Which is more legendary: Mariah Carey's voice or her ability to shade her rivals? As the top selling female artist of all time and one of the snarkiest entertainers in the world, Carey's persona lands somewhere between diva and troll. However, with the hotly anticipated release of her memoir, Carey is finally pulling back the curtain and revealing her true life story, and it's much more tragic than everyone expected.
Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, New York on March 27th, 1970. She was the youngest of Patricia and Alfred Roy Carey's three children, but she was hardly coddled. Carey claims that her childhood was a waking nightmare, full of violent fights, tension, and calls to the authorities. As a sign of the unhappy Carey home, by Mariah's third birthday, her parents were divorced.
Carey claims that though she and her mother are on better terms now, they had a volatile relationship when Carey was growing up. Patricia would often leave Carey at home alone when she was too young to take care of herself, or just let strangers keep an eye on her daughter. However, Carey's mother looks like a saint compared to Mariah's other family members.
According to Carey's new memoir, her brother Morgan was "extremely violent." He would fight both of her parents and once, when he pushed his mother into a wall, the impact was so intense that it sounded like a "gunshot." At the time, Carey was six years old and had to call the authorities herself. When one officer arrived, he looked at Carey and said, "‘If this kid makes it, it’ll be a miracle."
However, Carey has the harshest memories about her sister Alison. According to Carey's book, when she was 12 years old, her sister threw boiling tea at her, causing Carey to pass out and endure third-degree burns on her back. She also alleges that her sister gave her illicit drugs and pressured her to be intimate with Alison's boyfriend.
Unsurprisingly, the siblings have been estranged for many years, with Carey referring to Alison as her "ex-sister."
Tense relationships seem to run in the Carey clan. When Mariah's mother, who is a white woman, married her father, who is Black, many people in her family weren't thrilled about the wedding. Because of their prejudice, Mariah Carey's grandparents didn't pursue relationships with her siblings. They only invited Mariah over because she had the fairest skin of the their three grandchildren.
Carey has Irish, Venezuelan, and African American heritage, but she struggled to identify with mixed race identity. She recalls that when she went shopping with her father, people would stare. When Carey was in kindergarten, she drew a picture of her family and used a brown crayon to draw her dad. The teacher tried to correct her because she didn't believe Carey could have a Black father.
Because of her tumultuous upbringing, Carey looked for an escape. She found music and soon discovered that she had a powerful, unique voice. With a new sense of her value as a person, Carey started trying to break into the music industry with the help of her mother Patricia, who acted as Carey’s vocal coach. But even with her mother's support, Carey had a tough road ahead of her.
In the eleventh grade, Carey decided that school wasn’t for her. Apparently, her classmates felt the same way. Because she would skip class so often, Carey's nickname in high school was Mirage. After calling it quits on conventional education, Carey left high school and entered a beauty school for her junior and senior years. All the while, she was honing her voice and preparing for stardom.
As a lifelong perfectionist, Carey was distraught when she didn't have a record deal by her 18th birthday. Instead of partying, the teenager spent her big day at home crying and feeling like "a failure."
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As a young 18-year-old in New York City, Carey worked all sorts of jobs to pay the bills. She was a coat checker, a hostess, a waitress, and a hair sweeper at a salon. She struggled to make ends meet, but eventually got a job as a singer in New York City. Carey performed as a background singer in nightclubs, and eventually worked her way up to doing solos.
Carey has always written her own songs. While she works with co-writers, she doesn’t record or release anything that she didn't have a hand in.
During this time, Carey was working hard on a demo tape. One night, she attended a party for CBS records and gave her tape to Tommy Mottola, then the president of Columbia Records. On the way home from the party, Mottola popped the tape into his car stereo. Shocked at how good she was, Mottola searched for Carey for two weeks and then signed her for her first album.
In 1990, Carey's first album was titled with just her name: Mariah Carey. Four songs on the album became number one hit singles. Carey received $80,000 for her first record deal and later that year, won two Grammy Awards for her debut album, taking home trophies for “Best Female Artist” and “Best Female Vocalist.” However, she soon learned that fame had a dark side.
When Carey broke into the music industry, she worked incredibly hard to make a name for herself. She released eight new albums between 1991 and 2001. That's almost one album per year! While Carey's hard work cemented her spot in music history, the never-ending grind also exhausted her and, as we'll see, eventually led to a complete breakdown.
Exhaustion and stress weren't the only complications that the newly famous Mariah Carey had to deal with. She recently claimed that the instant she became successful, her family started to treat her like "an A.T.M. with a wig on." Ouch. Feeling distrustful of her family, Carey looked for partnership elsewhere. Unfortunately, she found it in the wrong man...
Mottola and Carey began to date while he was her manager and she was recording her third album Music Box. When they first began their romance, Carey was only 23 years old while Mottola was 44. Despite the dicey age difference and the conflict of interest for Mottola, the pair had a whirlwind romance that culminated in a lavish 1993 wedding. Unfortunately, their romance was doomed from the start.
After she married the most powerful man in the music industry, Carey learned that her new husband had a dark side. Mottola was controlling and obsessive. According to Carey, the couple lived in a massive house with security cameras and a permanent staff of armed guards. Carey called her new home "Sing Sing," referring to a jail nearby.
And when it came to her marriage's nightmarish elements, Sing Sing was just the beginning.
Carey felt surveilled from the moment she entered her new house. If she moved around the mansion to get a change of pace, Mottola or one of the guards would use the intercom system to ask her what she was doing. She felt like a captive in her own home and started to plan her escape. Carey slept with a secret bag under her bed so that, in case she reached her breaking point, she could quickly grab her essentials and run.
During one especially terrifying night with Mottola, the couple hosted a dinner party for people in the music industry. The night quickly went from glamorous to sinister. According to Carey's new book, Mottola became upset, started ranting and raving, and then threatened her by dragged a butter knife across her face. As a sign of how powerful Mottola was, none of the guests did anything to stop him.
After feeling like Mottola was trying to break down her will and destroy her self-worth, Carey was at the end of her rope. She finally broke when collaborators like Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri came to the mansion to work on song. While driving to buy some French fries from a local restaurant, Carey received a frightening phone call.
It turned out that the guards at the mansion were furious that she had left. They had armed themselves and were ready to forcibly bring her back.
At this point, Carey knew that her relationship with Mottola needed to end, so she hatched a clever plan. While taking acting lessons and preparing to make her big screen debut as an actress, Carey says that she secretly rented an apartment that was connected to her acting coach's unit. When she just couldn't bear to go back to Mottola, Carey would stay there.
Even after years of feeling controlled by her husband, Carey struggled to actually leave him. Ultimately, the singer needed external motivation to end her marriage--and it came in the form of the heartthrob baseball player Derek Jeter. When Carey and the Yankees player met, they immediately began a passionate affair.
Soon enough, rooftop escapes weren't enough for Carey and Jeter. When Carey heard that Jeter was in Puerto Rico on a trip, she couldn't resist the chance to escape Mottola and go see him. Carey begged Mottola to let her take a vacation to Puerto Rico (without, of course, mentioning that Jeter would be there). Once Carey arrived, she and Jeter escaped to a secret mansion.
After being married for five unhappy years, Carey finally severed ties with Tommy Mottola in 1998. While Carey felt free and liberated, Mottola did not feel the same way. He was furious that she had left him, so even though he was no longer her husband or her manager, Mottola used his power in the music industry to derail Carey's career.
After divorcing Mottola, Mariah Carey released her fourth album, "Butterfly" which moved away from ballads and into pop and hip-hop. The album was a huge hit, but its appeal wasn't just in its new musical style. It was also found in Carey's new image, where she moved from squeaky clean to sexy. Surprise, surprise, this shift did not make Mottola happy--and soon, he lashed out.
Once Carey was no longer under her ex-husband’s contract with Columbia records, she negotiated a new deal with with Virgin records. As a sign of how popular Carey was, the label gave her a record-breaking $100 million. At this point, Carey was at the top of the music game. However, her time in the sun wouldn't last for long.
For decades, Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have been involved in a vicious feud. But few people know that the roots of this conflict go back to Carey's acrimonious divorce from Tommy Mottola. At that time, Jennifer Lopez was a new musician who had just signed to Mottola's label. For years, music critics have argued that Mottola used Lopez to derail his ex-wife's career. Suffice it to say, the ways he did this were far from beyond above board...
Originally, Mariah Carey recorded a version of "Loverboy" featuring a sample from the song "Firecracker." But when Mottola learned about the track, he decided to pull the rug out from under Carey’s feet. He rushed to release a Jennifer Lopez song with the same sample before Carey's track could make it to the airwaves. Unfortunately for Carey, this song became the mega-hit, "I’m Real."
With a copycat song out, Carey had no choice but to scramble. She had to completely rejig her single "Loverboy" in record time. Not only was this an extremely stressful experience, when the song finally came out, it was vastly overshadowed by Lopez's single. And then the feud between Lopez and Carey got even messier.
Tommy Mottola wasn’t happy to ruin one of his ex-wife’s songs. When he heard that Carey had recorded a song with Ja Rule, he rushed a Jennifer Lopez duet with Ja Rule to compete with Carey's song. Once again, Carey's track, which was supposed to be a hit, lost its steam. As Jennifer Lopez's star ascended, Carey’s career was in turmoil.
Understandably, this was not a very good time for Mariah Carey’s life or career. She later said that she felt “lonely and sad"--and soon enough, people started to clue into her distress. On one infamous occasion, Carey trashed a hotel room and broke glasses. The outburst caused negative press and derailed her career even further. But things would get worse before they got better.
One of the very first viral internet moments occurred thanks to Mariah Carey. In 2001, Carey used her website to release distressing voice memos to her fans. In these messages, Carey said, “I can’t trust anyone right now" and revealed that she felt “paranoid about her life." At the end of her rope, Carey concluded the memo by saying that she needed a break.
However, that did not happen. Instead, her public relations team deleted the voice memos as soon as possible and forced Carey to keep working. This would have been horrendous consequences.
Over the next few weeks, Mariah Carey had an incredibly public mental breakdown. At one point during a turbulent interview, one of her staff members actually tried to take a microphone away from the singer. And then things got worse. Carey unexpectedly crashed the set of Total Request Live, with her strange behavior visibly confusing the host of the show. The failed PR stunt is now seen as the moment that Carey hit rock bottom.
While all this was happening, Carey was also supposed to be releasing an album and her debut movie, Glitter. However with all the drama in Carey's personal life, that did not happen. The release of the movie was postponed for three weeks for a terrible reason. Carey was struggling so much that she had to be hospitalized.
After leaving the Connecticut Hospital where she stayed for weeks, Carey tried to get back up on her feet, only to quickly enter another psychiatric facility. At the time, her managers told the newspapers that Carey was undergoing a “physical and emotional collapse." More specifically, though Carey only revealed this in 2018, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
However, instead of helping Carey in her time of need, Carey claims that her family hurt her even more.
According to Carey’s new book, her brother Morgan used this difficult time in Carey’s life to take advantage of her vulnerability. She claims that he took her to a place that he called a “spa." However, this was not the whole story. Carey believes that her brother and mother effectively held her hostage and tried to have her declared unstable so they could control her money.
The dumpster fire of 2001 wasn’t over for Carey just yet. Yet another tragedy was still in store. Carey had worked on her debut movie for years, but sadly, all her blood, sweat, and tears did not pay off. The resulting film, Glitter, is considered to be one of the worst film flops in cinema history. It didn't even recoup a quarter of its budget. Once her passion project, Carey later said that she regretted making the movie at all.
Unfortunately for Mariah Carey, the soundtrack for Glitter didn’t do well either. The soundtrack was her least successful album of all time and sales were so bad that Virgin records ended their business relationship with Carey. Just a few years before, she had been one of the most popular women in music. Now, no one wanted to work with her.
There’s another reason for the failure of the Glitter soundtrack. The CD came out on one of the darkest days in history: September 11, 2001. The release was justifiably overshadowed by the momentous events that took place that day, and an upbeat pop album was not exactly suitable for that moment in time.
During a revealing interview with Oprah Winfrey, Carey finally explained what happened behind the scenes of her infamous 2001 breakdown. She said that after leaving her husband and her old record company, she was so overworked that she only got one or two hours of sleep per night for months on end. She explained that without a manager who had her best interests at heart, she never learned how to say no–and eventually it all came crashing down.
After the failure of Glitter and her public mental breakdown, Carey quickly attempted a comeback with her next album, Charmbracelet, in 2002. The album certainly fared better than her last release, but failed to make a very large impact. It would take more than Charmbracelet to get Mariah Carey back on top.
The same year that Charmbracelet was released, Carey started one of her most famous musical feuds. Eminem claimed that during this time, he and Carey dated for around six months. He also alleged that Carey struggled with alcoholism. When Mariah Carey heard about the rapper's claims, she lashed out with some choice comments of her own.
Carey firmly denied that she and Eminem had ever been in a relationship. She even released an iconically shady song, appropriately called "Obsessed," where she claimed that Eminem was a delusional stalker with a pathetic crush. As well, when a talk show host asked Carey to "Say three nice things about Eminem" Carey responded by quipping, “They come in a package you can take anywhere, they come in peanut and chocolate...” Amazing.
In 2005, Carey made a full resurgence with her successful tenth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi. The release received a spectacular 10 Grammy award nominations and has gone down in music history as one of Carey's very best album. With Emancipation, Carey's career was officially back on track. However, her personal life was about to get very messy.
Mariah Carey is the queen of shade and I have proof. In an infamous interview with the shock jock Wendy Williams, she grilled Carey about whether she had breast implants. After Carey insisted that she didn’t, she quickly left the interview. Soon after the disastrous interview, Carey sent Williams a legendary piece of mail: An entire box of push-up bras.
In 2008, Mariah Carey walked down the aisle for the second time. On this trip, she didn’t marry a man who was significantly older than her–rather, the opposite. Carey wed the comedian Nick Cannon, who is a decade younger. The couple had a whirlwind six-week romance that culminated in a wedding in the Bahamas. As a sign of their devotion to each other, they got matching tattoos.
However, like all couple tattoos, this proved to be a bad idea.
When Carey struck a deal with the shaving company Gillette for their "Legs of a Goddess" campaign, she had her legs insured for over $1 billion.
Though Canon and Carey soon welcomed twins named Moroccan and Monroe, their marriage did not ultimately last the test of time. The couple separated in 2014 and divorced in 2015. Despite their break-up, though, the couple are devoted to co-parenting their twins peacefully. After Carey's tumultuous childhood, she says that she is making sure that her own children's upbringing is full of love.
In 2014, as Carey was separating from her husband Nick Cannon, her career was also in a bit of trouble. She joined the cast of American Idol and quickly realized that this was a terrible mistake. Carey immediately began to feud with her co-host Nikki Minaj and later described her time on the show as “the worst experience of my life.”
In March of 2003, Carey won the Guinness Book World Record for hitting the highest note ever sung by a human being during a performance of the Star-Spangled Banner.
No one does messy romance quite like Mariah Carey. In 2016, when she was back on the market after her second divorce, Carey began to see the Australian billionaire James Packer. However, their relationship was far from normal. The singer refused to sleep with her fiancé until the two were married and unfortunately for Packer, they never made it down the aisle. And that’s not the only strange thing about their relationship.
Reportedly, when Mariah Carey and James Parker broke up and ended their engagement, the singer had one final request for her ex-beau. Carey allegedly demanded that Packer give her $50 million. Her reason? The hefty sum was a “inconvenience fee" for Packer wasting her time during their failed relationship.
Here’s another incredible Mariah Carey musical feud. Back in the 1990s, Madonna seems to have done something to offend Carey. As a result for the snub, Carey has spent the next few decades constantly insulting Madonna with a series of impeccable snobs. For example, she once said, “I really haven’t paid attention to Madonna since I was in seventh or eighth grade, back when she was popular."
Very soon after breaking up with James Packer, Carey moved on with another flame. She began to see her back-up dancer Bryan Tanaka, who is a whopping 13 years younger. While the duo have a habit of breaking up and getting back together again, as of November 2020, Carey and Tanaka seem to be a couple.
Do you remember Mariah Carey's horrible New Year's Eve performance from December 31, 2016? Yeah, I think most of us wish we could forget it. In the odd performance, Carey declined to sing, instead awkwardly walking around the stage and ad-libbing over pre-recorded high notes.
When Carey finally addressed the horrendous performance in her recent book, she blamed audio issues and the weather, saying that the frigid temperatures have caused her delicate vocal chords to go numb.
In 2018, Carey was in for yet another scandal. That was the year that her ex-manager, Stella Bulochnikov, filed a lawsuit claiming that Carey had issues with substance abuse, that she hadn’t adequately paid her for extended periods of time, and even that Carey had sexually harassed her manager by refusing to wear clothing when they were in the same room.
Carey denied all these accusations, and eventually settled the suit outside of court.
To this day, there is bad blood between Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. Carey is quoted as saying, “I'd rather be onstage with a pig—a duet with Jennifer Lopez and me just ain't going to happen.” However, that isn't even the shadiest thing Carey has said about Lopez. In multiple interviews, Carey has ignored the superstar's existence. When Carey said "I don't know her" about Lopez, she instantly launched a petty catchphrase.
Refusing to acknowledge someone might be even worse than insulting them. Case in point: Fans were quick to notice that there were some significant omissions in Carey's recent memoir. The singer simply refused to mention Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, and her ex-manager Stella Bulochnikov entirely. Her silence spoke volumes. But for Lopez, Carey inserted a subtle dig. After overviewing the time of their feud (without naming names), Carey ended a section with "I'm real," referencing Lopez's breakthrough song (and the song that kick-started their tiff).
Despite her many feuds and her turbulent personal life, at the end of the day, Carey is most legendary for being an absolutely incredible singer. She won the award for being the “Best Selling Female Artist of the Millennium” and will go down in history as being one of the most successful musicians of all time.
As our last fact, pour it out to Mariah. She has an incredible 19 number one hits. That's more than any other solo artist.
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