“The Meaning of Mariah Carey”: 7 Takeaways From Her Memoir

"The Meaning of Mariah Carey": 7 Takeaways From Her Memoir


In her telling, Carey’s first husband — who was 21 years her senior and the president of Sony Music — was abusive and manipulative. Carey writes, “Even now it’s hard to explain, to put into words how I existed in my relationship with Tommy Mottola. It’s not that there are no words, it’s just that they still get stuck moving up from my gut, or they disappear into the thickness of my anxiety.” He wooed her with Gund teddy bears, then persuaded her to marry him (“I prayed that in doing so he would calm down and loosen his vise grip on my life”). As she describes it, “There was never really a strong sexual or physical attraction” but “I gave him my work and my trust.”

Carey slept with a “to go” bag under her bed, “filled with essentials just in case I had to make a quick escape.” The couple’s 50-acre compound in Bedford, N.Y. was “fully staffed with armed guards” in addition to the security cameras installed in most rooms. (Carey refers to the place as “Sing Sing,” after the nearby maximum-security prison.) When she went to the kitchen to write lyrics, “‘Watcha doin?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

Mottola controlled everything, from the music they listened to — “What a tragic metaphor, listening to Tommy hum ‘My Way’ as he drove us back to my captivity” — to the music she created. He wanted Carey to sound “mainstream (meaning white).” She writes, “From the moment Tommy signed me, he tried to wash the ‘urban’ (translation: Black) off of me.” Finally, after Mottola held a butter knife to her face and dragged it down her cheek, she knew the time had come to “emancipate” herself from his clutches.

When she first met the Yankees superstar Derek Jeter, Carey was turned off by his “pointy shoes” and “Kalamazoo vibe.” But when they started chatting at a candlelit restaurant in downtown Manhattan, she learned he also had an Irish mother and a Black father.

“It was like the moment in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ when the screen went from black-and-white to Technicolor,” she writes.

Thus began a clandestine, champagne-soaked, lyric-inspiring courtship. “Derek was only the second person I had slept with ever (coincidentally, his number was 2 on the Yankees),” Carey writes. “Just like his position on the team, our relationship was a short stop in my life.” But, she goes on, “he was the catalyst I needed to get out from under Tommy’s crippling control and get in touch with my sensuality. And the intimacy of our shared racial experience was major — to connect with a healthy family who looked like mine was very inspiring.”



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