“People will disappoint you, but make sure you don’t disappoint you,” Mary J. Blige remarked at her charity fashion event in New York.

It’s a lesson she learned repeatedly in more than two decades of making music. The songstress, known for her soulful sound, often derives a lot of her passion from life experiences — many of which were rough.

Now she hopes that her role in hip-hop will empower women who follow her. That was the idea behind her collaboration with Catherine Malandrino to raise money for the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now.

UK R&B artist Estelle talked about Blige’s influence when considering musicians who represent causes that have a positive impact on a younger generation, ” I definitely think Mary J. Blige comes to mind.”

When it comes to causes, Blige believes each generation of rappers influence their listeners differently. Early hip-hop artist tend to use lyrics to champion social and political causes. Now, they can take up issues outside of their music through foundations, PSA’s and charities.