Mariah's meltdown

Tuesday 14 August 2001

Working on two movies, a record and a long term relashionship, Mariah Carey lost control of her life. Now she is in the hospital recovering. Will pop's princess bounce back?
Mariah Carey was running on empty. By the time she reached London on July 11th, the last stop on a 14 day, seven city tour to publicize her semi-autobiographical film, Glitter and its soundtrack album, she was exhausted and wondering what life was all about. Her fragility began to show at promotional appearences, where the 31 year old singer and budding actor looked disoriented and made disconnected comments. Still, she continued to push herself and, after three whirlwind days in the United Kingdom, rushed home to the United States for yet another round of grueling publicity events. By that time, those close to her were growing increasingly worried. Carey was even more unfocused then she had been in London and seemed to stumble through appearences at a mall near where she grew up on Long Island before an audience of millions on Total Request Live. Then, in the early morning of July 25th, she posted bizarre messages on her official website. Finally, later that day, Carey could go on no more, and through a spokesperson said that she was suffering from extreme exhaustion, cancelled all her fourthcoming performances (including the MTV 20th anniversary concert) and checking into a New York area hospital where she is resting now. The breakdown of one of the last decades greatest popstars came as more of a shock to her fans than those who were with Carey day after day, watching her buckle under personal and professional pressures. Her dizzying career highs (she had 15 number one singles which she co-wrote and co-produced most) created an almost unreal level of expectation. All she did was work. Carey finished the Glitter CD while acting as both the star and producer of the movie and also appeared in an independent film called Wise Girls with Mira Sorvino. Managing her own career, she had already been working for four years on Glitter and the soundtrack, which was her first release since she had switched from Sony to Virgin Records and signed a 118 Million, five CD contract. When the single "Loverboy" did not immediately crack the top 50, the pressure rose, and she felt even more threated by the sexy new crop of female stars such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguliera as well as Jennifer Lopez, who had come along after Carey but who had already established herself as a movie star who also churned out hit albums.
Meanwhile, her relashionship with Latin singer, Luis Miguel, whom she had met in Aspen, Colorado over Christmas 1998, had stalled, largely due to their conflicting schedules and her un-wavering focus on work. "I have an overblown insecure streak that runs through me," she said just before leaving on her European tour. And sometimes it manefests itself as me being a workaholic." Some gossip columnists had Carey linked romantically with Eminem, 27, but she insisted that her late-night meetings with the rapper In New York hotels were all about bussiness, a possible collaboration that music insiders saw as a desperate attempt to increase her street cred. In any case, Eminem listened to the songboird with the 8 octive range, the woman who has sold some 120 million albums since bursting upon the scene in 1990 - and reportedly rejected her offer outright. The horrible irony, according to those close to Carey, is that this year might have been the biggest in her career. "With her new music and a new label and her first movie, this was meant to be a new beginning," says her long time publicist, Cindi Berger. "But she's burning the candle at both ends, working around the clock. She just worked too hard."
Mariah Carey has never been an easy going woman. Since becoming famous, she had trouble sleeping, managing on just a few hours per night and saying in November 1999, "I've been consistantly sleepless since I started promotion (for Rainbow) and I'm really exhausted." And her hard driven perfectionisim is legendary in the music bussiness. Associated who worked on her videos and tour have spoken of being ridden so hard by Carey that they were forced to stay up around the clock and had only a bag of cookies to eat in 24 hours. But for the last several weeks, Carey has clearly been a diva in distress. The reaction to Loverboy was surely a blow to the singer. Released in mid-June, the record debuted on the charts only at No. 79 and did not climb to No. 2 until the label slashed the CD single to 49 cents. On top of that, the buzz on Glitter is downright bad, and the movie has relegated to an end-of-summer release date. Meanwhile, Carey has been in constant motion. On July 12th, while in London, she hosted a private dinner party at homehouse, an exclusive West End Club. Over the next three days, she gave numerous radio and television interviews, including one for MTV Europe, during which she reportedly insisted on being shot from the waist up, because she was unhappy with the way her legs looked on camera. She then organized a party for fans at Ocean, a nightclub in the suburb of Hackney, arriving at 1 am on July 15th.
On July 20th, Carey autographed albums for more than 1,000 fans at the Roosevelt Feild Mall FYE music store, in Garden City, New York where onlookers described her manner as "erratic". During an in-store interview, Carey began complaining about how Howard Stern has been mocking her on his show. At that point, publicist Berger took the microphone away and asked a television crew to stop filming. "I wanted her to talk about what she was there to talk about-Loverboy," Berger says "I wanted to bring her back on track."
A few days earlier Carey made an impromptu appearance on the MTV show, Total Request Live, wearing a lavender T-shirt with Loverboy, written across it and pushing a cart full of popsicles, which she handed out to the stunned members of the studio audience. She peeled off her t-shirt explaining it was a gift for TRL host Carson Daly, and revealed a snug tank top and short shorts underneath. Daly kept trying to go to a commercial break, but the singer's talking prevented him. She then showed a framed photograph of her mother , Patricia Carey, who said she was a fan of the program, and read aloud a hand written letter that Patricia had given her for Carson Daly. Later, seeming to be in more of a reflective mood, she told Daly, "I just want one day off where I can go swimming and eat ice cream and look at rainbows."
On her official website, Carey posted some messages that even more baldly illustrated that she needed some time out of the spotlight. "I just can't trust anybody anymore right now, because I don't understand whats going on. I allowed myself to be a little too paraniod about life." She posted in the hours after midnight on July 25th. "If anybody gets this that really cares, just do me a favor and shut down the management company that I own. Right now I need a break so I will as a human being get that break." About the postings, Berger says "Obviously she did that when she was very tired, working on no sleep." The messages have been removed from the site. Later that day, Carey checked herself into the hospital, claiming exhaustion. A source from her management company, which remains operational, told US Weekly, "She's getting the rest she needs, she'll be back with us as soon as possible. We're not sure when. It's only be a few days, but the doctors will be advising us." Says Nancy Berry the Vice-Chairman of Virgin Music Group Worldwide: "Mariah is so very talented and has been working so hard thses past few months. Whatever Mariah needs, we are 100 percent behing her."
Carey grew up in the upper-middle class town of Huntington, New York, the youngest of three children born to Alfred Carey an aeronautical engineer of Venezuelan and African American decent, and Patricia Carey, an Irish American who sang with the New York City Opera. Mariah's maternal grandparents disapproved of the biracial union and disowned their daughter; predjudiced neighbors poisoned the Carey family dog and torched their house. The pressure tore the marriage to shreads, Carey has said, explaining why her parents divorced when she was three. Their break up only made things tougher on the children. Carey's brother, Morgan, a personal trainer, developed a violent streak, reportedly terrorizing Carey repeatedly. Her sister, Alison, married at 15, struggled with drugs and contracted HIV. Resembling neither one of her parents, Mariah has said she felt like "this weird entity" and had a hard time fitting in. "I grew up very fast in terms of my understanding what it's like to be mixed. I was too white for the black kids and too ethnic for the whites," she recalled. She told the friends she did make that she was Italian. With three kids to take care of her unconventional mother, who had an intrest in the occult, struggled to pay the bills and moved more than a dozen times. "Growing up poor made me determined," Mariah had once said. "I am never going to let that happen to me again."
Her nickname in high school was Mirage, because she was rarely seen in class. At age 4, she began singing and by junior high she was writing her own songs. According to a tabloid reports, one school mate recalls that a few weeks before the prom Mariah held a party at her house and charged admission in order to pay for her dress. After graduating and moving to New York, she swept up hair in a beauty parlor, waited tables and checked coats before becoming a back up vocalist for Brend K. Starr. Her discovery was a true Cinderella story. Carey was 18 years old when she met Sony mongul Tommy Mottola in 1998 at a party for Columbia Records and gave him a casette of her singing. On his way home, he popped it into his car's sound system and was blown away by Carey's voice. Since there was no contact information, her returned to the party, only to find her gone. He tracked her down, signed her up and spent two years perfecting her music and image. Some of the fine tuning wasn't easy for Carey. "When I first started someone told me that I should never be photographed from this one particular side beacuse it made me look ugly," she said. "I was 18 years old, and they were telling me this crap." But, together Carey and Mottola made a powerful team. Her 1990 debut album sold 6 million copies and won two Grammy awards. Their story then developed into a version of Pygmalion when Mottola, smitten with his creation, proposed marriage. Despite their 19 year age difference, in June 1993, Mottola and Carey became husband and wife in a lavish ceremony that was reportedly based on video footage they had seen of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding. For five years Carey lived far from the day-to-day world of music bussiness, on a 10 million estate with 14 bathrooms, 4 horses and 2 pizza ovens in horsy Bedford, New York. She toured infrequently, but she recorded constantly, and it was in those situations - interacting with other artists her age - that Carey realized she was being stifled. "I would think why do I have to be so miserable?" she said recently recalling those days in the early 90's. "I felt like I wasn't as free or as happy as they were because I wasn't living my own life."
The marriage crumbled in 1998, after Carey began seeing Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter. Mottola who had been cast by the press as a controlling Svengali, was "devestated" says music industry fried, David Geffen. Still signed to Mottola's record company, Carey declared her personal freedom by releasing 1999's Rainbow - continuing her metemorhpisis from cacoon of the girl next door ballad singer to a sexy siren with a taste for Hip-Hop, tank tops and hot pants. Along the way, she had developed a reputation as a diva. On her recent tour contract, her backstage requests - pasta, a wet bar, wafer thin slices of Honey Roasted Turkey breast, bendy straws, tea service for 8 and Cristal champagne - cost promoters tens of thousands at each venue. She was equally as extravagent with her own money, reportedly installing a tub in her oak panneled library so she could read in the bath. In 1999 she paid more than 600,000 dollars for a white laquered baby grand piano that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe.
Yet Carey has an un-selfish side. She quietly donates to many philanthropic causes, including the Fresh Air Fund and Children In Need. This June, she appeared with Bill Clinton and singer India Arie at a New Jeresy elementary school to donate musical intruments as part of VH1's Save Ther Music Foundation drive. She also helps support her mother, her siblings and their children. Carey says, that in their family, she was both a peacemaker and a caretaker.
One day last week, before she collaped from fatigue, Mariah Carey was having her hair done. When she was finished and looked at her pager, it had logged 297 messages. That was par for the corse lately. By the time she began to work on Wise Girls, Carey was up to her sleep deprived eye lids in post-production work on Glitter. According to The National Enquirer, the cast and crew of Wise Girls had to work around Carey's schedule, which caused friction between co-star, Mira Sorvino. One day, Carey was 3 hours late because she had broken out in hives and had to see a doctor. Ironically, Carey told a reporter the reason why she was excited about her role in Wise Girls, was that "This character feels very empowered, very capable of just saying no." But for Carey, for most of her life, just saying no has been nearly impossible. "I'll work myself into the ground, but I choose to do it," Carey said in June. "It's like I have to take everything I have and just focus it into being in this moment."
Eventually, however, her stamina depleted. "Being a superstar is exhausting," says stylist Wayne Scot Lukas. "And people have been dishing Mariah, saying that her body was airbrushed for the Glitter movie poster. When half the world is dissing you, you don't think about the other half that loves you. You think, what am I doing wrong? What you're doing wrong is listening to that stuff. I have respect for her to say 'I don't care, I have to get out of here'. Sometimes checking into a hospital just means that you are somewhere where no one can reach you. It's leave me along, at the highest level. Somebody needs to trell her, it's okay to slow down."

(US magazine)

Many thanks to Marina.

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