Mariah Carey isn’t someone who rushes anything. So when it comes to a photo shoot, an afternoon naturally stretches into an evening, which turns into a late-night event.
At 10 pm – after a marathon of costume changes and notes on lighting (one of Carey’s many areas of expertise) – she’s finally ready to sit down for a print interview.
As we walk into her dressing room, Carey has refashioned this corner of the photo studio into her own private lounge. On a table, she’s displayed a scented candle and a lamp.
“I just hate fluorescent lighting, ” she says. “It’s toxic.”
She sips on a glass of red wine and nibbles from a container of pumpkin seeds. After she puts on a robe, she feels shy, so she asks a member of her team to bring her a second robe to wear over that one.“I just need a little coverage, because we’re a little nude under her, ” Carey says, talking about herself in the first-person plural. “Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow.”
Nonetheless, Carey has managed to make them come true, to climb to the peak of the music industry. Over her career, Carey has sold a staggering 65 million albums in the United States, according to RIAA, making her the second-biggest female artiste of all time, behind only Barbra Streisand.
And from 1990’s Vision Of Love to 2007’s Touch My Body, 18 of her singles (17 of which she wrote herself) have reached the top of the Billboard 100 chart, a record for a solo artiste.
Through it all, Carey says that she’s had to battle against perceptions of being a female, mixed-race artiste in an industry rampant with sexism. “I did not feel like I was being treated the same as some male artistes when I was coming out with my first album, ” Carey says of her 1990 debut.She also recalls having to rebuff the unwanted advances of powerful men in the music industry when she was younger. “Older guys, younger guys, ” Carey says, declining to go into specifics.
“And my natural thing is to be a problem solver. And so when things happen to me, I’m, like, ‘Walk away.’ Because that’s how I was my entire life. I’ve been in the storm too long for that to shake me.”
Where is Mariah Carey right now – creatively, artistically, personally?
Getting ready for Christmas.
Have you always loved Christmas?
When I was little, and we’re exploring this because I’m writing my book, I always wanted Christmas to be perfect and so special.
And my elder siblings, who I no longer communicate with, would ruin it every single time.
So therefore, I got my festivity from my mother because my dad wasn’t into it. But they were divorced so that was a different thing.
And when I wrote All I Want For Christmas, I was just thinking about: What are all the things that make me happy? And then I turned it into a love song.
I think one of my greatest achievements is writing that song. Although I love all of my favourite songs that I’ve written, I’m the most proud of Butterfly and The Emancipation Of Mimi.
Did you find that you were treated differently because you’re a female artiste?
The decision makers, particularly in the beginning of my career, were always men and exclusively men.
There were no powerful women around me, or even self-made women around me.
I made a decision early on that I never wanted to be beholden to a man. I didn’t want to be a kept woman.
Most people have the misconception that I was. I paid for half of every single bit of that gigantic mansion in Bedford.
I paid for the lights, everything down to the water because I said I wanted to do that.
When you’re with someone 20-something years older than you, and you’re a female, the perception is always going to be this girl’s being taken care of. No, darling.
And they made billions of dollars off my incessant work.
I did nothing but make albums. And I don’t want to give you more than you need because I want to save some for my book.
I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about.
Are you talking about your marriage to former Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola?
Yeah. I can’t assume that everybody knows that.
In that lifetime, which it feels like a whole lifetime ago, I used to feel like I lived vicariously through the girl on the screen.
I would watch the Dreamlover video and it’s not that I don’t want to hear the song or don’t love the song. I mean, Aretha Franklin told me that she loved the song. I’m proud of the song, but I just don’t feel like listening to it because it reminds me of a very specific era when I was really controlled by powerful men and corporate people.
When you look back at your songs, what was the turning point for you?
I would say the Butterfly album obviously is a huge turning point; thus, the name and the whole thing. And then fast forward, after the debacle that was Glitter, which everybody can read about in the book, because it’s a real moment we’re getting into.
And by the way, #JusticeforGlitter with my fans. I hope you include that if we talk about it, because the album went to No.1 this year.
That was a huge achievement for (my fans) the Lambs, who by the way named themselves. I did not name my fans, and I think it’s insulting that other people have named their fans. But whatever; we love everybody.When do you expect your book will come out?I just extended it a little bit, because I want to be really, really happy with it. So 2020 for sure, but not early 2020.
Have you met Donald Trump?
What was that like?
Not going to do it!
At Barbra Streisand’s concert in New York last summer, you took a picture with Hillary Clinton. And on Instagram, you called her “President Clinton.”
The Clintons were there, weren’t they? I’ve always loved the Clintons. I have a very kind of nostalgic attachment. And the Obama years, I’ll never forget the night that happened. And then I was fortunate enough to be one of the performers at the inauguration.You sang Hero that night.I did. Not my favourite performance of that, by the way. I was so unnerved. Certain things, I still get nervous, and then it’s live. It’s much better when I’m with my fans and having a casual moment. It’s just a little pressure, you know? It’s the first black president.
Do you think we’ll ever elect a female president?
I don’t know. I was so shocked when we had our first black president that I believe that anything is possible. We know that sexism exists. We know that racism exists. And we know that job is freaking extremely difficult.I think everything should be about, “What are your qualifications?”
Have you noticed a change in the way women are being treated in the music industry?
Yes, things are changing for the better. I’m really proud of looking at Missy Elliott and what she’s had this year, even though she beat me for the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Not mad; the second year I lost.
And I’m like, “Of course she deserves to have this moment.”
I love the fact that she’s always been her and she’s allowed to be her. I didn’t have the luxury of a group of people standing behind me and saying, “No, you can’t do this to this girl because it’s not fair.”And for me, I was like, “I guess this is the price I’m paying, because I’m unhappy but I’m having success.”
So I think something young women could take away from that is just be true to you and work really hard.
What do you think of the #MeToo movement?
I’m so proud of the women who have come to tell their stories, because I didn’t do it, and I should have done it. That’s an incredible accomplishment. – Reuters