Mariah Carey's past has taught her how to live in the present and what to hope for in the future. With the release of her 10th studio album in her 15-year career, The Emancipation of Mimi, the R&B songstress now shares this liberation and her inner self with fans.
"Mimi is just one of those nicknames that I have that mainly my friends and family use for me, people really close to me," Carey explains to Jet. "When I was naming the album, I was going back and forth with concepts with (Island Def Jam chairman) L.A. Reid and he had heard somebody call me Mimi and he felt that was really a cute name and that kind of represented the spirit that he was hearing on this record. I felt 'emancipation of Mimi' was cool because it is like a free-spirit type thing."
The multimillion-selling, two-time Grammy winner is confident and upbeat about this latest project. Carey worked with superstar producer Jermaine Dupri for many of the album's tracks, including It's Like That and We Belong Together. She also worked with the Neptunes, Kanye West and hip-hop stars Snoop, Nelly, and Twista. "There are a lot of ballads, but the main vibe is very up-tempo, fun songs."
It's been 15 years since the start of Carey's rise to the top-selling female artist of all time. Her debut album in 1990 tore up the charts with the string of hit singles Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, I Don't Wanna Cry and Someday. Her 15 no. 1 singles rank more than any female artist, a feat that has rendered a No.1 hit in every year for 11 consecutive years (1990-2000).
However, everything that glitters isn't gold. As her star was rising, Carey says she was struggling with issues in her life that caused her to make some self-destructive decisions, namely her 1993 marriage to then Sony Music president Tommy Mottola, who was 20 years her senior. The power couple divorced four years later. Carey says if it was not for her faith in God, there would not have been a present or future in music for her. "My faith has really carried me through the entirety of my career. God puts you through really intense struggles to test your faith, to make you a stronger person and bring you closer to God," the 35-year-old singer says. "From early childhood I have had to deal with the fact that my parents got divorced when I was 3 and that I grew up in a biracial household the whole situation was just very difficult for me. I had an inside ear to two different worlds and now realize how much racism is still a big part of the world today.
"It's a constant learning experience, and the more I grow the more I understand how it's shaped me. It made me insecure in a lot of ways which made me make certain decisions to get into certain relationships because they felt safe. It felt safe to be with an older man because I really didn't have that type of situation when I was growing up. I made a lot of decisions to try to feel secure. I think that was part one of my lesson. Then I had the struggle of trying to get out of a really difficult relationship I got into when I was very, very young. That taught me a big lesson in control when you're in a relationship that's not healthy, it's difficult to maintain who you are."
Carey says, "Once I got out of that, I had a whole bunch of other struggles to go through, business-wise pitfalls and things that I encountered I feel like I encountered them because I lost touch with those private moments of prayer. I was dealing more with the issues of this world as opposed to really doing the best thing for me just turn to God to say 'I need you to handle this for me.' That's the point I'm at now. There's always drama I've just learned to be centered enough to deal with it."
From pressure of filming her first movie, Glitter, and recording the soundtrack album by the same name, Carey checked herself into a treatment facility for exhaustion in 2001. Though the incident was chronicled as an emotional breakdown, Carey feels it was blown out of proportion and it was just a case of her needing some rest. She was known for working days at a time without taking a break. " I think I've learned how to treat myself with more respect as opposed to letting people run my life. I don't think those people really understood I needed my space, my time, my rest, my moments of going to church and just having moment to have down time. Before I was treated like someone who isn't human, who doesn't require sleep. They forget those things because they see you smile for the camera and they think you're OK."
Carey, a talented songwriter who has written or co-written virtually every one of her songs, takes pride in the control she has over her music and her career now. Her stardom began with a wholesome image and soaring ballads that highlighted her multioctave voice. Now she has a sexier image in her videos and concerts and switched musically by collaborating with more hip-hop artists.
Asked if she felt that she's ever slipped away from the Black Community Carey says, "I feel like early on, the record company marketed me. I signed record deals at 18 years old; I didn't know about marketing strategy," Carey explains. " I feel like they intentionally didn't want people to understand the full picture of who I am. I didn't even know the White side of my family. My mother's side disowned her when she married my father because he was Black. They didn't acknowledge the kids or the marriage."
The famed New Yorker is currently working on various projects, including a Broadway play. She says it's still in the making, but producers are going to be writing around her Christmas album, Merry Christmas.
Deep down inside, Carey genuinely values her fans. A stronger person who feels she has come full circle, she says fans can look forward to a future filled with music from Mariah Carey. " I know I'll always be an optimistic, eternal 12-year-old at heart, very much all about having fun. Nothing has ever broken that side of my spirit. Things may have gotten me down for a minute, but I've never really fully lost that side of myself. After everything I've been through, I'm in a really great place with my career right now, and really happy as a person."