Family & Companions
Once named the most successful artist of the 1990s by Billboard magazine, pop diva Mariah Carey overcame an industry biased towards her mixed ethnicity to become one of the most successful solo artists of all time. Following her self-titled debut album, Carey spent the next several years topping the charts while becoming the first artist to ever have their first five singles reach No. 1. Though reluctant at first to sing on stage, Carey delivered a rousing performance on "MTV Unplugged," which led to high ratings for the series and a best-selling album. But it was her third record, Music Box, that established her as an international star, thanks to over 30 million copies selling worldwide. In 2005, The Emancipation of Mimi put her atop the charts once again while winning two Grammy Awards. Carey also found herself the subject of serious Oscar buzz for her performance as a social worker in the indie drama "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" (2009), all of which helped solidify Carey as one of the most versatile and beloved performers of her generation.
Born on March 27, 1970 in Huntington, NY, a large coastal community on the north side of Long Island, Carey was raised by her father, Alfred, an aeronautical engineer of African-American decent, and her Irish-American mother, Patricia, an opera singer and voice coach who attended the Juilliard School. When she was three years old, her parents divorced, leaving Carey to grow up with her mother, who began giving her vocal lessons after hearing her daughter imitate her singing Verdi's opera, "Rigoletto." By the time she was attending Harborfields High School in neighboring Greenlawn, Carey was well on her way to a singing career, frequently skipping classes in order to perform as a demo singer at local recording studios. After graduating in 1987, she began making strides in the Long Island music scene and recorded songs for her demo tape before moving to New York City. Once there, she began working odd jobs to pay the rent, even going to beauty school in case the singing career failed to pan out. Carey eventually found her way in the door by becoming a backup vocalist for Latin singer Brenda K. Starr.
In 1988, Carey was at a party where she had a chance meeting with Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola, whom she personally gave her demo. After listening to the tape after the party, Mottola managed to track Carey down and within days signed the octave-shattering diva-to-be. While she was recording her debut album, the aptly named Mariah Carey, the singer and the producer began a romance despite the latter being 20 years her senior. The album reached the top spot on the Billboard charts and spawned four No.1 singles, including "Vision of Love," her debut single that won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Also that year, she won a second Grammy for Best New Artist. But even before she was rewarded music's biggest award, Carey was famous for her wide-ranging voice, which was said to cover five octaves. Even more amazingly, she was capable of singing in the whistle register, the highest register the human voice can muster. Comparisons to the likes of Whitney Houston and even Barbara Streisand were bestowed on her almost from the start.
As writer or co-writer of her songs, Carey also emerged as a gifted songwriter who demonstrated that she had her finger on the pulse of popular music, turning in heart-wrenching ballads and melodic dance songs that were perfect for 1990s radio. Her next album, Emotions, failed to match the success of her debut, though the title track reached No.1 on the Top 100, making her the first artist to have their first five singles reach the top spot. Subsequent singles from the album failed to follow suit. Initially reluctant to tour due to stage fright, Carey had an impressive live showing on "MTV Unplugged" in 1992, where she performed, among other songs, an emotional reworking of the Jackson 5 hit, "I'll Be There." The ratings were so high for the show that an EP was released the following year, reaching triple platinum status in short order. Meanwhile, Carey had her first network special, "Mariah Carey" (NBC, 1993), which showcased her bubbly personality and remarkable singing voice to a primetime audience. Most importantly, however, Carey married Mottola in June 1993 in a lavish $500,000 ceremony, attended by everyone who was anyone in the entertainment business. It would not be long, however, that the dark underbelly of their seemingly perfect union would be exposed.
By the time her third album, Music Box (1993), hit the shelves, Carey was an international star. Thanks to her high profile and catchy hit songs, the album became her fastest-selling recording to date, reaching No.1 on several charts across the world and accumulating over 32 million copies in international sales, while churning out the hit singles "Dreamlover" and "Hero." While enjoying the success of Music Box, Carey recorded a duet with smooth R&B star Luther Vandross, updating the 1980s hit "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. The following year, she scored another chart-busting hit album, Merry Christmas, which featured a rollicking original, "All I Want For Christmas Is You," which had a bouncy beat and tight melody. Meanwhile, Carey used her celebrity to advance philanthropic causes, becoming an active supporter of the Fresh Air Fund, a program designed to bring nature to the lives of underprivileged urban youth. In 1994, she cut the ribbon on Camp Mariah, which allows inner-city youth to explore the arts in a more rural environment.
Continuing to dominate the music scene in the 1990s, Carey released her next album, Daydream, in 1995. Noted for its lean towards a more R&B and hip-hop sound, the follow up to Music Box showcased several hits that went on to become her second best selling recording at that time. While the upbeat numbers "Fantasy" and "Always Be My Baby" received a great deal of radio play, the moving single "One Sweet Day" spent an amazing 16 weeks in the No.1 spot, making the sentimental collaboration between the singer and the R&B vocal group, Boyz II Men, the biggest song of the year. In 1996, Carey created Crave Records, a division of Sony Music that boasted releases by the R&B groups Allure and 7 Mile. But the next year, the cracks in her seemingly impenetrable façade began to show when her and Mottola entered into a trial separation in May 1997, leaving her fairy tale-like romance shattered. Though the official statement claimed an amicable split that would not disrupt their professional relationship, it was apparent that Carey felt trapped by the overly-controlling Mottola, even whispering that there were incidents of violence. Mottola's camp countered with accusations that Carey embarked upon her short-lived affair with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter prior to their separation, though no evidence for the claim existed.
Soon after the separation, Carey hired an independent publicist as well as a new attorney and manager, and she continued to write while producing albums for other artists through her short-lived imprint, Crave Records. During the messy and very public divorce, Carey recorded her next record, Butterfly, which proved to be a marked departure from her previous efforts in terms of music and image. While married to Mottola, Carey maintained a sexy, but basically squeaky clean image that was accented by long dresses that complimented rather than exposed her shapely body. But with Mottola' s influence a thing of the past, both her music and her image became overtly sexual - gone was the girl-next-door façade; in its place was a new and independent woman unafraid to put her physical assets - some said, surgically enhanced assets - on display. Meanwhile, Butterfly had a decidedly edgier take, infusing more hip-hop elements into her R&B/pop sound - further testament to her newly found independence. The hits "Honey" and "My All" ensured that Carey enjoyed the same popularity she always had, even in the wake of her new image. Meanwhile, when the divorce was finalized in 1998, Crave Records ceased operations.
By the end of 1998, her romance with Jeter had ended and she was involved with musician Luis Miguel, who was once dubbed the "Elvis of Mexico." Meanwhile, with over 100 million records sold, Carey was one of popular music's heavy hitters. She appeared on the VH1 special "Celine, Aretha, Gloria, Shania and Mariah: Divas Live" (1998), which was as a testament to her status and vocal prowess. The special and subsequent CD were successful, proving Carey deserving of the Diva moniker. Also that year, she teamed up with fellow diva Whitney Huston to sing "When You Believe" for "The Prince of Egypt" (1998) soundtrack. Though rumors ran rampant that the two were embroiled in jealous power struggles, the song ended up being a quality collaboration and a big hit. Carey followed Houston's footsteps to the big screen in 1999, taking a small role as an opera singer in "The Bachelor," a romantic comedy starring Chris O'Donnell as a man who must commit. That same year, she revisited her hometown alma maters for "Mariah Carey's Homecoming Special" (Fox, 1999). Next, Carey partnered with rap star Jay-Z on "Heartbreaker," the lead-off single from her album Rainbow, which was later certified triple platinum.
In 2000, Carey was at the height of her career, having won numerous awards, including Billboard magazine's Artist of the Decade. The following year, she left Columbia and signed a deal with Virgin Records for a reported $100 million, only to hit a sudden skid in her career that was marred with poor album sales, several embarrassing public moments and one terrible movie. After being sidelined from touring with a bad case of food poisoning, Carey was named in a lawsuit that alleged her hit, "Thank God I Found You," was borrowed from the Xscape song, "One of Those Love Songs." She began leaving rambling messages on her website which - in light of what would soon happen - was the first clue that all was not right with the singer. In July 2001, she made a surprise appearance on "Total Request Live" (MTV, 1998-2008), where she proceeded to do a mock striptease act while handing out popsicles to the audience with a genuinely surprised host, Carson Daly, watching the hijinks in utter confusion. Just days later, Carey was admitted to a New York hospital where she recuperated from what her publicist called an "emotional and physical breakdown" brought about by overwork and lack of sleep. Embarrassing as the moment was, nothing compared to her feature film debut, "Glitter" (2001), a showbiz drama loosely based on her own rise to fame.
Already marred by her public breakdown, the film opened to scathing reviews, which tagged it as being one of the worst movies ever made. For her part, Carey was savaged for her laughably wooden performance, which spurred talk about why she was ever allowed to act in the first place. When all was said and done, "Glitter" was a commercial failure - as was the subsequent soundtrack - that marked a definite low point in the singer's career. Making matters worse for her that year, Carey ended her short on-again, off-again affair with Luis Miguel. The following year offered Carey more of the same public embarrassment, starting with a win for Worst Actress at the Golden Raspberry Awards for her performance in "Glitter." Around the same time, Virgin added insult to injury when they embarrassingly bought out her lucrative contract for $28 million, thanks to the poor sales of the "Glitter" soundtrack and the perception that she was just about done as a top-selling artist. She bounced back a bit after signing with Island Records, releasing her first album, Charmbracelet (2002). While the record sold better than Glitter, it was still deemed both a commercial and critical failure.
Taking a brave turn back into acting, Carey fared better in the crime-drama, "Wise Girls" (2002), playing one of three waitresses at an Italian restaurant - the other two played by Mira Sorvino and Melora Walters - who become caught up in drug-running, cover-ups and murders. After a screening at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Carey was the recipient of a fare amount of positive buzz for her grounded performance. She turned to the small screen with a guest-starring role on an episode of "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002), which she followed with a small part in the low-budget sequel, "State Property 2" (2005). Making her musical comeback in a big way, Carey released The Emancipation of Mimi, which many critics hailed as a much-needed return to form. A bestseller the world over, including reaching almost 6 million copies sold in the United States alone, The Emancipation of Mimi also earned her two more Grammy Awards; one for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for the track "We Belong Together;" the other for Contemporary R&B Album. She followed up with E=MC², a rehash of its predecessor that some critics called pedestrian, but it sold well nonetheless.
After partnering with Elizabeth Arden to launch her own fragrance and making an appearance as herself in the Adam Sandler comedy "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" (2008), Carey released her twelfth studio album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (2009). Both critically well-received and bound for commercial success, the album was noted for several songs that appeared to target rapper Eminem. Previously, the rapper had targeted Carey's husband, Nick Cannon, whom she married in a small surprise wedding in the Bahamas in 2008, in which he told Cannon to step off, claiming Carey for himself. Meanwhile, Carey made a return to acting, starring in the indie drama, "Tennessee" (2009), in which she played an aspiring singer who escapes her controlling husband and joins two brothers (Adam Rothenberg and Ethan Peck) on a journey to Mexico, where they hope to find their estranged father after one of them is diagnosed with leukemia. She next co-starred in the indie drama, "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" (2009), co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, which focused on an obese, illiterate girl from Harlem who lives in an abusive home and looks to find a new life by attending an alternative school. Carey played social worker Ms. Weiss and earned serious Oscar buzz following the film's screening at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. But no Academy Award nominations were forthcoming, and Carey went on to record her second-ever Christmas album, Merry Christmas II You (2010), which featured a re-mix of her previous Yuletide hit "All I Want for Christmas Is You." The following year, she became a mother for the first time when she and Cannon had fraternal twins, Monroe and Moroccan, in April 2011.
While continuing to record and perform, Carey began making waves that she might join "The X-Factor" (Fox, 2011-14) as a host for it second season, but those rumors were put to rest when she was confirmed as a judge on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16) in July 2012. The news came a week after judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez announced their departures. Unfortunately, Carey clashed almost immediately with fellow new judge Nicki Minaj, and the gossip reports about their behind the scenes squabbling quickly overshadowed a lackluster season; neither returned for a second season. Carey appeared in a small role in the historical drama "Lee Daniels' The Butler" (2013) and provided a guest voice on an episode of the animated series "American Dad!" (Fox 2005-2014/TBS 2014- ). In May 2014, Carey released her long-delayed album Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse; originally set to be released in 2012, it was held back after several singles underperformed on the charts. The album itself only reached number three on the Billboard 200 album chart and dropped off the charts entirely after only eight weeks, making it the worst-selling album of her career. Carey's public turmoil multiplied in August 2014 when it was announced that she and Cannon were separating.
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Presented her demo to Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party and he signed her to a recording contract shortly after
Began career as a backup singer for freestyle balladeer Brenda K. Starr
Released her debut album, <i>Mariah Carey</i>, which included the breakthrough hit, "Vision of Love"
Followed up with the comparably successful sophomore effort, <i>Emotions</i>
Released <i>MTV Unplugged</i> from her appearance on the music series; hit No.1 with her remake of "I'll Be There"
Starred in the NBC special "Mariah Carey"
Released the album <i>Music Box</i>, featuring the hit "Dreamlover"
Teamed up with Luther Vandross to cover the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie hit, "Endless Love"
<i>Merry Christmas</i> is released, launching the hit holiday original, "All I Want For Christmas"
Released the hit album <i>Daydream</i>
Collaborated with Boyz II Men on "One Sweet Day," which is later named the biggest recording of the year
Founded Crave Records under Sony Music Entertainment
Released the album, <i>Butterfly</i>, marking her transition to a more hip-hop inspired sound
Shut down operations at Crave Records in July
Teamed with Whitney Houston for the single "When You Believe," the theme song for the animated feature "The Prince of Egypt"
UPN aired the concert special "Mariah Around the World"
Had a small role as an opera singer in "The Bachelor"
Released the album, <i>Rainbow</i>, featuring the hit single "Heartbreaker"
Teamed up with rap star Jay-Z for the single, "Heartbreaker"
Performed in the VH1 special, "Divas 2000: A Tribute to Diana Ross"
Starred in the semi-autobiographical film, "Glitter"; also released an accompanying soundtrack album
Left Columbia Records and signed a contract with EMI's Virgin Records worth a reported $80 million
Acted opposite Mira Sorvino in "Wise Girls"; screened at Sundance
Virgin bought out Carey's contract for $28 million
Made guest appearance on FOX's "Ally McBeal"
Signed a contract with Island Records, valued at more than $22 million; also launched the record label MonarC
Released her multi-platinum album, <i>The Emancipation of Mimi</i>; nominated for eight Grammy awards, including Record of the Year
Played an aspiring singer who flees her controlling husband in the indie film "Tennessee"
Signed a deal with Pepsi to write and produce 20 exclusive ringtones and star in TV commercials
Released eleventh studio album <i>E=MC²</i>
Earned critical praise for her performance as a social worker in "Precious"
Released her album <i>Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel</i>
Announced as new judge of "American Idol" (Fox) alongside Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, and returnee Randy Jackson
Played Hattie Pearl in Lee Daniels' "The Butler"
Released the album <i>Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse</i>
Released the greatest hits album <i>#1 to Infinity</i>
Made her feature directorial debut with the Hallmark Channel movie "A Christmas Melody"
Appeared on the documentary series "Mariah's World"
Voiced the Gotham City mayor in "The Lego Batman Movie"