The Biggest Bombshells from The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey's highly-anticipated memoir has finally arrived, spilling the tea on her life and career.

By Billy Nilles Sep 29, 2020 11:33 PMTags
Watch: Mariah Carey's 1st E! Sit Down Interview: E! News Rewind

Mariah Carey is telling her side of the story.

After three decades in the music industry—much of them spent as a topic of fascination for fans and tabloids alike—the elusive chanteuse has invited the lambs into her world with the publication of her first memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. In the new tell-all, released on Tuesday, Sept. 29, Mariah doesn't hold back, revealing (with the help of co-author Michaela Angela Davis) her truth about a fraught childhood, marriages to Tommy Mottola and Nick Cannon, the arrival of Dem Babies—her fraternal twins Moroccan and Monroe—and everything in between.

"It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir," she writes in a note printed in the inside of the book jacket. "Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it's been impossible to communicate the complexities and depth of my experience in any single magazine article or a ten-minute television interview.

"This book is composed of my memories and my mishaps, my struggles, my survival, and my songs," she continues. "Unfiltered."

25 Fascinating Facts About Mariah Carey

While the entire book is required reading for any MC stan, here are the juiciest stories from its pages that you need to know now.

With one of four sections devoted entirely to her fraught upbringing as the biracial child of divorced parents with two troubled older siblings, Mariah Carey recalls one particularly harrowing fight between her mother Patricia and her brother Morgan over the use of her mom's car. "Suddenly there was a loud, sharp noise, like an actual gunshot," she writes. "My brother had pushed my mother with such force that her body slammed into the wall, making a loud cracking sound." Unsure if her mother was still breathing as she lay "collapsed in a crumpled pile on the floor…a chilling clarity came to me, just as a soft part of my childhood left." With Morgan having taken off in the car, Mariah called one of the few numbers she'd memorized—a friend of her mother's—and asked for help. The cops arrived and Patricia soon regained consciousness. "One of the cops, looking down at me but speaking to another cop beside him, said, 'If this kid makes it, it'll be a miracle,'" she recalls. Mariah was just 6 years old.

Despite the estrangement between her parents Pat and Al, who divorced before Mariah turned six, and her siblings Morgan and Allison, Christmas was the one time of year her entire family would be together. And though it was never not without its issues and fights, it helped foster a deeply abiding love of the holiday that remains a driving force in her life and career. Of writing her first holiday album, 1994's Merry Christmas, Mariah notes, "Yes, I was going for vintage Christmas happiness. I also believe that somewhere inside I knew it was too late to give my brother and sister peace, and my mother her wonderful life, but I could possibly give the world a Christmas classic instead."

While detailing her relationship with her perfectionist father, whom she went from seeing every Sunday as a child to very sporadically, Mariah reveals that even her early career successes were cause for criticism. "After I had garnered two Grammys within my very first year in the industry, he remarked, 'Maybe if you were a producer you could win more, like Quincy Jones,'" she writes.

"I had done astonishingly well as a new artist (who had written her own hit songs), and here my father was, comparing me to arguably one of the greatest musical giants the industry has ever known, with decades of experience and endless accolades and honors to his name! I was immediately thrust back to my childhood, as if my two Grammys were two A's on my report card and he was asking me what had happened to the pluses. I think my success in music scared him because he had no idea about, and seemingly no influence on, how I'd arrived. He didn't ask and I didn't tell."

Growing up the daughter of a white mother and Black father left Mariah vulnerable to racism at an early age. She writes of a formative moment in preschool when an innocent drawing of her family, "not yet fractured," elicited a puzzling reaction from a trio of teachers. "'Why are you laughing?' I asked. Through her giggles, one of them replied, 'Oh, Mariah, you used the wrong crayon! You didn't mean to do that!' She was pointing at where I'd drawn my father…I'd used the peach crayon for the skin of myself, my mother, my sister, and my brother. I'd used a brown crayon for my father…They were acting like I'd used a green crayon or something. I was humiliated and confused."

Mariah learned at a young age that she could sing because Pat, a former opera singer, always had music in the house. As Mariah's love for the art form grew, it became the thing she and her mother could bond over. However, Mariah noticed a shift in their relationship when she was around 14. While on a drive one night, the Rockwell song "Somebody's Watching Me" came on the radio and Pat sang Michael Jackson's hook in an elaborate, operatic voice, which prompted Mariah to giggle and Pat to demand what was so funny. "I stuttered, 'Um, well…that's just not how it goes,'" Mariah recalls. "She stared at me until every bit of lightness faded. Almost growling, she said, ‘You should only hope that one day you become half the singer I am.' My heart dropped. Still, to this day, what he said haunts and hurts me…This was my first glimpse into how misguided words from a mother can really affect a child…Having people you love be jealous of you professionally comes with the territory of success, but when the person is your mother and the jealousy is revealed at such a tender age, it's particularly painful."

Recalling some particular harrowing experiences with her sister Allison—who, by 20, had given birth, gotten married, moved overseas, gotten divorced, and returned home to a life of what Mariah describes as bartering "her body for money and drugs"—Mariah reveals that, when she was 12, "my sister drugged me with Valium, offered me a pinky nail full of cocaine, inflicted me with third-degree burns, and tried to sell me out to a pimp." After detailing each moment, she theorizes, "Something in me was arrested by all that trauma. That is why I often say, 'I'm eternally twelve.' I am still struggling through that time."

Growing up biracial, Mariah struggled with her hair at a time when "mixed-texture professionals" were few and far between, let alone products specialized to her needs. "I was living tangled in between an Afro Sheen and a Breck Girl world." She became obsessed with commercials for Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo, which featured what she describes as "slow-motion-blowing-in-the-wind-while-running-barefoot-through-fields-of-flowers hair." It's something she's still feeling the effects of today. "Because of those commercials, Olivia Newton-John, and the Boss, Diana Ross, I am still obsessed with blowing hair, as evidenced by the wind machines employed in almost every photo shoot of me ever."

After moving to New York City, where she began singing backup for Brenda K Starr, she met then-president of Sony Music Tommy Mottola at a party. Upon hearing her demo afterwards, he tracked her down and offered her a record deal. He also pursued her romantically. "The relationship was intense and all-encompassing—after all, we already worked together, which was how we spent most of our time," she writes of their early time together. After he pressured her to give up her apartment in Chelsea and build a house with him upstate in Bedford, she agreed—on one condition. "I insisted on…paying half of all the costs," Mariah says. "I wanted it to be my house. I had fresh memories of witnessing my mother go through the humiliation of a boyfriend shouting, 'Get out of my house!' I told myself that no man would ever do that to me." She would come to refer to the home as Sing Sing, as it was just ten miles from the infamous maximum-security prison in Ossining and left her feeling as trapped as an inmate.

Tommy's jealousy soon became a concern. He would track her every move in their house, even during the middle of the night, asking her via intercom what she was doing. She was told that her hair and makeup team during the Music Box era had put together a scrapbook full of notes of love and appreciation from other celebrities for her, including one from heartthrob Joey Lawrence. "Well, Tommy saw the lovefest of a book, ripped it up, and burned it in the fireplace before I was able to see it," she writes.

After she agreed to marry Tommy in 1993, something she hoped would "change him," the ceremony proved to be a star-studded spectacle. Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Ozzy Osbourne and Dick Clark were all in attendance, with Robert DeNiro serving as best man. The couple flew to Hawaii the next day, but Mariah doesn't, "in good conscience, refer to what we did as a 'honeymoon.'" They stayed in someone's house, Tommy's publicist screamed at her over their wedding photos appearing on the cover of People, and she wound up at a beachside bar, in tears, with no cash or ID. She had to call her manager collect to get a credit card number that would allow her to buy a drink—"some sweet and sorry frozen daiquiri."

Mariah writes that she both witnessed and experienced racial microagressions from Tommy. "From the moment Tommy signed me, he tried to wash the 'urban' (translation: Black) off me," she claims. "And it was no different when it came to the music." She says he "smoothed out" the songs on her first demo before they could be released by Sony, "trying to make them more general," and never wanted her to wear her hair straight because "he thought it made me look too 'urban.'" She also recalls a time when Tommy shared his assessment of rising star Sean Combs, known then as Puffy, who'd just launched Bad Boy Records. "'Puffy will be shining my shoes in two years,'" he allegedly said. "It was one of the very few times I stood up to Tommy, telling him that what he had said was blatantly racist. I was pissed."

A short time later, while at an Italian restaurant with a group of friends and music executives, Mariah was asked by the head of Epic Records for her thoughts on Puffy, whom she'd recently worked with. "The table got quiet as I leaned in and gave my honest assessment: that Puff and Bad Boy were definitely where modern music was headed." Tommy became so apoplectic, he jumped up from the table, paced around the restaurant, and then retuned. "Still vibrating with rage, he slammed his first on the table and announced, 'I just want everybody to know that THANKSGIVING IS CANCELLED!' Um, okay."

As Mariah transitioned more into of a rap/hip-hop sound, she invited producer Jermaine Dupri and rising rapper Da Brat out to "Sing Sing" to work on a song. When she and Brat left to get some fries from Burger King, something Mariah knew would be a huge transgression, Jermaine called in a panic: "'This ain't f--king funny,' he said. 'Tommy is bugging out; he got everybody running around looking for 'yall; they got guns out and s--t.'" As the calls continued to come, Da Brat went from amused to concerned. "She said something like, 'This ain't right. This is your s--t, Mariah…We all here because of you. You done sold millions of records, girl. You live in a damn palace. You have everything, but if you can't be free to go to f--king Burger King when you want, you ain't got nothing. You need to get out of there'…If Da Brat, a nineteen-year-old female rapper from the West Side, is afraid for you, you know the situation has got to be dire, dahling."

After a therapist warned Tommy during couple's counseling that he'd lose Mariah forever if he didn't loosen the reins, Mariah was allowed to take acting classes. She took the opportunity to seek even more independence, secretly renting a small apartment in the building next door to the acting teacher's, connected by private passageway. "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," Mariah explains. "It was sneaky, but I was at the end of my f--king rope! There was always someone watching my every move. This was basic survival."

She and Tommy eventually reached an agreement where they would arrive at events together for the photo opportunity, before going their separate ways. It was on one such night, at an Armani after-party, that Mariah met Derek Jeter. They had an instant spark, and it was through their connection that Mariah found the conviction to leave Tommy for good. But before she was free, Tommy would put up one last, scary fight. "I was sitting still, looking down at the table, when Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek," she writes. "Every muscle in my face clenched…Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn't say a word. After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face…That was his last show with me as the captive audience at Sing Sing." She got a new lawyer to draft divorce papers, got Tommy to sign, and flew to the Dominican Republic, where mutual-consent divorces are processed quickly for foreigners.

While she was free to move on to Derek, who became her second lover ever, her relationship with the MLB star wasn't long for this world. "He was in the right place at the right time, and he was there for the right purpose," Mariah writes. "It was the idea of him, rather than the reality of him, that was so magnetic. In the end, I'll chalk up our ending to the fact that we couldn't live up to each other's fantasies."

Though she'd freed herself from Tommy's control in both her personal and professional life—flying to Japan to appeal to Norio Ohga, the president and chairman of Sony Corporation, to accomplish the latter—Tommy was still capable of exerting his influence to impact her career. She alleges that while she was at work on "Loverboy," the first single off the Glitter soundtrack, Sony learned she was planning to sample "Firecracker," by Yellow Magic Orchestra, and rushed a single "for another female entertainer on their label (whom I don't know)" to market before Mariah could get hers made. The alleged "sabotage" didn't stop there. "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." While Mariah never names the female in question, the implication is that it was Jennifer Lopez.

With the pressure over Glitter mounting at new label Virgin in the summer of 2001, Mariah says she was overwhelmed. "My schedule was brutal. I would have a shoot or an event until 3:00 a.m., then a 5:00 a.m. press call. It was relentless," she writes. "Nowhere in my itinerary was there R-E-S-T, and at the time I didn't know how to demand it." Enter the TRL incident. Though viewed at the time as a meltdown on live television, Mariah asserts the stunt, however "messy," was entirely staged. "TRL. Was. A. Stunt. Gone. Awry," she writes. "And 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. 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. It was a stunt. It seemed like a good idea at that the time."

After the TRL appearance, Mariah was "hunted" by the press, "ferociously," she writes. Already a troubled sleeper all her life, she stopped sleeping altogether and was barely eating. As the label continued to pressure her to shoot the video for "Never Too Far," she was just desperately seeking some rest. "I simply couldn't do it," she writes. "I had been working for years without a break. It was totally out of the norm for me not to show up, but I really didn't have anything left." After checking into a hotel, she was tracked down by her management, who were working with Pat and Morgan. She returned with them to Pat's home, which Mariah had bought, to attempt to rest, until Pat interrupted her once more with concerns from the label. It was here that Mariah reached her breaking point. "That night, I did not 'have a breakdown,'" she writes. "I was broken down—by the very people who were supposed to keep me whole."

As Mariah unloaded her anger on her mother, Pat called the police on her daughter. "When my mother feels scared, her complete assurance in the historic evidence that whiteness will always be protected activates," Mariah writes. "At various times, she'd called the cops on my brother, my sister, and even my sister's children…And so, that night in Westchester, she called the cops on me too." Mariah asked the police to take her to what she thought was a spa, but upon waking up the next day, she learned she couldn't sign herself out. "It took several days of red tape and paperwork to get out," she writes. The paparazzi were waiting when she returned to her mother's. After traveling to L.A. at Morgan's behest, where she found herself in a "hard-core detox and rehab center" he'd arranged for her, despite the fact she wasn't using drugs, she returned to NYC in the wake of 9/11 and entered therapy. It was then that she discovered a name for the physical illness she'd been experiencing as a result of the emotional pain in her life (somatization) and learned to reframe her relationships with her family. Morgan became "my ex-brother," Allison "my ex-sister" and her mom just "Pat." She no longer has any contact with her siblings.

She only became aware of Nick Cannon in 2002 when she saw Drumline. "I thought he was very good in it (I also thought he was cute—very)," she writes. "That was all." It was a couple of years later that Da Brat told her Nick was a very big fan. They finally met when he presented her with a Teen Choice Award. "After he presented me…I said, 'I heard about all the nice things you've been saying about me,'" she continued. "With a genuine beaming smile and a flame in his eyes, he replied, 'If you give me a chance, I'll prove all of it is true.'" When they finally married in 2008, the wedding "was just about the absolute opposite of my first," Mariah recalls. "It was a total spiritual celebration, not mostly an industry production."

After the arrival of twins Moroccan and Monroe in 2011, their relationship changed. "It was a lot of work, and a lot of having to be home and be available," she writes. "Making the necessary adult adjustments to being working parents in entertainment took its toll on our relationship, and the end of our marriage came fast, as it began." They separated in 2014, with the divorced finalized in 2016.

Responding to Mariah's claims in the book, Tommy told E! News in a statement, "I met Mariah over 32 years ago and together achieved a staggering 15 #1 hits in a row and sold over 200 million albums worldwide…breaking all records globally. I am deeply gratified for the role I played in Mariah's well-deserved and remarkable success and continue to wish her and her family only the very best."

Her family haven't returned request for comment. 

The Meaning of Mariah Carey is available now.

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