THE MARIAH NETWORK

Super Star!

Snakes alive! She's bigger than you thought — sexier than you dreamed. FHM meets Mariah Carey in Miami.

Americans have an obsession with statistics. "Lite" beer has 25 per cent less calories than its full-fat cousin; New York is the most densely populated city in the USA; two in every hundred Yanks are Jewish. They can spout on forever about boring ratios, incredible examples of standard deviation, and any good ol' boy with even half a brain could finger a pie chart depicting national obesity trends onto the bonnet of a dusty Chevy pick-up.

But of all their facts and figures, there's one that is truly amazing: Mariah Carey is the most successful female performer of the decade, selling more than a hundred million records. One hundred million is a number with eight noughts in it. That totals almost two records for every single person in the United Kingdom.

While undoubtedly a fairly colossal star in the UK — her last signing session at a London record store drew over 10,000 giddy fans — it's in Mariah's homeland where the brown-eyed beauty has notched up a status that is almost godlike. Thirteen of her singles have been American number ones — and were helpfully released before Christmas on the imaginatively titled No. 1's album, which includes the UK hits Without You, I'll Be There and One Sweet Day. Mariah doesn't mind those people who have dismissed these songs as lachrymose balladeering — "People can't like everything, right?" — claiming that for her part she often prefers some of the more beefy cuts which have peppered her albums.

Right now, Mariah is working on her first film, All That Glitters. The music from the movie — a film about a singer in which Mariah will take the lead role — is slated to be her next album. Before then, she'll make her movie debut playing a "psychopathic opera singer" in a film called The Bachelor, starring Chris O'Donnell.

Anyone who's ever sat through wet Kevin Costner flick The Bodyguard will have a surprisingly accurate idea of what it's like being one of the biggest stars in the world. There's a furore wherever Mariah goes, and her rented New York apartment is guarded by police officers whose brief is almost certainly to "take the bullet" instead of the little lady herself. Not that she's small: she's actually 5ft8in, taller still in her ubiquitous high heels.

While most people would happily swap their children to be Mariah Carey for a day, the 28-years-old's rise to stardom is a strange old tale that comes with a hefty dollop of misery.

Born in New York in March 1970, Mariah was raised by her mother — an opera singer and single mum. Only recently has she got back in touch with her father — a black Venezuelan and the source of Mariah's exotic skin tone — and she remains grateful that the old boy has never tried to cash in on her fame. Mariah found a talent for singing when she was barely out of nappies, and was recording songs of her own as soon as she left school at 17. She worked as a waitress ("I don't remember getting any good tips," she says, "but then again, I was a really bad waitress"), and at the shockingly youthful age of 18, she managed to thrust a demo tape into the paws of Sony Record boss, Tommy Mottola. In spectacularly fairytale fashion, Mariah was swiftly signed, and it wasn't long before her eponymously-titled debut album was in the shops and on its way to selling five million copies. And it wasn't a whole lot longer before Mottola left his wife and got down on the knee to Mariah — 21 years his junior. They got hitched in June 1993, and were divorced last March.

"I was very unhappy, and I was beaten down," she says of her marriage. "I was in a very confined situation. I wasn't connected to the world, and I didn't feel free."

Since leaving their vast mansion on the outskirts of New York and moving into a two-storey rented townhouse in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Mariah has found relative freedom — although she's still signed to Mottola's label, and still sees her former squeeze on a professional level. "It's a bit stilted and strange," she says.

Mottola is still a touchy subject for Mariah, whose sexy new look — like her stunning FHM shoot — has only come about since she returned to life as a single girl. Whenever the FHM interview strays into Mariah's Mottola years, she looks incredibly sad. "I don't want to give you this ‘Woe is me' thing — that's not me," she admits. "But you have to leave some stuff for yourself to agonize over. To be alone with."

Carey claims to have had only two real relationships; the other one was with baseball player Derek Jeter, who now she describes as "a blip". Not that this has stopped rumours that she's done the funky chicken with everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to gangly children's TV presenter Jamie Theakston. "Yeah, Jamie is really nice, but we never had a secret tryst," she insists.

FHM has flown to Miami to be with Mariah. After killing a couple of hours driving around the famous Ocean Drive — it's Superbowl weekend, and the freaks are out in their droves — we arrive outside a detached pink beach house, which Mariah has rented because — obviously — she can't find a hotel suite. Three vehicles pull up alongside us; two large cars with blacked-out windows, and a van at the rear. When the convoy can't get into the drive, Mariah simply jumps out of the middle car, walks across the street and disappears into a house. Crazy.

Before long we're summoned inside and offered a Coke by a portly Spaniard. This is the first interview Mariah has ever agreed to do while on a holiday, but her posse of assistants, managers, bodyguards and helpers seem relaxed enough for us to think that Mariah — who's somewhere upstairs — is in a pretty good mood.

In fact, Mariah is so up to FHM that it's not long before we've been invited to walk through to the private in the back and plonk down on a wrought iron chair, pausing only to save the life of her dog — a six-year-old Jack Russell called, erm, Jack — which has been flouncing about desperately in the swimming pool.

Wearing just a one-piece blue swimsuit and a gold chain which disappears down her cleavage, Mariah slides gracefully into the pool, grins and says, "Why don't you come in and play?" Pathetically — devoid of Speedos — we decline, instead she pours glasses of no doubt cripplingly expensive red wine. "You're going to have some really nice dog sound-effects on your tape," says Mariah, in a surprisingly deep and slightly husky voice, as the rowdy mutt careers into my glass. "Sorry about that," she smiles, wiping wine off my foot. "You'll have to bill me for another pair."

Mariah is often portrayed as a pop diva; in fact, she's down to earth and hospitable — in no rush to either start the interview or get it over with.

She splashes around the pool for a bit, then — half submerged — settles on the steps. "So," she says, "this is kind of a cool job you've got — flying all over and doing all kinds of things."

Almost as good as yours
My job is a neverending stress-fest, actually — but it's fun, and rewarding. The best part is going to exotic places like this, and that it doesn't feel like a job. I can be irresponsible, but at the same time, I'm very responsible. I work, like, 24 hours a day. And I seem to spend half my time in limos.

Ever do anything crazy in there, like fall asleep and wake up in a town you never knew you were going to? Or stripped off?
Well, I've fallen asleep in a car many times, but the driver always has a destination. And I get changed in the limo all the time. I'm really good at taking my clothes off and sliding something else on.

Did the tragic death of our Queen of Hearts make you buckle up in the back?
I've always been careful in cars, but I don't wear my seatbelt when I'm in the back, because I'm usually sleeping. Whoever's next to me needs to be tolerant of my legs across them, or they better sit somewhere else.

And I bet it's always at the end of a long day — you whip your shoes off and waft your feet under their nose...
Ha-ha! Well, I like to think my feet don't smell that bad, but yeah, if you don't mind them then sit down, if not...

Neve Campbell told FHM she plucks her toes as they're so hairy
She should shave them. Plucking must really hurt. There's lots I don't like about myself, but I don't want to point it out. I used to have a thing about my forehead, and I used to prefer being seen on my right side. I've grown out of it.

What's been your biggest fashion mistake?
It's hard to narrow down to just one. I was in some magazine's "Worst Dressed Person" list this year, but the people in the "Best" list were all demure or waif-like. Well, I'm sorry, I won't be walking that look this year! They can shove the list where the sun don't shine.

You're famous for wearing incredibly short skirts — ever popped out mistakenly wearing a belt?
Is that why I'm famous? No, I've never done that. I'm not into short skirts now, I wear a very long one in my new video.

Are you attached at the moment?
Hmm... attached? Sort of, kind of, yeah, no...

That's that cleared up, then. What's your ideal man like?
Someone who's creative, intelligent, funny, loose, understanding, appreciative. Physically, I never have a particular look in my mind.

I heard an erroneous tale that you snogged Matt Dillon, causing Cameron Diaz to give your music a kicking in old folks' mag Harpers & Queen. Bothered?
Actually, I ran into her in a restaurant — it was an interesting conversation. People think that I'm this little girl next door and they can say stuff about me and I'll never check them if they run into me. Wrong, I saw her at this restaurant in New York; a place that I feel is really my domain. One night, she's there. I'd probably had too much wine and decided I should seize the opportunity to straighten a few things out. It was quite a scene.

Wow! Catfight! Did you bitch-slapped her, or grab her by the throat perhaps?
Not by the throat! Ha-ha! She said that her words had been twisted. I was actually one of those bad girls at school who used to push people in the lockers and smoke in the bathroom when I was 13. She's so lucky.

Cool — so do you throw like a girl?
No way, I'm pretty strong. I even used to be pretty good at arm-wrestling — right up until the seventh grade I could beat all the boys at my school. Just take a look at these muscles.

Impressive. You've spilled some wine on your leg — it looks like blood and I'm rather concerned that one of your bodyguards will come out and shoot me.
Ha-ha! One of the games I used to do with one of my security guys — he was really inept, and I hadn't hired him — was when we'd be at restaurants and he'd be busy eating. He really didn't fit the bill — late forties, kinda short — and I'd go, "Help! Help! Please! Aagh!" He never even look up.

How did you feel after your divorce? Like you were 18 again?
Yeah, I felt like I was free, but not like I was 18, because then I'd have had to go through what I went through once again. Now, I feel... appropriate. My life is much more appropriate at this point for someone my age than it was five years ago. I mean, it used to be that the only people I was around were my parents' age. I'm very free-spirited, fun-loving person, and going out to stuffy restaurants and having to present myself in a certain way wasn't the most thrilling thing. But it was a time of my life — I did it, that's it.

You're mother's of Irish descent — have you ever downed a pint of Guinness?
If I downed a pint of Guinness I'd be out of it. I'm not a good drinker, I can drink wine and champagne, but I can't drink beers.

What was your most drunken night?
One time, this guy was at my house — this is when I lived at the other lair — and he's a very wealthy older man, a billionaire. I guess he used to enjoy watching me get drunk. So I'm sitting there, bored, and he's giving me these tequila shots. I was going, "This stuff isn't doing anything," but after about five of them — and I'd already had some wine — I suddenly felt really sick. And he's laughing at me, like, "Look! She's drunk! That's so cute..." So I'm walking up the stairs, trying to maintain my composure, but I was a mess, really sick, throwing up...

Did you spray the wall?
No, I made it to my bathroom — always the lady — and then I decided I wanted to take a bath, but my psychotic housekeeper was like, "No! you've got to go to bed!" But I really wanted a bath, so I'm running around naked in this room, trying to rebel against my housekeeper. Finally, I pretended I was going to sleep and she left — then I bolted for the door, fell down some stairs and hit my head on this bar and made a bruise — like a line — right across my face. I woke up the next morning and thought someone had hit me. It wasn't sexy at all, and that's why you'll never catch me drinking a single drop of tequila again. It's lethal stuff.

We're doing a feature on the grim northern town of Barrow-In-Furness this month. Unemployment is rife there since England's need for submarines declined — can you give the local people a message of hope?
Well, don't give up hope. That's the only way to get through tough times, right?

Absolutely. We're also doing a feature on madness — ever thought you were going a bit ga-ga yourself?
Not really, but I've been in a situation where what was going on was so negative and screwed up that it should drive anyone crazy.

What's the best rumour you've heard about yourself?
That I breed hamsters. I don't know where that came from. With the Internet, people make up whole interviews that never ever happened.

Have you ever seen any of the 69,000 links to Mariah Carey on the web?
I've seen some. And I've seen my nude pictures. They're not me — they're other girls with curly hair, naked. Some of them have hairy armpits, so they're definitely barking up the wrong tree.

Ha! Finally, how long are you planning on staying in Miami?
Oh, I haven't decided yet. Maybe a day and a half. There's going to be a lot of parties tonight. Busta Rhymes is having one, which should be good. But I hope it doesn't get too hectic — the other night, two of my friends were at a party here and it got busted by the cops, and one of my friends got pepper spray in her eye. You know, the basic, glamorous superstar kinda thing. Hopefully that won't be happening tonight!