The new M.C.

Saturday 9 June 2001

A few minutes before midnight Mariah Carey steps out of her black stretch limo. She moves briskly into the dark lobby of Manhattan's Tribeca Grand Hotel, a bodyguard in front, an assistant behind. She is carrying a bushel of roses. She moves across the lobby like a fighter plane: sleek, quick, shiny, and expensive. Her platinum-streaked hair is in a tight ponytail. She's wearing a stiff denim jacket and tight Sergio Velente jeans. Her shoes are open-toes and high-heeled, but they're not slowing her down. The words "time" and "money" come to mind. Her manager (also carrying roses) points me out and Mariah waves, makes a "just one minute" gesture, and disappears into the elevator. The whole episode is like the glint of a diamond bracelet.
"Let me give you a little warning," Carey says when I walk into her hotel room a few minutes later. Her voice is low and throaty, almost whispery. The room is filled with a quantity of roses not usually seen outside wholesale flower markets. "I'm tired," she says, though she doesn't look it. "And I want you to say when I should be concise, because that fact that I'm exhausted doesn't help in my ramblings."
"Have you eaten dinner?" I ask. "No. And I haven't eaten breakfast or lunch..." She half-sings the "or," stretches it way out; it's gigantic, hand-on-hips, wide-eyed, room-filling "or." But I do have the remainder of a protein bar," she sighs. "Isn't this glamorous of me?"
"How's your day been?" I ask. "My day?" she says. "My day has been going on for, like, three days!" She flops on the couch. Her face is made up, eyebrows plucked. There is glitter on her chest. Her shirt is black and sheer - Givenchy - she's got a black halter underneath. She has just returned from a meeting with executives from her new record label, Virgin, where she played them her new album, "Glitter," for the first time. Like many music fans, Virgin purchased Carey's record without knowing what was on it. Unlike many music fans, they're said to have laid out an estimated $23 million - the most ever paid for a single album - for the privilege. "I made this deal without anybody hearing one note of music," she says.
"Were they worried?" I ask. "Probably," she says, one eyebrow up, as if to say, Wouldn't you be? Carey does not look worried. At thirty-one, over a decade after her debut at age nineteen, she is the godmother of the G-string divas, the Britneys and Christinas and Destiny's Childs for whom self-empowerment and self-exposure are completely entwined and sugar-glossed with a multi-octave range. Mariah's voice, however, is a Howitzer compared to most other singers' water pistols, her not-at-all-secret weapon.
Virgin is taking a gamble, but it's not irrational: Carey has sold more than 140 million recordings since 1990's "Mariah Carey." She has had fifteen number-one singles, placing her third behind the Beatles (twenty) and Elvis Presley (seventeen or eighteen, depending on whether you count "Don't Be Cruel" b/w "Hound Dog" as one or two records). Her hits have spent more weeks (sixty) at the top than those of anyone else, including the Beatles (fifty-nine). She had a number-one song every year of the '90s, the only recording artist to do so.
The new record is the soundtrack to next month's "All That Glitters," in which she stars. It's the story of a mixed-race girl who has been abandoned by her white father, taken from her black mom, and raised by foster parents. As a teenager she hangs out in Manhattan clubs, circa 1982, gets discovered by a DJ, galls in love, and becomes and overnight sensation. The affair ends badly; she looks for her lost mother. Which is to say it's about someone with more than a passing resemblance to Carey. Besides doing the soundtrack and co-producing the film, M.C. worked with scriptwriter Kate Lanier, who wrote "What's Love got to do with it."
"I had this idea four years ago," Carey says. "And people said, ''80s? Nobody's ready for '80s.' I said 'I really feel strongly about the '80s, 'cause it's nostalgic.' Some of the executives were concerned that it was too soon, and people weren't ready to go there. And I said "Trust me, they are" According to director Vondie Curtis Hall, "It's a classic Cinderella paradigm, like "Funny Girl." M.C., the hip-hop Barbra Streisand.
"Most megastars don't have this time or patience to get involved in developing a script," Lanier says. "But Mariah was hanging out in my hotel room, reading pages and giving me input. It blew me away." Lanier says M.C. wasn't at all the person she was expecting. "I was thinking pop. But she wanted to do something dark and edgy. I didn't think she would be that sophisticated or that smart, but she really is."
All of which suggests that maybe Mariah isn't the bubble-gum pop start with the diva voice, controlled by a behind-the-scenes mastermind, which, to be honest, is how I'd vaguely though of her. Today's pop culture is so heavily marketed, it's hard to imagine someone like M.C. without a Svengali pulling strings. And though she was launched by Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola, whom she famously married in 1993 and famously divorced in '97, she now seems to be the puppeteer of her own act, writing and producing records, starring in a movie that borrows from her life story. Her euphemism for the marriage is "the situation," and what that apparently entailed, besides a Cinderella story, was a Rapunzel story: M.C., trapped in her Bedford, New York, castle, longing to get out and take control her life.
Well, she got out. Sitting on the couch with a glass of white wine in hand, feet up, she has the issue of food. Twenty-three million dollars will buy you whatever dinner you desire. What M.C. desires this evening is macaroni and cheese. "It's not what I should be eating," she says, stabbing it was a fork. "But hey - I did have the protein bar." As she tells me about her endless day, her face takes on a bashful pride, as though I have walked in her house in the middle of renovations, but she'll show me around anyway, proud of the changes under way. It's all a work in progress.
Right away I notice the eyebrows and the eyes. They have this quality - hopeful, expectant, amazed, as though she still cannot believe her life. Everything else about her appearance gives of a vibe of being smart, though, of knowing what's going on. The meetings, agents, deals, the two shiny electronic devices - pager and cell phone - that sit on the couch. Her hair, her body, her manicure, it all says celebrity, businesswoman, diva. But her eyes, particularly her eyebrows say, "Holy shit! Can you believe this?"
"I was in Spain doing the vocals for the soundtrack," she explains. "I go out the country because this pager and this phone" - she points to them as if they were demanding pets - "will continue to go off. And so I'm out of range there."
In Malaga, she worked at a live-in studio, leaving only when her boyfriend, Luis Miguel, came to visit. He is a "huge Latin superstar," as she puts it. "We got mobbed because they all love him. Of course," she adds demurely, "I have a few fans in Spain, as well."
I ask if they discuss their pasts. "A lot of men don't like to tell their stories," she says. "Maybe it's a power thing? Usually, I'm the one who's open. I mean, I've had intense stuff happen to me, but I haven't been through the wringer with lots of men. I could count on less than one hand the men I've been with in my life. I really hate the though of being intimate with somebody, and then it's over." She snaps her fingers. So was she a prude in high school?
"Well, no. As a kid, I would walk around with the tight ensembles on, and the makeup... But it wasn't like I had boyfriend that were serious or that I was having, like, intercourse with. I knew I wasn't going to get married..." She rolls her eyes, gives a loopy grin. "Well, I did get married, but I knew I wasn't going to be doing the housewife thing."

M.C.'s father left when she was a toddler. She moved thirteen times while growing up on Long Island with an older brother and sister and her mom, Patricia, a Midwestern Irish America whose family never quite forgave her for marrying a man who was half black, half Venezuelan. When her parents met, Alfred Roy Carey was "a swinging aeronautical engineer," as M.C. says, she explains that now he is no way swinging, with-it or hip.
"He thinks I've had one album," she says as if this were the funniest thing. "Honestly, he doesn't know any of my songs!" "I bet he's a connoisseur of your accomplishments," I say. "Connoisseur?" she says. "He don't know any..."
A few minutes later, M.C. is on the floor giggling, and her mother, a former opera singer - now ensconced in an upstate New York house that M.C. bought for her - is on the speakerphone, confirming that yes, "he thinks she only made one album."
"And what do we call it?" asks M.C. They say together: "The Album." M.C. is in hysterics. "We can't diss him," she gasps. "He's just not into music." Considering she hardly knows him, she's talking with real warmth, as though he were an eccentric neighbor.
The subject of M.C.'s father makes "Glitter" seem all the more personal: a Poor Girl Making It story entwined with a Love story and a Lost Parent story, and, finally, a Mixed Race story. "There are a lot of mixed-race girls and young women who hold Mariah up as a hero," says Lanier. "She's proud of that. For a long time she was encouraged to play up her white side. Since she's been allowed creative freedom, she has related more to black culture."
When I tell M.C. that her mixed-race background seems visually, pretty subtle, her face softens. "Well, that's part of it," she says. "A lot of people say things that they wouldn't say if they thought that somebody, you know, black was in the room. Or vice versa. Or somebody Latin. I'm a mixture of a lot of things. Because of that, I didn't really feel like I had one person that I identified with."
It was around the time her marriage to Mottola dissolved that M.C. began working with acting Coach Sheila Gray. She'd acted as a kid, but in her "other situation." She was encouraged to focus on her music. "Sheila was one of the catalysts for helping me out of that situation," she says. "I was so blocked, emotionally. I sat on her floor and did relaxation exercises, and immediately started crying, 'cause she said to me, 'Name a place where you feel safe.' And I was, like; 'I don't have one.' I own, contrary to popular belief, half of everything in that mansion" - that she shared with Mottola - "and paid for half of everything, down to the electric bills. So I didn't have one space to think of. And she said 'Well, use something from your childhood'" The one scaldingly awful thing I know about M.C.'s childhood, which I don't bring up from this otherwise festive occasion with white wine and macaroni and cheese, is that, in a newspaper article, her sister talked about having been a prostitute and drug addict.
"So," she continues, "it was this burst of emotion, and I was just like, Whoa! It helped me realize that, like, this is not right. [Sheila] used to always say, 'Relax your shoulders,' because I walked around like I had to fight, constantly. I grew up with such a free rein. And suddenly, it was this enclosed situation. I wouldn't be the person that I am if I hadn't gone back into that and gotten in touch with myself. Not to sound New Agey or corny..."
A lot of these themes play out in "All That Glitters." "I think people will be blown away by her acting," Lanier says. "She is able to carry off a lot of pain and show a lot of soul," Soul, however, does not interfere with business.
"I personally met with everybody," M.C. says of her label negotiations. "I grew up with some of the smartest and most shred businessmen." Before she signed with Virgin, Carey got advice from Lenny Kravitz, who knew her when she was seventeen, sleeping on friends' couches waiting for a break, and from Prince, of whom she is a huge fan. "I learned a lot. It's not like somebody can lie to me and say, 'We're gonna do this and this,' and have me not go, 'Wait, who's your distributor in Taiwan?'"

"I don't give a fuck!" The $23 million voice booms from the Elle studio dressing room. The controlled frenzy of the photo shoot has been compounded by news that M.C. has to fly to LA tonight to score her movie. Cell phones chirp, assistants swarm, and a guy in a suit stands near a briefcase guarding diamonds from Harry Winston.
"She's pulling it all together," says Carey's publicist. "There's the record, the single, the radio promos, the videos, the movie, the next movie..." The trades have announced that M.C. will star with Mira Sorvino in "Wise Girls," basically "Wise Guys" for women. The logistics of it all are an enormously complex algebra equation, a hurricane.
Then the eye of the storm emerges, in pigtails, loose Levi's, a green cardigan with buttons straining across her chest. She is teetering on pink marabou slippers, a glass of champagne in one hand; in her other, the diamonds, dripping and dazzling. Last night was business. This is M.C. unbound, feeling it. She offers a big "H!" followed by "I'm having the biggest fucking spiral of my life!"
She has a cell phone against her head, and she's talking about Busta Rhymes, from the sound of it, he may be in her next video. She notices me scribbling and, laughing says "You are seeing me at my host..." Eyes bulging, she trails off. Most what? Most perfectionist? Most confident? Most psyched? Most pissed off? All of the above? She's got a million words at her disposal; they come bubbling out like a fountain. She asks if I'd like a glass of champagne, sees hers, almost empty, and belts, "Will someone get me a glass of champagne!" Then, in a whisper, "They're probably trying to keep it away from me, thinking I'm going to get drunk."
The shoot comments and I ask an assistant, Jill, if Carey's world is usually this intense. "This is the most intense day in a long time," Jill says. "M.C. is the hardest-working girl in show business. She has a hand in everything." Right now, she has a hand between her breasts. She's mugging for the camera, rapping along to the boom box, using the flaunted glass, as an improvised mike. "Hate to sound sleazy, but tease me."
During the next break, she pulls me aside. "Listen, that stuff I was saying about my father. I don't want it to sound - I just really want to build a relationship with him." I assure her that it was cool, warm even. Her eyes get all soft. What an operator! I think. Not that she's insincere. She just moves fast, shifts gears, and moves on. She turns, and her fistful of diamonds sparkles.
"I need to talk to Busta!" she says to no one in particular, but everyone hears her, because everyone is listening.


Many thanks to Will from MCWNO.

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Mariah Carey scraps arena tour
Mariah Carey is downsizing. Though the diva announced dates for an arena tour back in April, she is now opting to play more intimate shows in theaters instead. A cryptic posting on her official Web site Thursday revealed the change.
(Friday 16 May 2003)
Mariah downsizes tour
Mariah is not doing a stadium tour this spring after all. Instead, she's got a surprise planned: a major tour of smaller theatres like New York's Beacon and Boston's Orpheum come this fall. It's not like she can't fill Madison Square Garden-sized rooms.
(Thursday 15 May 2003)
Mariah scoffs at Eminem's hangup
Mariah Carey wishes Eminem could get over her. The pop goddess finds it slightly pathetic that the Oscar-winning rap star is said to be saving phone messages she once left him. "I don't know what the hell he's doing," Carey told us yesterday.
(Thursday 15 May 2003)
Carey opts for Philips over Arena
Mariah is breaking her date with Gwinnett. She was supposed to play the Arena at Gwinnett Center Sept. 9, according to tour information posted several weeks ago on her Web site. Now, the site says Carey will play Philips Arena on that day instead.
(Thursday 15 May 2003)
Miami beach Mariah
Access Hollywood's Billy Bush might have worn his Speedo had he known Mariah Carey would be full bloom in her South Beach best. The superstar was clad in a pink bikini when he caught up with her in Miami.
(Wednesday 14 May 2003)
Diva Mariah Carey shortens Korean tour
Mariah Carey has changed her scheduled concert appearances in Korea due to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Her planned performances on May 31 in Seoul and June 3 in Busan have been rescheduled to just one event.
(Wednesday 14 May 2003)
Mariah faces double-dishing
Mariah Carey should screen the guys she dates a little more carefully. The diva is facing severe embarrassment from two of her former loves, Eminem and Luis Miguel. "Em saved all the long, gushy voice mails Mariah left on his machine."
(Tuesday 13 May 2003)
New voice message
"Hi. Yeah, just wanted to call and say I'm a little excited, very excited and happy about the fan club, which I hope you guys are enjoying, 'cause I'm just, you know, I've been hearing a lot of good feedback."
(Tuesday 13 May 2003)
Mariah faces Eminem backlash
Troubled soul singer Mariah Carey is facing severe embarrassment from her former man, Eminem. According to sources close to the rapper, Eminem is to make music out of Mariah's madness.
(Tuesday 13 May 2003)
Mariah Carey Aussie fansite closes
Mariah Carey's Australian fansite has closed because the founders feel the singer just isn't being promoted properly in the region. The founder Neil Kenna left a statement for Undercover News.
(Tuesday 13 May 2003)
Charmbracelet tour dates
Billboard has announced all the dates of the Charmbracelet World Tour and there are a few surprises. First of all, there are 48 dates, instead of the 47 previous stories told us. Secondly, Mariah will tour Russia, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland.
(Monday 12 May 2003)
Shy of relief
Efforts to help a young Iraqi war victim have hit a snag now that celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey are denying published reports of their involvement.
(Monday 12 May 2003) closed
There is some kind of virus in Australia which shuts down websites. Last week, MariahBuzz said goodbye and now MariahDownunder has closed its doors. All because Mariah won't tour in Australia this year.
(Monday 12 May 2003)
Mariah aims to charm world on global tour
Mariah Carey will work the road harder than ever on the most extensive trek of her career, beginning June 21 in Seoul, South Korea. The 47-date World Tour, Carey's first in more than three years, could have been even more global in nature.
(Saturday 10 May 2003) says goodbye
After 2 and a half years MariahBuzz has sadly come to a close. Visitors to the site will have noticed the deteriation of news over the past few months. The reason for the decision to close MariahBuzz is a combination of many events and feelings.
(Saturday 10 May 2003)
Mariah's healthy comeback
Mariah is feeling fabulous and more energized than ever - which she attributes in large part to her new focus on nurturing her body. We caught up with the pop superstar to learn more about her yen for exercising in the water.
(Friday 9 May 2003)
Can Mariah's acting career fly?
Now that comeback girl Mariah Carey is getting ready to set off on a world tour in support of her hit "Charmbracelet" album, what are the chances that the butterfly-loving diva's stalled acting career will take wing?
(Thursday 8 May 2003)
Mariah makes cameo appearance
Mariah is in the beginning and is shown in a couple of shots of Da Brat's latest video, "In Love Wit Chu", which premiered on BET's 106th & Park. She's on the beach, wearing a cowboy hat, and a Louis Vuitton bikini top.
(Thursday 8 May 2003)
Supporting act for U.S. dates announced
It was announced today that recording artist Ashanti will be the supporting act for the North American dates on Mariah's upcoming Charmbracelet World Tour. The Charmbracelet World Tour is sure to be a spectacular event.
(Wednesday 7 May 2003)
Craig David and Ashanti to open for Mariah
Craig David and Ashanti are among the artists who will be "special guests" of Mariah during her Charmbracelet World Tour in support of her latest album, Charmbracelet. David is already confirmed to open for Carey at the Air Canada Centre.
(Wednesday 7 May 2003)
Proof positive
Two gals chat about life. On television. "I'm living the solution," declares one (Mariah Carey) to the other (Oprah Winfrey). Whatever. At this point in her overexposed, waning career, it's hard to believe anyone would seek life lessons from Mariah.
(Wednesday 7 May 2003)
Hollywood rallies for Iraqi orphan
Hollywood launched a drive to bring a limbless Iraqi orphan, who became the symbol of civilian suffering in the US-led war, to the US for medical treatment. A constellation of stars have already signed on for the effort to bring him to Los Angeles.
(Wednesday 7 May 2003)
Notes from all over
Mariah Carey hasn't let those savage reviews of "Glitter" keep her off the silver screen. The "Charmbracelet" singer appears in director Damon Dash's "Death of a Dynasty", which premieres at New York's Tribeca Film Festival this week.
(Tuesday 6 May 2003)
Death of a dynasty
This Wednesday, May 7, 2003, the new Damon Dash movie will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival as a special screenings selection. Nothing special you'd think, but Mariah has a small part in this movie. She plays herself.
(Monday 5 May 2003)
Does Mariah have a lot of boyfriends?
Does Mariah Carey have a lot of boyfriends? The answer is no. She winks saucily and flashes lots of skin while flirting with music buyers, but she's actually quite prudish offstage. In fact, the diva insists she can count them on "less than one hand".
(Monday 5 May 2003)
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