Mariah Carey has 200 million record sales under her belt and an estimated wealth of hundreds of millions of dollars, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that she had it all. But the star has had her struggles over the years, many of which she’s been frank about. And in one of her most recent admissions, the singer has lifted the lid on her complicated relationship with her family.
Carey’s closest living relatives consist of her sister Alison, her brother Morgan and her mom Patricia. Her parents had divorced when the singer was just three years old, and her dad Alfred later died in 2002. But while her family is relatively small, their relationships appear incredibly complicated.
While Carey has kept quiet about the strained relationship she has had with her relatives for much of her career, she finally let rip in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey. And discussing the book on TV show The Oprah Conversation, Carey laid her feelings for her closest family members bare in a no-holds-barred interview.
The future megastar was born the youngest of three children to parents Patricia and Alfred Carey on March 27, 1970. Her Venezuelan father worked in the aeronautical industry, while her mother was an opera singer and a voice coach. And it was the latter who first noticed her daughter’s vocal talents.
From the tender age of two, Carey impressed her mother by copying her operatic singing style. And apparently, her talents effectively changed the relationship she had with her parent forever. According to the pop diva, her voice meant that she was more than “just” a daughter to her mom.
Carey, writing in her 2020 memoir, recalled an early episode with her mother. The singer revealed, “One day, while practicing an aria from the opera Rigoletto, she kept stumbling on this one part. I sang it back to her, in perfect Italian. I might have been three years old.”
Recalling her mother’s reaction to her voice, Carey added, “She looked at me, stunned, and at that moment I knew she saw me. I was more than a little girl to her. I was Mariah. A musician.” With that in mind, the youngster was sent to singing lessons at just four years old. Over the years, she came to develop an amazing vocal range, stretching across no fewer than five octaves.
So from a young age, it appeared that Carey was on the path to stardom. After graduating from high school in Greenlawn, New York, she relocated to Manhattan to chase her dreams. To make ends meet, she waited tables, worked as a hatcheck girl, and even studied as a beautician – after all, it’s always good to have a back-up plan.
A waitress and student by day, Carey used her free nights to follow her dream of becoming a professional singer. Her luck would change at the age of 18 when she attended a party of music industry heavyweights. The wannabe brought a demo tape with her, intending to hand it to Jerry Greenberg of Columbia Records. But instead, it wound up in the hands of Tommy Mottola.
Mottola’s interception of the tape would prove to be a fateful development for Carey. The Columbia Records – and later Sony – president listened to her music on the way home from the party. Impressed by what he heard, he signed Carey as quickly as possible and set in motion what would become her eponymous first album.
Mariah Carey was released in 1990 and eventually produced four number-one singles. Throughout the decade, Carey would release a further six records, racking up a total of 15 chart-topping singles in the process. Some of the singer’s smash hits from this period include “Fantasy,” “Dreamlover,” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
But while the 1990s cemented Carey’s status as a pop superstar, away from the spotlight things were not so positive. In 1993 Carey wed her record label boss Mottola, who was 20 years her senior. She would later claim that theirs was not a happy marriage, even comparing their home to New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison.
In Carey’s memoir, she wrote that she had been “held captive in that relationship” with Mottola. The star added, “I would keep my purse filled with essentials just in case I had to make a quick escape. Captivity and control come in many forms, but the goal is always the same — to break down the captive’s will.”
Meanwhile, in the record executive’s 2013 autobiography Hitmaker: The Man and His Music, he acknowledged that his union with Carey had been “absolutely wrong and inappropriate.” And responding to the claims put forward in her memoir, in September 2020 Mottola told website Page Six that he wished his former wife well.
Giving a statement to the New York Post newspaper’s gossip column, Mottola said, “I am deeply gratified to have played that role in Mariah’s well-deserved and remarkable success, and continue to wish her and her family only the very best.” The couple divorced in 1998 and the split from her husband marked a change of direction for Carey in terms of her career.
From then on, Carey ditched her good-girl image in favor of a more sexualized style. Moreover, the new millennium brought the singer renewed success, particularly with the release of her tenth album The Emancipation of Mimi. In fact, it would go on to become the best-selling album of 2005 in the United States.
Following the release of Carey’s 11th album E=MC² in 2008, she achieved more number one hits in the U.S. than Elvis, leaving her second only to The Beatles in the all-time list. In total, the singer has sold more than 200 million records across the globe, making her the third-best-selling female recording artist ever.
In fact, 2008 would prove to be a major year for Carey. It was then that the superstar met and married the rapper and TV personality Nick Cannon after just two months of dating. They would welcome twins Monroe and Moroccan in 2011 before separating in 2014 and divorcing two years later.
Aside from Carey’s successful recording career and parenting duties, she’s also ventured into acting, voicing characters in American Dad! and The Lego Batman Movie. She also served as a judge on the 12th season of American Idol in 2012. Then, the singer went on to take up residency at the Caesars Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas in May 2016.
Given all that she’d achieved, it seemed that by 2020 the only thing left for Carey to tick off her to-do list was write a memoir. So she did just that. Her tell-all book The Meaning Of Mariah Carey was released in September 2020. And it contained some explosive claims about her life.
The first part of Carey’s autobiography takes an unflinching look at her childhood. And in the book, it became clear that the singer’s relationships with her family members were difficult, to say the least. Things seem particularly tense with the star’s older brother and sister, Morgan and Alison, to whom she refers as her “ex” siblings.
According to Carey, she felt distant from her much-older siblings from a young age. What’s more, growing up biracial – with a white mother and black father – Carey felt that her brother and sister resented her for her lighter hair and skin. So, the singer felt as though she didn’t belong.
In the book, Carey claims that her brother Morgan had violent tendencies. She recalled one incident when, at the age of six, she had to call the police after her teenage sibling hurt their mom. The superstar remembered that one cop had commented on her saying, “If this kid makes it, it’ll be a miracle.”
Meanwhile, Carey didn’t paint her sister in any more of a positive light. In another passage from her memoir the singer claimed that, when she was 12, her sibling had drugged her with Valium, offered her cocaine and tried to sell her “to a pimp.” She also claimed that Alison had left her vulnerable and alone with a boyfriend, who took her out on a terrifying car ride armed with a gun.
Recalling the horrifying incident, in her memoir, Carey wrote, “John put his arm around me. My body went stiff. My eyes were fixed on his gun. John pushed in closer and forced a hard kiss on me. I was nauseous and scared; I felt immobilized.” Luckily, Carey says her ordeal was brought to an end by an old man “peering directly into John’s car.”
Even when Carey grew up to be a successful singer, she claimed that her siblings found new ways to attack her. In her book she wrote, “Through the years, both my sister and brother have put me on the chopping block, sold lies to any gossip rag or trashy website that would buy or listen.” And Alison in particular turned to her younger sister for help on many occasions.
Carey claimed that for years, her sister had “bartered her body for money and drugs.” And while she had tried to help Alison on a number of occasions, paying for treatment and rehab, the star has so far been unable to save her sibling from her troubles. In 2016 she was arrested for prostitution in New York and a year later was sued for millions after it was alleged she’d nearly killed a man with her car.
Needless to say then, the relationships Carey had with her siblings were far from straightforward. She opened up further about her brother and sister during an appearance on the Apple TV+ show The Oprah Conversation in September 2020. And her confession confirmed that there was no love lost between the singer and her kin.
Even so, Carey was cautious about criticizing her family members in public. So before sharing her opinions on her siblings, she told host Oprah, “I would never have spoken a word about anybody in my life — and I tried to be very fair. But people have drawn first blood with me historically.”
Carey, seemingly referring to her estranged siblings, continued, “I know you understand this: when there are people that are in any way connected to you as a person that has achieved any success, you are a target. You’re vulnerable. But I wouldn’t have gone here if things hadn’t been done to me.”
The star then claimed that some members of her closest family had “treated [her] as an ATM machine with a wig on.” Suggesting that her relatives were only interested in her wealth, Carey added, “All it is, is like: let me get some money — and let me get some money no matter what.”
But when Carey called out her siblings, she didn’t stop there. The star said that her brother was “extremely violent.” Meanwhile, she described her sister as “traumatized” and “troubled,” before adding, “And I tried to be thoughtful about that [description] — although I don’t know that the same courtesy has been extended to me from anybody that caused certain traumatic events in my life.”
Carey also made efforts to distance herself from her siblings, claiming, “We don’t even know each other.” She explained, “We didn’t grow up together. By the time I got into the world, they had already been damaged.” With that in mind, the singer added that she “literally felt like an outsider among [her] own family.” But, she said that when she became successful, they saw her as “a get-rich-quick scheme.”
Carey, as well as calling out her brother and sister, then delved into the complicated relationship she shares with her mother, who she calls “Patricia,” rather than “mom.” She revealed that she’d felt “neglected” and “dirty” when she was young. Moreover, as a child she claimed that her mother left her with individuals who were “not safe.”
Carey described her mother as both “Beauty and the Beast” in her memoir. She also told Oprah that Patricia was “not safe for me either – emotionally.” The star added that there had been a “huge role reversal” in their relationship. But, speaking of her mom, the singer vowed to “always take care of her.”
Given the financial role Carey claimed to play in her relatives’ lives, she said that she had been the “matriarch for everyone, even as the youngest child in the family.” She explained that taking on this role came with a great deal of “pressure.” Not only that, but the diva claimed it had also led to feelings of “resentment and envy.”
Rather than enjoying a loving relationship, then, Carey claimed that her family had always simply thought, “What can we get from her?” She said that she had “so many people living off” her and “never felt safe.” What’s more, the singer declared that her mother had failed to support her during one of her toughest moments.
In 2001 Carey was hospitalized during an emotional crisis. She had originally turned to her mom for comfort, but claimed that her parent had called 911 to have her daughter taken away when she broke down inside Patricia’s Long Island home. The star explained, “Rather than say: ‘We’re okay. I’m here and taking care of my daughter. She’s tired. Someone called the cops by mistake. It was: Oh no, because you defied me, this is what is going to happen.”
In Carey’s opinion, her hospitalization had not been required. And it seems that she blames her mom for that turn of events. She explained, “I have never spoken about it, but I just think it’s important to say that, in that moment, that seemed like a better alternative than where I was in that moment with her and my ex-brother.”
In the end, Carey concluded that her relationship with Patricia was a “work in progress.” And she added that her own kids “help to heal [her] every day” from those painful early years. The pop sensation explained that her twins had given her “unconditional love” – and that was all she had ever wanted.