the meaning of mariah carey

10 Shocking Stories From Mariah Carey’s Memoir

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Throughout her career, Mariah Carey has reminded fans and critics that she’s a writer — she puts words to the page for her own songs, and always has. She’s teased an eventual memoir for years, finally releasing it, with perfect Carey timing, for the 30th anniversary of her music industry beginnings. (Not to mention, her Rarities compilation is out this Friday, October 2.) The Meaning of Mariah Carey, co-written with Michaela Angela Davis, traces Carey’s journey to becoming one of the biggest pop stars in the world. And it’s not without its surprises — amid descriptions of her life at the top are revelations about her difficult family life, her abusive marriage to Tommy Mottola, and her 2001 Glitter “breakdown.” Here are ten of Carey’s most shocking stories from the memoir.

1. Her sister mistreated her when she was young

Carey became estranged from her older sister, Alison, early in her life. In her memoir, she describes Alison offering her drugs multiple times, including giving her a Valium pill when she was 12. “Within minutes (I think) I was in a heavy, scary darkness, pushed down into a place beneath sleep, and I couldn’t pull myself out,” she writes. Carey also claims Alison “tried to sell me out to a pimp” — her sister’s then-boyfriend, John, who took Carey to a drive-in movie alone. “Almost immediately John put his arm around me,” she describes. “John pushed in closer and forced a hard kiss on me. I was nauseous and scared; I felt immobilized.” A man noticed them, so John left.

Carey describes another incident around the same time when she was on the phone with her father and tried to pass it to Alison, who threw hot tea on Carey. She passed out and woke up in the hospital with third-degree burns on her back. “It took years before I could accept a simple pat on the back,” Carey writes. This, she says, was the last straw with Alison, whom she now calls her ex-sister. “Her arson was deliberate—she burned my back and my trust,” Carey writes.

2. Mottola fought with her around colleagues

Carey details many specific fights during her relationship with Tommy Mottola, the Sony Entertainment CEO credited with discovering Carey, whom she married in 1993. She says he monitored her closely at their Bedford, New York, compound, which she calls “Sing Sing,” a nod to the infamous maximum-security prison. In the book, Carey says Mottola destroyed a scrapbook made by her stylists, got mad at her when a magazine cast her in an imaginary All About Eve remake, and argued with their publicist over putting their wedding photos on the cover of People. (In his 2013 memoir Hitmaker, Mottola writes, “Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success.”) The fights in front of music executives particularly stand out. At at a dinner with executives, Carey praised Sean Combs, then known as Puffy, and his label Bad Boy Records. Mottola wasn’t a fan of Puffy, so her response caused “an epic Tommy tantrum,” she writes. Eventually, “he slammed his fist on the table and announced, ‘I just want everybody to know that THANKSGIVING IS CANCELLED!’” As their marriage unraveled, he once threatened her in front of industry guests at their home. After “an awkward and creepy little rant,” Carey says, Mottola held a butter knife to her face. “His boys watched and didn’t say a word,” she writes. “After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face.”

3. When she left her ‘Sing Sing’ compound with Da Brat, the security scared Jermaine Dupri

Carey invited Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat, and Xscape to her and Mottola’s home to work on the remix of “Always Be My Baby.” After she showed Da Brat around, she decided they should escape for French fries. Carey took a car and drove to a Burger King a mile away. Dupri quickly called to tell them to come back, because security had “guns out and shit.” Carey remembers Da Brat telling her, “You need to get out of there.” When they returned, security was ready “to go on a search,” and Dupri “was visibly shaken.” “While Jermaine was in the studio, concentrating on laying down the beat for the track, security had busted in and interrogated him, with their guns out in broad daylight,” Carey describes. “They yelled at him: ‘Where is she [Da Brat]? Tell us where she is!’”

4. She kept a secret apartment from Mottola

Carey started taking acting lessons to get away from Mottola. She eventually rented the apartment connected to her acting teacher’s, which she could access by “a private passageway.” “I had it set up very simply, with a convertible couch so I could sleep—by myself,” she writes. “I would tell Tommy that I was tired from acting class and staying overnight with my teacher, then slip over to my own little place and exit in the morning from my teacher’s building. It was sneaky, but I was at the end of my fucking rope!”

5. Her assistant helped her keep her relationship with Derek Jeter secret

Ahead of her memoir, Carey told Oprah of her relationship with Derek Jeter, which she called the “catalyst” for leaving Mottola. After the two met at a rare dinner outing away from Mottola — which Jeter, a big fan of Carey’s, later told her he’d arranged — they kept in touch, with Carey texting and calling Jeter in secret. “I enrolled my assistant,” she wrote. “We’d stage an errand and leave in her car, and I would talk to him. Sometimes we would go to her house, and I’d sit in her modest little living room and talk to him in a whisper—I was that afraid of Tommy.” Eventually, she and Jeter had a rooftop date, which inspired her song “The Roof.” She then convinced Mottola, with the help of their therapist, to allow her to take a trip to Puerto Rico, where she heard Jeter was vacationing. She found Jeter at a club, and her assistant booked them a villa without Mottola or her security knowing.

6. She claims Mottola sabotaged Glitter

Carey had divorced Mottola and left Sony Music by the time she made the soundtrack to Glitter, but the movie was still attached to Sony Pictures — which she says allowed Tommy to “sabotage” it. “Tommy and his cronies went as far as taking promotional items, like my stand-up advertisements, out of the record stores,” she describes. Carey says she wanted to sample the song “Firecracker,” by Yellow Magic Orchestra, for her song “Loverboy,” which she claims “Sony executives (and spies)” noticed. “After hearing my new song, using the same sample I used, Sony rushed to make a single for another female entertainer on their label (whom I don’t know),” she writes, of course alluding to Jennifer Lopez and her song “I’m Real.” “Ja Rule and I wrote a song together too, and next thing you know, Tommy was calling up his manager Irv Gotti, asking him and Ja to collaborate on a duet for the same female entertainer’s record — leaving me to scurry and remake the song.”

7. She maintains that her TRL crash was planned

Carey’s “crash” of MTV’s Total Request Live has become the stuff of tabloid legend. In her memoir, she calls it a planned “stunt” in response to label pressure for “Loverboy” to hit No. 1. “Let’s be clear and logical, there’s no way I, Mariah Carey, or anyone could actually crash any MTV show, with an ice-cream cart no less,” she writes. “Maybe Carson Daly didn’t know I was coming, but producers had to schedule my appearance—coordinators, publicists, security, whole-ass teams of people knew I was coming.”

8. Her brother and mother played roles in her Glitter ‘breakdown’

After filming the video for “Loverboy,” Carey was set to shoot a video for “Never Too Far,” but she needed to rest, she writes, so skipped the video shoot. Carey says that after her handlers at the label couldn’t reach her at her penthouse, they sent family members to find her at a hotel she had checked into. Carey then went to a backup singer’s apartment, where her brother Morgan finally found her. Morgan took her to her mother’s house, and during an argument, Carey says she yelled at her mother in “an angry, hysterical frenzy,” which prompted her mother to call the police. Eventually, Morgan took her to a place she thought was a “spa.” (Carey doesn’t identify this as her 2001 “breakdown” hospitalization, but it happened around the same time.) “I don’t have much memory of the details,” she writes, adding that her things were stolen and it took days for her to be able to leave. “I knew Morgan and my mother had been communicating, and I strongly believe they orchestrated the whole thing,” she writes. Later, she remembers her therapist suggesting, “If they could prove I was unstable, they certainly could have believed they would become the executors of my affairs.”

Carey’s brother later convinced her to visit him in Los Angeles to relax, then sent her to “a hard-core detox and rehab center.” She claims they gave her “heavy, hard narcotics.” “I was in a fog much of the time,” she remembers. One day in the facility, she woke up to the news of 9/11, the day of the Glitter soundtrack release, and the facility let her go. “So I was magically ‘good to go,’ because terrorists had attacked America and a ‘cracked-up diva’ wasn’t interesting anymore? (Hello?!!),” Carey writes. On her therapist’s advice, she is estranged from Morgan, whom Carey now refers to as her ex-brother. “I have no doubt it is emotionally and physically safer for me not to have any contact with my ex-brother and ex-sister,” she writes. She also calls her mother by her first name, Pat, and adds, “I have reserved some room in my heart and life to hold her — but with boundaries.”

9. Aretha Franklin wouldn’t rehearse with her because of air-conditioning

Carey hadn’t rehearsed before her duet with her “high bar and Northern Star,” Aretha Franklin, for VH1’s Divas Live in 1998, she writes, because Franklin wouldn’t sing with the air-conditioning on. “Mariah, they’re playing games. And I’m not having the games. So we won’t be rehearsing this evening,” Carey remembers Franklin telling her. They dueted “Chain of Fools,” and at the end of the event, all of the singers joined Franklin for “Natural Woman.” “One of the divas didn’t understand the culture of the court and tried to come for the Queen a little bit during the song,” Carey writes, alluding to Celine Dion’s performance. “I couldn’t believe anyone would try to upstage Aretha Franklin on her tribute, while singing about Jesus, no less. Maybe it was a big culture gap, but it seemed like sheer lunacy to me, and I wanted no part of it.” She remembers Patti LaBelle later telling her, “Mariah, if you would’ve participated in that hoedown, I would’ve had to come slap you in the face.”

10. She blames that New Year’s Eve performance on the cold, too

As if we need to remind you, Carey gave an, uh, messy performance to ring in 2017 on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, seeming to miss audio cues and was accused of lip-synching. She’s defended her performance before, and even rectified it the next year, but just in case you’re still stuck on it, let Carey explain:

Listen, if being in the cold can make fingers go numb, imagine what it can do to delicate vocal cords! There’s a certain performance of mine in the bitter cold wearing a sheer bedazzled leotard and eight-inch Louboutins at the world’s busiest intersection, in intimate proximity to stinking, putrid garbage that everyone seems to want to remember, and that I, quite honestly, often forget. To me, it’s as if I was a child playing in the sandbox and I got sand in my eye, wept theatrically, and caused a scene—then arrived twenty years later at my class reunion, after haven gotten a PhD and become a celebrated scholar only to have my classmates ask, “Oh, but how’s your eye?”

I was a lot of things in that fleeting moment in the cold, but I knew one thing I certainly was not. I was not broken. Not even close. I had been through so much worse. All debacles are not created equal, dahhhhling.

10 Shocking Stories From Mariah Carey’s Memoir