Mary J. Blige says she grew up in a ‘war zone’ — now she's making Oscars history

Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

This year, singer, songwriter and actress Mary J. Blige became the first person ever to earn an Oscar nomination for both an acting performance and an original song in the same film for her work in the drama "Mudbound." Her secret to making Oscar history? Hard work.

"I've been working my a-- off," she tells CBS. "I've worked really hard. This moment is the pay-off, and this moment says, 'You know what, Mary? You stood strong.'"

In addition to her two Oscar nominations, Blige has also been nominated for 31 Grammy awards and has won nine. Last month, on the morning of her 47th birthday, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"I always want to earn everything," she said during the ceremony. "When someone is praising me or looking up to me, I need to have earned that, so I'm so grateful for this star right now because I've earned it probably three times, but I'm so grateful that I have it!"

"We have been through a whole lot. We started from nothing," said long-time friend Sean "Diddy" Combs at the ceremony, as reported by NBC. "What makes Mary special, she moves people with not just with her voice but with who she is. She pours everything into a record and into a performance. Whatever she is going through, she knows she has a responsibility for those going through the same thing."

For most of her childhood, Blige lived in the Schlobohm Housing Project in Yonkers, New York. "We didn't live in a great neighborhood," she tells CBS. "You could call it Beirut! For a child, it was like a war zone."

Starting at the age of five, Blige endured years of sexual abuse from a family acquaintance and witnessed horrific physical abuse. "My mother went through awful abuse from my father," Blige once recalled. "He left us when I was 4, but he'd come back from time to time and abuse her some more."

In spite of this trauma, the reigning Queen of Hip-Hop Soul says she has found new inspiration from working on "Mudbound" and credits director Dee Rees for motivating her to pursue her newest career passion — acting.

"Dee Rees helped save my life and gave me the strength I did not know I had. And Mudbound has opened up doors," she says.

Most of all, Blige says that making "Mudbound" has shown her that, "Great things are sometimes born out of hard times, out of trials and tribulations."

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook

Don't miss: