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More than once, strong black female characters on TV have been criticised for not being the perfect role models for women, even labelled instead as “angry black women” as we saw in the case of Olivia Pope in Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal.

Gabrielle Union’s Mary Jane Paul too, has found herself the subject of this debate, with some suggesting that her rage – which we are first introduced to when she discovers that her boyfriend Andre (played by Power’s Omari Hardwick) is married back in Being Mary Jane Season 1, episode 1 – makes her the perfect stereotype of the angry black woman.

Being Mary Jane S4 is now streaming on Showmax.

Stereotypes aside, Mary Jane is a smart, independent and successful black woman whose fierceness and hard work have seen her rise to the top of her career – all while dealing with serious issues such as suicide, failed ovulation experiment on live TV and acquiring a string of failed relationships along the way. But still she rose, owning her #blackexcellence and #blackgirlmagic in her life full of drama, and teaching us a thing or two about love and life in the process.

1. Nobody is perfect

With her six-figure salary and her new Tesla, MJ’s life may look perfect at first glance. I mean, she’s killing it at her job as a news anchor – and rising fast to the top – while giving all women closet goals with her enviable colour block and contrast belt sheath dresses (I’m not a fashionista guys, I had to Google this last one). But beneath her perfect exterior is a woman just looking for love as she goes through a series of failed relationships.

Even though she may look it, MJ’s life is anything but perfect –  we have watched her make a mess of her life at work and in her personal relationships, at times never learning from her mistakes (hands up if you’ve sometimes wanted to slap this woman). She even did that weird thing where she stole her ex’s sperm. Ahem, the things we do for love… but here we are rooting for her because even the best among us have their flaws.

2. Never settle in a relationship

MJ has been broken so many times by the men she has loved deeply – some have left her at the brink of death like her “true love” David whose clandestine liaison with her best friend caused MJ to have a tragic car accident in Season 2’s finale.

In between David and her heartbreak, there was the scumbag Andre – a married man who tried to weasel his way into MJ’s heart. Then there was the eccentric rich lawyer Sheldon before she finally moved to New York and broke a Brit’s heart to follow the man her heart truly desired. Who can blame her? Michael Ealy is a thing of beauty with those eyes.

She may have jumped from one relationship to the next, but the point is, she wanted better for herself and she never settled for just “good enough” even when we were begging her to settle with that handsome booty call of hers, Cutty Buddy.

3. Uplift yourself with notes to self

Even in complete chaos, one thing is a constant in MJ’s life – the post-it notes she writes to herself and sticks on her walls around the house, her inner voice that guides her journey through life both in her relationships and in the workplace.

Perhaps acting as her constant therapy, these sticky notes with positive affirmation quotes define who MJ is – or the woman she must become in her quest for love and success.

“The woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself”; “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”; and so on. With quotes like these adorning her bathroom wall, it’s no wonder she gets through some of the messiest experiences.

Try it sometime – write positive notes to yourself, recite them as a mantra and see how that turns out – your thoughts may surprise you.

4. Keep your family and friends close

MJ’s family may sometime get on her nerves, but she’s always there for them when they need her because at the end of the day, family is the most important thing. Even when dealing with her own complicated love life, MJ still manages to help her troubled niece through her teenage pregnancy, help her older brother deal with his sobriety and support her nagging, petty mother as she fights cancer and all the other family drama she has to deal with.

Then there is the best friend MJ could ever ask for, Kara, a hardworking single mom and MJ’s producer who stays true and loyal to her – whether our homegirl is dealing with work drama or relationship drama.

They may fight and disagree on a number of issues but they are always there for each other when it matters the most. And we all know MJ is ambitious but can we all just acknowledge that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the phenomenal BFF Kara Lynch.

5. Find the most important thing to you, and fix your energy there

MJ has a lot going on in her life – she takes care of her demanding family, deals with numerous heartbreaks, and she still manages to rise above it all and make it to her dream job in New York City. Even when facing great challenges – the woman came back from a face-deforming accident – she still manages to fix her energy in her career, and look absolutely fabulous while doing it.

Ready to become the student of one of the fiercest women in modern-day TV? Being Mary Jane S1-S4 is now streaming on Showmax.

Start watching now »

About the author

Jennifer Ochieng

I'm a Kenyan creative writer with eight years' experience in both the SEO and entertainment industries. I like writing stories about people I've met, but mostly about those I see on TV. Sometimes, when I'm melancholic, I write poetry as well. Visit author's website

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