When my husband and I watched Chris Rock’s stand-up show live four years ago, I swore the famous comedian, and my biggest celebrity crush, made eye contact with me. He took in his standing ovation, bowed his head in appreciation, and locked gazes with yours truly. At least, I’m pretty sure he did.
While my husband finds that claim almost as hilarious as Rock’s jokes, I uphold it.
Avid fans tend to create connections with the sources of their admiration. Sometimes they’re real, most times they’re not. What happened to me the night of Sept. 7, though, was 100 percent real. And, it turned this 35-year-old woman into a screaming, shameless tween of a fan.
Anyone who knows me well, knows my love for Mary J. Blige. They also know the megaphone I once used to broadcast that love has lowered its volume in recent years.
You could argue it’s because the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul went mainstream and I didn’t enjoy sharing her with the masses. You could make a case that her heartache turned to happiness and the music took a different tone. Or you could just say I became a legitimate adult, and adults don’t bother with all that "No. 1 fan" stuff.
But, when she made her entrance at The Pearl inside the Palms, I felt 15 again. I felt 18 again. I felt 21 again. And, I definitely felt like her No. 1 fan again.
Her blond hair was as platinum as her albums. She wore those huge, dark sunglasses that are quintessential MJB. Her long-sleeved, red romper exposed the rose tattoo that climbs her leg. Thigh-high platform boots stamped her every step with supreme swagger.
The chills in my body had a meet-and-greet with the tingles in my toes. Mary couldn’t have looked more Mary.
She opened, not with a Mary J. Blige jam, but a classic Chaka Khan song. Anyone who knows her well, knows her love for Chaka.
I know Mary well. I know she lived in the projects in Yonkers, N.Y. She saw her mom take physical abuse in her own home. She’s supertight with her sister LaTonya. She got her big break after recording a demo in a shopping mall. And, she had a rocky relationship with then Jodeci singer K-Ci.
As well as I know Mary, though, she knows me much better. That’s because she knows women. She’s been singing to our wounded hearts since 1992 with her debut album "What’s the 411?"
At the concert, we sang back. Mary gave that performance her all, and her audience returned the favor. We belted the lyrics to "I’m Goin’ Down," "Be Happy" and "My Life" with such vigor and passion, she stepped back from the microphone in a moment of pride and disbelief.
With every new song she sang, I could see the car I drove at the time, the bedroom I slept in, the boyfriends I dated. I remembered buying every magazine she graced the cover of, recording every TV performance she made, reading every last album "thank you" she wrote.
And then things took a turn. She dropped songs like "No More Drama" and "Family Affair" and picked up pop music fans. Two years later, she got married.
You know when a friend goes through some major life events and the friendship changes? That’s what happened. My fanship changed.
But if old friends are true, they have a way of making you feel like nothing has changed when you meet up after spending years apart. I bought tickets to that concert on a whim, an afterthought. I didn’t expect to dance so hard, sing so loud or tear up so much, but I did. Just like old times.
As we left the Palms, my appreciation for Mary felt so great, I had to express it. Taking to Twitter, I wrote 2012’s equivalent of a fan letter: "@maryjblige what an amazing show you put on tonight. It’s been too damn long. Thank u for giving ‘my life’ a soundtrack the last 20 years."
I tucked my phone back in my purse and rode the high from the concert as we drove to a local bar. About 45 minutes later, my friends, sister and I sat around a plate of onion rings. Out of habit, my phone came back out.
That’s when I saw it. That’s when I saw what felt for me how a blown Bieber kiss to an 11-year-old girl must feel. She retweeted me. Mary J. Blige, MJB, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul saw my tweet and sent it to her more than 3 million followers.
An expletive of sheer amazement left my mouth as the grip on my phone tightened. Eyes popping and heart dropping, I shouted: "Mary J. Blige retweeted me!"
Hearing myself say those words put me in a state of shock. Recognizing assistance was needed, a friend told me the first thing I needed to do was, not breathe, but take a screen shot of the tweet. Sage advice.
After creating photographic evidence of my moment of glory, I made my way around that little bar and gleefully exclaimed, "Mary J. Blige retweeted me" to anyone willing to listen. Four days later, I’m still saying it.
The feeling I got from making that personal connection with her doesn’t make me a No. 1 fan. It makes me a true fan.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.