Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
We Belong Together, Without You, One Sweet Day
Currently Known For:
Singer, Songwriter, Actress, and Record Producer
We Belong Together, Without You, One Sweet Day
“If you see me as just the princess, then you misunderstand who I am and what I have been through.” With a jaw-dropping five-octave vocal range and her iconic whistle register, Mariah Carey has one of the most recognizable voices in the music industry. She launched her career in the 1980s and has spent the last three decades building a stellar reputation as “Songbird Supreme” with hits like “We Belong Together,” “Without You,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and “One Sweet Day.” These hits are only a glimmer of her incredible success with 18 number-one ranked singles as well as 19 World Music Awards, 14 Billboard Music Awards, 10 American Music Awards, and five Grammy Awards.
Beyond her impressive career as an artist, Carey is also known as one of the industry’s biggest divas and rightly so because of her success! From her marriages to Tommy Mottola (1993-1998) and Nick Cannon (2008-2016) to her role as a mother as well as her recent return to the studio with Caution, let’s take a closer look at the 48-year-old songbird and her journey to fortune and fame as one of the best-selling recording artists of all time!
“My mother is Irish, my father is black and Venezuelan, and me—I’m tan, I guess.” The daughter of an African American aeronautical engineer and an Irish American opera singer, Mariah Carey came into this world on March 27, 1970, in Huntington, New York. Her parents faced the first of many setbacks in the 1970s when her mother’s family disowned her after she married a black man. This neglect trickled down to the young Carey who never felt like she belonged. “I wished I had darker skin,” Carey later admitted. “I had to go through so much in my childhood just to feel accepted and worthy of existing on Earth because I felt so different from everybody else growing up, because I was biracial, because I was so ambiguous looking and because we didn’t have the money to escape whatever the everyday realities of life were.”
Carey’s parents divorced in 1973 and the family split as Carey moved in with her mother and brother while her sister stayed with their father. This created even more confusion for Carey who, still not feeling like she belonged, started spending more and more time alone listening to the radio. “It’s been difficult for me, moving around so much, having to grow up by myself… my parents divorced and I always felt kind of different from everybody else in my neighborhoods,” Carey said. “I was a different person ethnically. And sometimes, that can be a problem.”
Sneaking a radio into bed with her each night to help her fall asleep, Carey’s passion for music blossomed as she dreamed of one day hearing her song on the radio. Inspired by the young Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5, Carey started writing poems and later put melodies to the words. Her mother, a talented classical opera singer, helped Carey develop her iconic five-octave range and whistle register but never pushed her into opera. Instead, she was happy to encourage Carey’s talents and interests.
Carey was a senior at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York when she landed her first songwriting gig with Gavin Christopher, an R&B singer, songwriter, musician and producer known for his connections to Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, and Chaka Khan. After graduating from high school in 1987, she left home and moved to Manhattan where she picked up a job as a waitress and shared a one-bedroom apartment with three other women. “By 18, I had left home and was living in the city, waitressing at the South Street Seaport,” Carey said. “I ended up staying with one girl on the Upper West Side. She had two roommates. It was a loft but it was [small]… I had to climb up on the kitchen counter to get in the loft. I still paid $500 a month for that little space.”
When she wasn’t waitressing, Carey spent the rest of her time writing songs for her four-song demo tape. Although the album didn’t capture any interest locally, Carey’s career was about to take off in 1988 after she met a young rising pop singer named Brenda K. Starr who took Carey under her wing and hired her to sing background vocals. Starr also taught Carey a valuable lesson about performing her own music. “I had seen documentaries about the Beatles selling their publishing or having it stolen. I had always written songs and, when I was around 18, I was offered $5,000 for all my music and I was like, ‘No.’ All these songs that ended up becoming No.1 songs later, after I got my deal,” Carey said. “I was singing background for Brenda and she was like, ‘You know what, Mariah? I want to do some of your songs. I’ll put them on my album.’ I was like, ‘You know what? I love you and thank you for hiring me but I’m going to keep my songs.’ I just believed in them.”Rise to Fame
“Stardom is a magical yet freakish situation at times. It’s a cliché but very true that at times, you feel so alone, even when you’re surrounded by so many people.” Starr invited Carey to a record executives’ gala in December 1988 where she introduced Carey to key players in the industry, one of whom was Tommy Mottola with Columbia Records. Mottola listened to Carey’s demo on his way home from the event and was instantly impressed by her vocal range. He offered her a recording contract and billed her as the label’s next top female artist with a $1 million advertising campaign that slotted her against rising stars like Whitney Houston and Madonna.
Carey released her self-titled debut album in 1990 and, although the album initially struggled, it bounced back as it climbed the Billboard 200 charts and earned Carey two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best New Artist. The album spent 11 weeks at the top of the charts and was eventually named the best-selling album of the year as Carey became a household name in the industry. She immediately got to work on her next album and released Emotions in 1991. However, the album failed to impress and was deemed a flop as many critics argued she couldn’t replicate her perfect pitch outside the studio on a national tour.
In response to widespread criticism over her voice, the young Carey booked an appearance on MTV’s Unplugged where she recorded seven singles “unplugged” and without studio equipment. The episode was met with critical acclaim and put all the rumors to rest that Carey was a manufactured artist. Instead, the revue inspired the release of Carey’s next EP, which was another massive success.
In 1993, Carey released her third studio album, Music Box, which featured hit singles like “Hero.” Because of her growing success, Carey knew she couldn’t deny her fans a tour any longer and embarked on The Music Box Tour, which was a six-date sold-out tour across the United States. Although it was short, the tour was a massive hit and sealed the album’s fate as one of the best-selling albums of all time. After the tour, Carey took a brief hiatus from the spotlight to focus on her life at home with label executive Tommy Mottola, whom she married on June 5, 1993.
Carey returned bigger than ever in 1994 with the release of her debut Christmas album, Merry Christmas. The album’s top single, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” made it the best-selling album of all time as Carey reestablished her stardom with follow-up albums like Daydream (1995) and Butterfly (1997). While both albums were successful, Carey struggled personally and professionally as she and Mottola argued over the direction of her career. This led to their separation in 1997 and their divorce in 2000. In the meantime, Carey took back the reins of her career and released her next album, Rainbow, in 1999.A Minor Setback Leads to a Huge Comeback
Taking control of her music and image, Carey reinvented herself in the new millennium. She was honored as Billboard’s Artist of the Decade and as the Best-Selling Female Artist of the Millennium at the World Music Awards. However, her personal break with Mottola and her determination to do everything on her own started to take a toll. Her behavior became more and more erratic as she posted confusing messages on her website and shocked fans and television host Carson Daly with a surprise striptease on MTV’s Total Request Live. On her website, she posted, “I’m trying to understand things in life right now and so I really don’t feel that I should be doing music right now. What I’d like to do is just take a little break or at least get one night of sleep…”
Shortly after her striptease and online announcement, Carey was hospitalized for extreme exhaustion and a physical and emotional breakdown. She spent two weeks under a doctor’s care and stayed out of the spotlight for weeks before she retreated to Capri, Italy where she spent five months writing new music. She released her ninth album, Charmbracelet, to negative reviews but vowed to come back even stronger and set out on The Charmbracelet World Tour: An Intimate Evening with Mariah Carey over three months across North America and East Asia. The tour was well-received and revitalized Carey’s passion for music as she returned to the studio for her tenth studio album, The Emancipation of Mimi. Thanks to hit singles like “We Belong Together” and “Shake It Off,” the album was a massive hit and marked Carey’s major comeback as Songbird Supreme.
Carey embarked on her next headlining tour, The Adventures of Mimi: The Voice, The Hits, the Tour, across the United States, Canada, Africa, and Japan. She released her next album, E=MC2 in 2007 and expanded her reach as an artist when she starred as an aspiring singer in the 2008 film, Tennessee. Bitten by the acting bug, she made a cameo opposite Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008) and confirmed that she’d finally found love a second time with actor and comedian Nick Cannon whom she met on the set of her “Bye Bye” music video in 2008. They married in a private ceremony in The Bahamas on April 30, 2008.
Settling down with Canon, Carey’s confidence soared over the next few years as she performed her hit single, “Hero,” at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama in January 2009. She returned to the silver screen later in the year as a social worker in Precious (2009). She also released her twelfth studio album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, and launched her seventh career tour—the Angels Advocate Tour.Life Today
“Everything is totally different than when I started as a kid. All I knew was the radio. When I first heard my song on the radio, it flipped me out. I couldn’t believe it.” Releasing her second Christmas album, Merry Christmas II You, in 2010, Carey surprised everyone when she announced she and Cannon were expecting twins. They welcomed Moroccan and Monroe into the world on April 30, 2011, as Carey spent the next few months embracing her new role as a mother before returning to the spotlight as a guest judge on American Idol. Her tenure on the show was short-lived, however, after an ongoing feud with Nicki Minaj made the work unbearable.
Carey released her next album, I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, in 2014 and confirmed her separation from Cannon in December 2014. Despite her personal setback, Carey pushed forward and surprised her fans in 2015 when she announced her Number Ones residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Later in the year, she launched The Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour and returned home to film Mariah’s World, an E! network docu-series documenting the tour and her upcoming nuptials to Australian billionaire James Packer in late 2016. Sadly, the engagement was called off as Carey later disclosed her ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder and its effect on her career and her relationships.
In 2018, Carey returned to Las Vegas for a second residency and released her 15th studio album, Caution. Today, the 48-year-old Songbird Supreme says that every step forward in the music business is another chance to full her childhood dreams. “To be true to that little girl who had so much faith, and hope, and belief and ambition,” she says. “And I love what I’m doing.”