Articles 1994 - Heroes of Mariah

From NY Times (All rights reserved)
Black or White? Labels Don't Always Fit
AT ITS BEST, POP MUSIC PRESSES an anxious ear to American society, amplifying our deepest desires and fears. At times, too, pop invites us to listen to ourselves in ways forbidden by cultural debates where complexity is sacrificed for certainty. In this vein, the reascent to the top of the charts of Mariah Carey's newest album, "Music Box," signals more than her musical dominance. 

Part of Ms. Carey's significance -- and undoubtedly the sharpest controversy around her -- has nothing to do with the singer's musical gifts. Instead it derives from the confusion and discomfort that her multiracial identity provokes in an American culture obsessed with race. Though she has made no secret that she is biracial (her mother is Irish-American, her father is a black Venezuelan), Ms. Carey's candor evokes clashing responses from fans and critics. Some see her statement of mixed heritage as a refusal to bow to public pressure to choose whether she is black or white. But in light of the "one drop" rule -- where a person is considered black by virtue of having one drop of black blood, a holdover from America's racist past -- many conclude that the issue of racial identity, for Ms. Carey and other interracial people, is settled. 

To make matters more complex, Ms. Carey's vocal style is firmly rooted in black culture. It features a soaring soprano and an alternately ethereal and growling melisma that pirouettes around gospel-tight harmonies. So if she's not clearly black yet sings in a black style, is she singing black music? And what difference does it make? Without even trying, Ms. Carey's music sparks reflections about how race continues to shape what we see and hear.

Partly what's at stake is the messy, sometimes arbitrary, politics of definition and categorization. What makes music "black music," and who can be said to legitimately perform it?
An even thornier issue is the belief in many black communities that some artists obscure their racial roots in a natural but lamentable response to a racist environment. As a result, they benefit from being black (given the extraordinary popularity of black music) but do not identify with the black people who support them before they discover a crossover market. In the extreme, this circumstance leads to the ideal of the pan-ethnic, omni-racial artist, an exotic fantasy whose energy derives from an implicit denial of the inherent value of simply being black.

Still, as the saying goes, the finger pointed at artists implies several others pointed back at ourselves. American culture is redefining itself through bitter debates about "identity politics," "multiculturalism" and "universalism." Music cannot be naively expected to triumph over social differences. Because of the schmaltz that often passes for conscience in pop, the quest for transcendence -- whether of race or, for that matter, sex and class -- is often hindered by sappy appeals to brotherhood and oneness. What such impulses reflect is a desire to fix what has gone wrong in a culture intolerant of difference. 

THE ANXIETY of authenticity about what and who is really black in pop music is proportional to just how increasingly difficult it is to know the answer. As multiracial unions of sex and sound proliferate, the "one drop" rule may lose its power. And, as cultural theorists are now proud to announce, race is not merely a matter of biology but an artifice of cultural convention. Such a construction is meant to establish and reinforce the power of one group over another. This view does not mean that black music is solely the product of perception. Nor does it mean that black music's power must be diluted to a generic form. What it does suggest, however, is that the meaning of race, like the art it molds, is always changing. 

In the end, what Ms. Carey's career may teach us is that paranoia about purity is the real enemy of black cultural expression, which at its best has been characterized by the amalgamation of radically different elements. It is precisely in stitching together various fabrics of human and artistic experience that black musical artists have expressed their genius and grit.

From TV Hits (Australia)
Four years ago, an unknown singers with an unpronounceable first name burst into the Australian Top 10 with a soulful ballad called "Vision Of Love". Nothing unusual in that - except for that soaring voice with its ability to make everyone's ears prick up and take notice. This girl was Mariah Carey, a gospal-trained, multi-octave ranged former waitress who sang back-up for toher singers. encouraged to break out on her own, she sent a demo tape to Sony president (and future husband) Tommy Mottola, who immediately signed her up. And the hits haven't stopped - from "Love Takes Time" to "I'll Be There", and now with her current global smash "Without You", Mariah is enjoying a career high and staggering record sales. In her only Australian interview, Mariah reveals all exclusively to TV HITS: about fame, her marriage and the incredible voice. 

What do you know about Australia?
Well, I was playing with some kangaroos the other day! (laughs) No, I'm serious, I was at Gloria Estefan's house and she has these little kangaroos, they're really cute. What are the little ones called? They don't get really big. Wallabies? Yeah, that's what she had. That's Australian, right? 

Have any of your friends come over here?
Not really. It's pretty far away from here! But I do know one Australian person. She's a photographer and she shot my album cover. She doesn't really take about it much, but she has an accent. 

You're enjoying huge success on our charts at the moment. How does it feel being popular in such a faraway place?
It feels great! I would love to come to Australia one of these days. I hear it's really beautiful. It's warm there now, right? Well, we're just having another snowstorm here, and it's like the 14th one! 

Have you ever met another Mariah?
I hadn't until around three years ago, and it was this girl that was a friend of a friend. She used to tell people her name was Maria because nobody could pronounce it. It was funny because I used to do that, too! Sometimes I would meet somebody for the first time, I would just say Maria because nobody really could remember Mariah or understand it. 

Have any of your fans named their children after you?
Yeah, I've had a couple! I met this girl who said she'd named her baby Mariah Cara, so I thought that was pretty cool! 

I've read that your mum used to say you were "six going on 35", meaning you were always very mature. Did you ever do anything remotely outrageous?
Oh, I did outrageous things! (laughs) I enjoyed being around grown-ups when I was a little kid, so that was probably what she meant. I could sit around the table with adults and have adult conversation and hang out, and it wasn't like I always wanted to be with kids. But I can still - and I did then - act crazy and act like a kid. 

So, what's one outragous thing that you've done lately?
Um, let me think! I don't know about outrageous, but I love rollercoasters. That's, like, a fun thing for me. I always go on the scary ones. I'm always in search for the best rollercoasters! 

You seem like a workaholic, always recording new stuff. What do you do to relax?
(sighs) It's really hard. Um, I sleep whenever I can, which is rare because I have trouble falling asleep sometimes. I like to spend time with old friends and people I don't get to see that much. I love going to amusement parks and love going on rollercoasters, and water rides. I like horseback riding, driving, just chilling out. 

Do you ever put on your leather trousers and rock out?
(laughs) Um, not really 'rock out'! I listen to hip hop and rap, and I love r 'n' b. I listen to the radio a lot, but I drive everyone else in the car crazy because I change the station every five minutes! 

How does Mariah Carey the star differ from Mariah Carey the person?
I guess I'm more serious when I'm on stage than when I'm not, just because of the nature of what I'm doing, you know, if I'm singing ballards or whatever. But that's not really who I am. That's like, one-tenth of my personality, it not really me. 

Do you remain down-to-earth by doing your own laundry?
Oh no, I never did my laundry, I always hated it! (laughs hysterically) I would just leave it on the floor. I'm not a prima donna type of person. I'm just down-to-earth because that's who I am. I haven't lost the real person. I haven't lost touch with who I am and I never want to because that's when most people start going downhill. 

What do you remember from your days as a waitress?
Well, what stands out in my memory the most is that I hated doing it! It was like, the worst thing because everyone tends to think that you live at the restaurant and you never leave and you're a premantent fixture there. They don't think of you as a real person, so that was kind of hard. And just the fact that I didn't want to be there. You know, some people will just do it and do it the best they can. But I really hated it! I mean, I didn't want to be there so I had the worst attitude about the whole thing. 

Have any of your former workmates told the press that you were a rude waitress?
No, because I've always said that I was a rude waitress so nobody would be discovering anything new! (laughs) I was the worst! 

So, if I came to your restaurant and ordered a hamburger, you'd tell me, "Get it yourself"?
Sometimes! (giggles loudly) No, um, I'd try to get it for you! First of all, I was more of coat-check girl and a hostess than I was a waitress, so I used to seat the people. But when I was a waitress, I used to get fired from my jobs because they'd realise how bad I was! (laughs) It was really bad! 

Your weapon is that awesome voice you've been blessed with. But I've always wanted to ask, have you ever shattered your bathroom mirror during vocal practice?
(laughs hysterically for about 10 years!) No, well, actually, I'm looking at my bathroom mirror now and it's not shattered, it's fine. I can see it from here. But no, I haven't! I don't know if that's a reality, if people can shatter glass. Maybe they can. Somebody wrote me a letter and said their son was listening to my song "Someday", and at the end, when I hit the high note, their automatic garage door kept opening! It was triggering the garage door! They must have made that up! But it could be true, you never know! 

Do you get offended when your voice is labeled "the human dog-whistle"?
No, because I'm influenced by singers that really sing. People might think it's over-singing or whatever, but for me, when I'm singing a song - something that I've written - and I'm trying to take it to the next level, there's nowhere to go but up and it's a really emotional feeling for me. I don't expect everbody to love me voice or me or whatever - you can't please everybody. But it is a strange part of my voice, it is something different that people aren't use to, so people are going to have extreme reactions and critiques of it. 

But you've never had dogs come running after you or anything like that?
Well, yeah, there's a pack of dogs that follow me around everywhere I go, but other than that, you know ... (laughs) 

Have you invented any strange concoctions to keep your voice in shape?
No. Sometimes, when my voice is tired, I try to think of things that will fix it. Everyone has their own remedy, you know, like cheyenne pepper or hot sauce or this or that. Nothing really works execpt sleep and honey and tea. 

You've been married nearly a year, but how did Tommy propose to you?
(sighs nervously) Um, it was very romantic and he's a very romantic person. He's a very good person. The wedding was great, it was beautiful. 

Who caught that bouquet?
There were some fans waiting outside who had been there all night. It was I am, so I threw it to them. I didn't do the traditional thing. 

Did you and Tommy waltz to one of your ballads?
No, we danced to a song by Steve Wonder called "You and I". I love that song. 

Did you ever considering changing your name to Mariah Mottola?
Nope! No way. See, Mariah is such an unusual name that you have to have a really simple last name to go along with it or it'd be pretty bad! 

Are you enjoying married life? Yeah. It's not really much different, but it's good. 

What do you say to the critic that accuse you of marrying Tommy as a career move?
Anybody that says that isn't really worth a comment. All I can say is that I had a lot of success before I married him. Somebody that's powerful can help people get started, but they can't make people sell millions of albums and they can't make the public go out and buy the record. People can only do so much and then the public has to grasp it. The public are the ones who make or break somebody. Nobody - no matter who it is - can make or break somebody. 

What did Michael Jackson tell you after he heard your version of "I'll Be There"?
He told me he really liked it and thought I did a really beautiful rendition. That was really flattering because, when he was a little kid, his voice was incrediable, and that's definately what inspired that song. 

Do you prefer your smoochy ballards or your groovy club hits?
I like doing both. It's fun for me to do different things. With "Dreamlover" we did a remix which was really big in the clubs. It was a really different version and a really different things for me than just always having to a ballad. 

Have any of your songs made you cry?
Sometimes you get caught up in the emotion of what you're doing. The songs are like a little piece of you and you're singing about something important. I can remember "Without You" from when I was a little girl, and I've always loved that song. So, yeah, things can get pretty emotional! 

If you could ever star in a TV show, which one would you choose?
(giggles) I never watch TV, so I couldn't tell you! I only watch certain shows, but I'm never home! When am I home to watch TV? I like 90210, but I haven' seen it in awhile. It's pretty funny, it amusing sometimes. I like Living Color (comedy show) and the talk shows. I like Ricki Lake (US chat show). It's really cool 'cause it's young people doing it and giving a different perspective. 

Do you have any plans to go into acting?
Not really. I mean, just because I write my owns songs and I produce and everything, it's really a very all-consuming thing for me. A lot of people just go in and sing and then they leave and have a lot of time to do other things. But for me, it's like, "Here I am back in the studio again!" 

Finally, do you have a message for your Australian fans?
I'd just like to say thank you so much to all my Australian fans and I hope to come Down Under and meet you soon. And thank you so much for your support. It means so much to me to know my music has reached so many people so far away. It feels great.

From Ebony (All rights reserved)
Mariah Carey: singer talks about storybook marriage, interracial heritage and sudden fame
DESPITE the cool weather, pop star Mariah Carey is in a convivial, outdoorsy mood. At her country retreat in the heart of rural Upstate New York dairy farming, the darling diva, who turned 24 in March, demonstrates her driving skills, first on a utility vehicle and then in a Jeep, with her frisky Jack Russell terrier (Jack) ever at her side. Later, inside the farmhouse near the fireplace, she cuddles with Tompkins, one of her two Persian cats, and offers hot chocolate and buttered popcorn to visitors.

"I've always had pets -- dogs and cats -- my whole life," she says, as she romps with Jack in one of the two main rooms of the colonial-style house. The two-story dwelling sits on a hill overlooking acres of pasture, woodlands, a large pond, a guest lodge and a barn where four horses are kept during the summer. The decor is chic Adirondack with saddles resting on bannisters and arms of chairs. On tables, mantles and shelves are framed photographs of Mariah -- at the beach, astride her palomino Misty, with her husband, Sony Music president Tommy Mottola.

It was Mottola who discovered the talented young singer at a Columbia Records party in 1988. After her six-million-selling debut album hit the airwaves in 1990, the Long Island native, barely out of her teens, became well-known around the world, thanks to an incredible voice that, like a powerful magnet, attracted record buyers as well as media attention. Her four albums have sold more than 16 million copies in the U.S., and she has received Grammy, American Music and Soul Train Music Awards.

The talented singer of interracial parentage also has found happiness on a personal level. Last June she married Mottolla, a wealthy divorce 20 years her senior, in a star-studded, fairy tale wedding. Yet, success and wealth apparently have not spoiled the princess of pop music. Like a little sister or the girl next door, she is still refreshingly sincere and genuinely sweet. In fact, Mariah says she detests abusive, egotistical celebrities and can't imagine turning into such a tyrant. "If I haven't changed by now, I'm not going to change," she says, going further to describe herself as "very independent, very spiritual in my own way," and as a person who worries a lot about whether she has hurt someone else's feelings. "It sometimes hurts me that people may think I'm a bitchy diva," she reveals. "That's not who I am."

You can call her Mariah or Ms. Carey or even Mrs. Mottola, but don't call Mariah Carey an overnight success. "My whole life I'd been working toward this," she says of her meteoric rise to fame. "I grew up without having a lot of things, money and stuff like that. My mother and I moved around a lot; she worked three jobs sometimes. So I really feel that I've been struggling my whole life, and it all just came to a head when I came to the city and tried to support myself. I went through a lot of rough times when I was a little girl."

After her parents divorced when she was 3 years old, Mariah was reared by her Irish-American mother, Patricia Carey, a vocal coach and former opera singer. During her childhood, Mariah only periodically saw her father, Alfred Roy Carey, a Black aeronautical engineer who lives in Washington, D.C., and also has a home on Long Island. Her father's mother is Black, she explains, while his father is Venezuelan. She says the stress of being an interracial couple in the '60s and '70s put exceptional strain on her parents' marriage. Over the years, their dogs were poisoned and cars were set on fire and blown up.

And she appreciates the fact that her father has been "respectful" of her fame and privacy. "He has not come out of the woodwork saying stupid things about me; he has pride and he's not that kind of person," she says. "He's a good person. I don't have anything against him. It's just very difficult growing up in a divorced family -- the tension, anger and bitterness between the parents is often put off on the children, and because I was so young when they divorced, it was really a major split for me."

After the divorce, she says, her older sister, Allison, now 32 and a housewife on Long Island, lived with her father but moved out when she got married at a young age. Her brother, Morgan, now 33 and manager of a rap group, soon went off to college. "I grew up with my mom, and I have more in common with her in terms of music," she says. "That is such a major part of both our lives. My father is more of a cerebral person. He's a great mathematician, an aeronautical engineer, and he's completely opposite of me in terms of what he excels at. I'm horrible at math. We don't have the same interests. So when I would go there, we didn't have that much in common. But I have good memories of doing things with him when I was a little girl."

Mariah says the has dozens of Black relatives. "Everytime I would go there to visit I would really enjoy it," she recalls. "And I wish I had been a part of it more. I loved them when I met them. I'd never experienced a big family like that, because my mother's family basically disowned her when she maRried my father. I was an interracial thing. So I didn't know anybody from that side except my mother and grandmother."

Comfortable talking about her family background, Mariah settles into the cushiony sofa. "I am very much aware of my Black heritage, but I'm also aware of the other elements of who I am. And I think sometimes it bothers people that I don't say 'I'm Black' and that's it. But it's not true. I have a mother who is 100 percent Irish who raised me from my birth and who is my best friend. So if I were to say that I'm Black only, that would be negating everything she is. So when people ask, I say I'm Black, Venezuelan and Irish, because that's who I am."

She stops to catch her breath and sip from a glass of red wine. Through her thick, curly auburn hair, she runs slender fingers laden with a six-karat, pear-shaped diamond ring and a diamond wedding band. "You know, sometimes I feel that people resent that I present myself in that way, but I can only be all the things that I am. I cannot be one out of three. It's just a hard thing, being interracial. It is especially difficult if you grow up with only one parent.

Mariah Carey shares the experiences and feelings of thousands of other individuals of biracial parentage. At times she felt ostracized by White kids and by Black kids because she was not "100 percent" like either. "It's hard growing up like that. But lucky for me, my mother never said anything negative about my father. She never discouraged me from having a good feeling about him. She always taught me to believe in myself, to love all the things I am. In that sense I'm very lucky, because I could have been a very screwed up person."

It takes a level head to deal with the enormous amount of attention her success has generated, not to mention the realities of harsh media critics and naysayers in general. Despite her popularity with the record-buying public, some detractors attribute her success to her marrying the boss. Stil others criticize her vocals, here lyrics, her style.

She takes it all in stride, though she acknowledges that yes, she as "upset" and "disappointed" when critics panned her performance at the Miami concert that kicked off her first tour last fall. But Mariah didn't just get mad; she took to heart the "valid criticism" and perfected her performance. She says, "I took all the anger and put it out there in my next show." Which got rave reviews.

As a producer, songwriter and pereformer, Mariah creates positive, inspirational Music. When lyrics and melodies flow through her head, she calls her answering service to record a line or hum a tune. Of all her songs, she's written or collaborated on all but two.

While the other tour was exciting and the release of another best-selling album thrilling, Mariah says the highlight of the past year was her storybook wedding, which was attended by a host of celebrities. She enthusiastically offers to show a video of the nupitals, apologizing that her wedding album is back in the city.

WIth twinkling eyes glued to a huge television screen, she narrates rehearsal scenes and then the actual wedding day. Like a princess in a fairy tale, Mariah and her bridal gown with 27-foot train and 10-foot veil emerge from a limousine in a steady summer drizzle. Six "ladies in waiting" are there to help get her dress into the church. "It was like a really big ordeal go get that dress into the car," she says with a chuckle. "It took so many people to shove that thing in there. It was like 27 feet long, a major ordeal. And it was raining, so it was even worse."

Though she obviously takes delight in her elaborate nupitals, Mariah Carey did not grow up dreaming of a big wedding. "UIt feels good being married, but I never thought I'd be married," she says, now nibbling on cheese and crackers. "I never thought I would because my parents got divorced, and it gives you a different attitude about that type of thing. It kind of hardens you; you know what I mean? I did it [got married] because I guess I grew up about it, realized it doesn't have to be bad. When I was growing up, most of my friends' parents were divorced." Patricia Carey discovered that little Mariah had a gifted voice when she was a mere toddler. The proud mother started nourishing the budding talent and supporting her daughter's desire to be a recording artist. In junior high, Mariah started writing songs, and in high school she commuted to Manhattan to work with professionals, often not returning home until 3 a.m. to go to school, and I was alwsys late," she says.

Immediately after high school graduation in 1987, Mariah moved into the city where she slept on a mattresas on the floor to a bare apartment and worked as a waitress, coat checker and part-time backup singer. Her worse job, she recalls with a laugh, was sweeping up her hair in a beauty salon where the owner tried to rename her Echo. She quit the first day.

Ten months later, at age 18, she met Mottola at a Columbia Records party. As the story goes, when Mottola left the party, he popped Mariah's cassette into the tape deck of his limo and rushed back to the party to find the girl with the incredible voice. She had left, but he tracked her down and within a week offered her a record deal.

Mariah says the romance "just sort of happened" while she and Mottola were working on her first album. "We had a lot in common, and we just gradually came together," she says. Her husband is "very romantic," she adds, recalling how while she was in London he sent two dozen pink roses every day. Concerning their 20-year age difference, she says: "I really don't focus on it. We don't look at each other as two people with a big age difference, We are just right for each other, nd that is all that matters. If you are really right for each other, that will shine through all the differences, everything -- race and age."

She adds that she and her husband have a mutual respect for each other's opinions, and that he is "very creative, more then just a businessman." Mariah points out that years ago Mottola, as an aspiring singer, had a record deal with Sony's Epic Records, and that he was a successful artist manager for many years before he rejoined Sony in 1988.

"And he's an incredible cook," she adds. "He's so spoiled me with his food that I can't go to restaurants anymore."

While Mottola cooks on weekends, Mariah acknowledges that she's not much of a homemaker: In fact, while she was growing up, her mom would ask. "Well, I'm going to be a famous singer and have a maid," she'd respond, in jest.

Mariah Carey has realized her lifelong dream. In fact, she says she is a better person now that she's been blessed with success. "I'm really fortunate, I'm reallly happy, and I'm really lucky to be where I am," she says. "All I can do now is be the best I can be."

From New York Times (All rights reserved)
Mariah Carey , the gospel-influenced pop singer who announced recently that she hoped to raise $1 million for the Fresh Air Fund, put herself within sight of that goal last week. Revenue from a concert that she gave on Thursday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine exceeded $700,000. 

Fund officials said that her pledge was the largest the charity had received in at least 30 years, and perhaps in its 117-year history. 

In a recent interview, Ms. Carey, 24, who has sold more than 50 million records, said that she intends to spend time at one of the five Fresh Air Fund Camps for disadvantaged New York City children in Fishkill, N.Y., working with young people considering musical careers. She said she would bring recording equipment to the camp and might produce demo tapes for the more talented campers. 

In return, the name of the camp, now known as the Career Awareness Camp, will be changed to Camp Mariah.


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Heroes of Mariah 2000