Mariah Carey is opening up like never before. In her new memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, the singer gets real about everything from her dislike of measuring time to her violent childhood to her high-profile marriages.
Whether you want to learn more about Carey’s tumultuous early years or focus on her happiness and success today, The Meaning of Mariah, which was released on Tuesday, is the book for you.
Keep reading for the nine biggest bombshells from The Meaning of Mariah Carey.
She had a tumultuous childhood riddled with violence
Carey, who has an older brother and sister, claims that some of her earliest memories “are of a violent moment,” which often left her feeling like she wasn’t “worthy of being alive.”
According to the singer, she “developed the instincts to sense when violence was coming” by the time she was a toddler. Throughout her childhood, Carey claims she witnessed her brother, Morgan, physically fight with both of their parents, which meant that, by the time she was in kindergarten, “catastrophe was already routine.”
Fantasies of a childhood without violence and strife, led Carey to write “All I Want for Christmas Is You” when she was just 22.
“This song came from a childlike space,” Carey writes. “… I wanted to write a song that would make me happy and make me feel like a loved, carefree young girl at Christmas.”
Kicking off the festivities with a brand new video cut for All I Want For Christmas Is You (Unreleased Video Footage) ❄🎄 hope you like it!!! Link in bio 💖 #MerryChristmas25
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The song was just a fantasy, though, as Carey claims that she suffered “significant neglect” throughout her childhood, something the singer says she largely attributes to her mother.
“There is a cloud of sadness that I suspect will always hang over me, not simply because of my mother but because of our complicated journey together,” she writes. “It has caused me so much pain and confusion.”
Carey also claims her sister, Alison, also contributed to her childhood woes, by allegedly injuring her younger sister — both mentally and physically.
“When I was 12 years old, 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,” Carey writes. “Something in me was arrested by all that trauma. That is why I often say, ‘I’m eternally 12.’ I am still struggling through that time.”
She felt that she was “held captive” during her relationship with Tommy Mottola
Carey met Tommy Mottola, her first husband and the former Chairman & CEO of Sony Music, when their eyes met at a party and “an energy instantly rushed between us.”
Mottola got a hold of her demo at the time and the pair quickly entered into both a personal and professional relationship.
“He wanted to sign me. This was the first of what would be a strange and fantastical series of Cinderella stories in my life,” Carey writes. “But I was not swept off my feet, and trust and believe me, Tommy Mottola was no Prince Charming.”
While Carey writes that Mottola “protected” her at the start of their relationship, she claims that morphed into a “slow and steady march into captivity.” When Mottola decided to build a massive home in Bedford, New York, Carey offered to pay half the cost so it would rightfully be half hers.
“My faith and my fans blessed me with unimaginable riches. I was immensely grateful. But, despite that huge accomplishment, I had yet to learn that in reality, I’d just provided the design inspiration, and put up half the money, to build my own prison,” she writes. “… Jokingly, I referred to the Bedford estate as Sing Sing. It was fully staffed with armed guards, security cameras were installed in most rooms, and Tommy was in control.”
After they tied the knot in 1993, Carey says she felt as if she was living in an “iron-clad dungeon,” that left her in “a toxic, tumultuous marriage.”
Prior to the release of Carey’s memoir, Mottola released a statement about his ex to ET.
“Mariah and I met 32 years ago and achieved a staggering 15 number one hits in a row and sold over 200 million albums worldwide, breaking all records globally,” he told ET. “I am deeply gratified to have played a role in Mariah’s well-deserved and remarkable success and continue to wish her and her family only the very best.”
She secretly wrote, produced and sang background on a ’90s alt-rock album
While she was making her 1995 album, Daydream, Carey decided to exert some control over her life and express her rage by creating an alter-ego artist. She’d record these alt-rock songs in the studio, after working on Daydream.
“I was playing with the style of the breezy-grunge, punk-light white female singers who were popular at the time,” she writes. “You know the ones who seemed to be so carefree with their feelings and their image. They could be angry, angsty, and messy, with old shoes, wrinkled slips, and unruly eyebrows, while every move I made was so calculated and manicured. I wanted to break free, let loose, and express my misery — but I also wanted to laugh.”
In a tweet ahead of her memoir’s release, Carey wrote that those songs became Chick’s 1995 album, Someone’s Ugly Daughter, even sharing the “hidden layer” of backup vocals she sang on the track “Hermit.”
Fun fact: I did an alternative album while I was making Daydream 👀 Just for laughs, but it got me through some dark days. Here's a little of what I wrote about it in #TheMeaningOfMariahCarey 🤟 S/O to my friend Clarissa who performs the lead w/ me as a hidden layer #Chick#TMOMCpic.twitter.com/Re23t5whcd
In a statement to Pitchfork, Carey’s rep revealed that the singer wrote, produced, and sang background vocals on every song on the album. She was also responsible for the album’s art direction and directed the video for “Malibu,” the rep confirmed.
She believed she was risking her life during Derek Jeter romance
Amid her challenges with Mottola, Carey met Derek Jeter and began a flirtation with him. The pair met at a dinner and, after a comment about their shared bi-racial identity, Carey considered him “closer to a Prince Charming.”
Carey “felt butterflies” during that initial conversation and left the dinner feeling “unencumbered” for the first time in a while. They went on to start “a clandestine communication,” where, with the help of her assistant, Carey would sneak around to see Jeter.
“Planning and communicating with Derek felt like someone had smuggled a file into my jail cell,” Carey writes. “Each time we connected, it was as if I had worn down a bit more of the bars that held me captive.”
Carey and Jeter eventually kissed on a rooftop, an encounter that led her to write “The Roof.”
After that moment with Jeter, Carey says she began to “appear defiant” with Mottola. Carey and Jeter continued their relationship, whom she thought was her “soul mate,” and managed to get away with him to Puerto Rico.
“I truly believed I was actually risking my life, but I felt life wasn’t worth living if I couldn’t have what I’d had that night,” Carey writes of a night during her getaway with Jeter. “‘My All’ was the realest, boldest, most passionate love song I’d ever written.”
After Mottola signed divorce papers, Carey and Jeter finally consummated their relationship.
“It was so sensual — everything was so new and sweet, down to the smooth texture of his honey-dipped skin,” Carey writes. “It was how it was supposed to feel. The months of anticipation had built an intensity I could not have manufactured. It was so heady, so intoxicating, and I was so vulnerable. I was in touch with a fire I didn’t know I had inside.”
Though their relationship didn’t last, Carey thinks her time with Jeter “served a very high purpose.”
“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,” she writes. “He was in the right place at the right time, and he was there for the right purpose.”
Glitter was full of “bad luck, bad timing and sabotage”
Photographs by @georgeholzofficial © 2001
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“The saga of making Glitter was a collision of bad luck, bad timing and sabotage,” Carey writes of the infamous 2001 film, which she claims she had “virtually [no]” control over.
Carey writes that her initial concepts for the movie “were almost entirely rewritten,” something she equates with Mottola exerting his remaining “stifling control.”
“Nothing could be too real, too edgy, too sexy, or too down-to-earth. There was a much grittier script to be had… but we ended up with something very bubblegum,” Carey writes. “… At every turn there were missteps.”
“… Much of what went wrong with Glitter led back to Tommy. He was angry about the divorce and my departure from Sony, and he used all his power and connections to punish me,” she claims, further alleging: “And everybody else around me knew it was happening, including my new label… He was not going to let me or Glitter shine; rather, he was intent on stamping us out. He wouldn’t have been satisfied unless I absolutely failed.”
She “identified” with Princess Diana after a brief encounter from across the room
Amid her personal struggles, Carey writes that the press “hunted” her “ferociously,” something that reminded her of a brief encounter she had with Princess Diana years prior. The “unforgettable” moment happened at a Vogue party, where the late royal and Carey locked eyes from across the room.
“She had that look — the dull terror of never being left alone burning behind her eyes. We were both like cornered animals in couture,” Carey writes. “I completely recognized and identified with her. We shared the understanding of how it felt always being surrounded by people, all of whom might not be trying to hurt you, but all of whom are trying to do something. They all want something.”
Diana died in a 1997 car accident, long before social media allowed celebrities and their fans to have their own voice.
“I only wish Princess Di had lived long enough to have Instagram or Twitter,” Carey writes. “I wish she had lived to see the people become the press. Perhaps she and others would have lived to tell their story.”
She was “broken down” by her family, lack of sleep and more prior to entering rehab
Following the 2001 release of “Loverboy,” Carey says she hadn’t slept in six days, was “barely eating,” and felt “completely spent” due to pressure from her label and her team, her infamous appearance on TRL — which Carey calls “a stunt gone awry,” and ongoing issues with Mottola and her family.
She escaped to the house she bought for her mother to try and get separation and rest, but ended up being awoken by her mother, which caused her to go into “such a rage.” Carey claims her mom called the police after her daughter’s “hysterical frenzy,” which led Carey to be removed from the house she’d purchased.
“That night, I did not ‘have a breakdown,'” Carey writes. “I was broken down — by the very people who were supposed to keep me whole.”
The police took her to a place she had heard referred to as “the spa,” but it turned out to be “closer to a prison” that she couldn’t sign herself out of and was stuck in for several days.
Carey eventually allowed her brother to take her to Los Angeles, where she entered a “hard-core detox and rehab center,” which she calls “one of the most harrowing times” of her life. She was released from the center — where she was given “heavy, hard narcotics” — following 9/11.
“On September 11, 2001, I walked out of detox pumped full of toxins. The city of LA was solid, but I was shaky. I felt alone, untethered, and out of my body,” she writes. “I got myself to a hotel and had the first uninterrupted rest I’d had in weeks.”
She attended the premiere of Glitter just 10 days later.
Mariah Carey at a 2001 screening of ‘Glitter.’
Eventually Carey got a therapist, was diagnosed with somatization — a condition where psychological symptoms are felt physically — and continued to turn her focus to her career.
“There is nothing more powerful than surviving a trip to hell and coming home covered in the light of restorations,” she writes. “It wasn’t an easy journey back to myself and to God, but I was back on my feet and walking forward. No one, I decided, was going to stop me or take all my power again. Ever.”
Michelle Obama was the first to know that Carey and Nick Cannon were expecting twins
Carey met her second husband, Nick Cannon, onstage at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, when he presented her with the Choice Love Song award for her track, “We Belong Together.” The pair had a flirtatious moment when Carey let Cannon know that she had heard he had a crush on her.
Ashlee Simpson, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards.
That interaction soon led to nightly phone calls during which Carey was taken by Cannon’s “perpetual teen spirit” and the safety he seemed to provide.
“He laughed a lot, and he made me laugh. We made each other laugh a lot. We talked about life and music. I just wanted to be around him,” she writes. “… We could share our layers with each other. We connected on some very core things… The power dynamic between us felt even.”
After Carey told Cannon that she was not “interested in becoming physically vulnerable” without a promise of marriage, the two married and “having children together became our reason.”
They went on to suffer a miscarriage, before Carey became pregnant with twins. Despite her “rough” pregnancy, Carey accepted an invitation to perform at the Christmas in Washington special for President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters.
“Earlier Nick had suggested I tell FLOTUS our then secret. She and President Obama were going down the line, thanking all of us, and when she came to me, I seized the moment and whispered in her ear that I was having twins,” Carey writes. “After I sang ‘One Child,’ Michelle Obama, our forever historic First Lady, became the first to know we were having two children. What a blessing.”
Mariah Carey at the 2010 ‘Christmas in Washington’ show.
Following the birth of their children, Moroccan and Monroe, Carey and Cannon had a “wonderful and fun” time with their babies. But soon, parenthood, work and other elements led them to a divorce, which took two years and “hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees” to finalize in 2016. Though their split was “tough,” both Carey and Cannon “wanted to make sure everything was cool for our family.”
“We still have fun, reminisce, and joke. And we both are certain that Roc and Roe are indeed our light,” Carey writes. “Every day they give us new life.”
Happy Thanksgiving! Thankful for all the blessings in my life 🙏❤️
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Her refusal to acknowledge time is a “very real” belief for her
Throughout the years, Carey has become known for not sharing her age and referring to her birthdays as anniversaries. Despite the “jokes and memes” about her choice to “refuse to acknowledge time,” Carey writes that her stance is “a very real belief” for her.
“I cried on my 18th birthday. I thought I was a failure because I didn’t have a record deal yet. That was my one goal. It was as if I was holding my breath until I could hold a physical thing, an album that had ‘Mariah Carey’ printed on it,” she writes. “Once I got my deal I exhaled, and my life began. From that day on, I calculated my life through albums, creative experiences, professional accomplishments, and holidays.”
Spent 3.27 at home with my family and virtually with fans and friends from all over the world. Thank you for all the love 🦋❤️🥳 #eternally12
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For Carey, her decision wasn’t a rash one, rather one based on everything she’s been through — and everything she still wants out of life.
“Life has made me find my own way to be in this world. Why ruin the journey by watching the clock and the ticking away of years?” she questions. “So much happened to me before anyone even knew my name, time seems like an inadequate way to measure or record it. Not living based on time also became a way to hold on to myself, to keep close and keep alive that inner child of mind.”
“… It is a waste of time to be fixated on time,” Carey adds. “Often time can be bleak, dahling, so why choose to live in it?”
The Meaning of Mariah Carey is out now.
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