statement to Rolling Stone. “Launching during a pandemic wasn’t how I imagined the start of this new venture, but the success so far has completely surpassed any expectation I had, and we’re not done yet!”

While her journey in the wine and spirits industry is relatively new, the singer says the impetus behind something like the Spirited Change Initiative is near and dear to her heart.

“I feel very close to the work of SCI because I understand what it’s like wanting to have your voice heard when people won’t listen,” Blige says. “I’ve been fortunate in my career to be surrounded by peers and women who lift me up, and this is my chance to do the same for others.”

Blige adds that joining the initiative “was a natural fit,” in part because she’s long benefited from a tight-knit support system. She sees her work with ReserveBar as a way to pay it forward.

ReserveBar CEO Lindsay Held adds in a statement that the company culture is “committed to fostering action-based diversity and inclusion,” with the goal of “providing equitable opportunity for all.”

As for Blige, she may be a wine brand owner and investor but she hasn’t left music. A new song, “Hourglass,” debuted alongside her recently released documentary, Mary J. Blige’s My Life. The artist promises fans that “more is coming.”

Blige’s new ventures also point to the ongoing trend of artists stretching beyond music and into new fields, whether it’s wine (Post Malone’s Maison No. 9, also at ReserveBar), cosmetics (Rihanna’s Fenty, Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories) or cognac (Jay-Z’s D’Usse). According to Blige, it makes perfect sense that creative types will find inspiration in more than one place.

“I think it’s unrealistic to think that musicians are a monolith,” Blige says. “We’re creative people with passions in many different areas. You can’t define me as just a ‘singer’ or ‘actor.’ I can create space to explore other passions and interests. The only risk I see is when you start to expand into spaces you don’t have a fire for, or you take your eye off the ball. Everything you do needs to make sense for who you are. Otherwise, it’s not worth your time.”

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