THE MARIAH NETWORK

America's Most Successful Female Artiste Mariah Carey

Reveals that she and new husband Nick Cannon are gearing up for babies.

Mariah Carey is a woman with weddings on her mind. When she found out that she was being interviewed by a fellow newlywed, the superstar — who exchanged vows with Nick Cannon in a surprise beachfront ceremony in the Bahamas on 30 April, attended by just eight of her closest friends — arranged for a "festive" (Mariah-speak for "fun") surprise.

"Congratulations to you!" she beamed as she handed over a beautiful set of crystal champagne glasses and a hand-written card to this dumb-struck Hello! reporter. "Isn't being married the most wonderful thing?"

With kindness like that, it is hardly surprising that 38-year-old Mariah's new husband, 28, is captivated by her, describing their relationship as "the best thing that ever happened to me." His admiration for the multi-Grammy-winning star is shared by a loyal army of fans. As well as selling an astonishing 200 million records worldwide, Mariah recently celebrated her 18th US No.1 — making her the most successful solo artiste of all time, overtaking even Elvis Presley.

The X Factor finalists' version of her self-penned ballad, Hero, is the biggest-selling song of the year in the UK and has raised vital funds for Help for Heroes, a charity that provides support for wounded servicemen and women, and for the Poppy Appeal. "It's very touching," says Mariah. "I've been out to the Middle East and seen first-hand what amazing work these people do."

She has also launched two popular fragrances — M by Mariah Carey and Luscious Pink — and appears in recent hit movie You Don't Mess with the Zohan and forthcoming release Tennessee. And there could soon be a new bauble in Mariah's trophy cabinet — the theme song for Tennessee, which she wrote and performed, is being tipped for an Oscar nomination.

Her next project? Starting a family with Nick 28, her second husband and a millionaire in his own right. An accomplished actor, DJ, comedian and producer, he directed the video to Mariah's new single, I Stay in Love. "I just love working with him," Mariah purrs. "He is so talented."

Rumours abound that Mrs Cannon is already expecting the couple's first child. But if she is, she isn't telling — and her toned physique has yet to betray any sign of a bump. "We'll just see what happens," she smiles. "But I'm ready for it. I'm with the right person." In this exclusive interview, the chanteuse talks revealingly about her new love, her plans to restage her nuptials every year and why she knows she has found The One.

Firstly, Mariah, thank you so much for your gift. It was totally unexpected!
"Even though my own wedding was more than six months ago, I am so happy — and I like to share all that happiness around. Marriage is something to be celebrated, especially when it's with the right person."

Just over a year ago, you said you weren't sure if a lasting relationship was on the cards for you. Obviously that has changed...
"It was a huge surprise for me, too! Nick and I had met a couple of years before and there was an attraction, but neither of as was single so we just left it at that. But in February this year he was brought in to work on the video for my single, Bye Bye. A lot of things had changed in our lives since that first meeting and, without wanting to sound corny, it was a magical moment"

The proposal came pretty soon after that reunion...
"Yeah, it did! But we kind of knew from the beginning that we were going to get married. It's hard to describe but we knew immediately. I know people are going to be like, 'There's no way!' but neither of no had any doubts that we were truly meant for each other. He is my soulmate."

When did Nick pop the question?
"It was the day in April that they lit the Empire State Building in New York in pink and lavender, my signature colours, as it had just been announced that I'd had my 18th No.1 hit, beating Elvis's record. Nick was spoiling me all day with Hello Kitty treats and little gifts, and he handed me a sweet wrapper. He was filming or opening everything but I didn't think anything of it."

"All of a sudden, I got to the candy ring — he's always giving me those as he has a very sweet tooth — and I said to him, 'Mine's broken, there's no sweet inside.' He told me to open it anyway, so I did — and there was this beautiful diamond ring inside. I ran and turned off the camera — I feel like everything in my life is always on film and I wanted this moment to be private. And I was to happy that I cried."

Then there was a second proposal?
"Yes! The next day, he took me on a helicopter ride around the Empire State Building as it was still lit up. He got down on one knee and proposed again — someone was filming as this time because I decided I wanted a record of this most perfect moment. But we told the camera guy it was all part of a video for my song Love Story, as we'd decided that we didn't want anyone to know we were getting married. A few weeks after we did it, the guy got in touch saying, 'I had no idea that was real!' We ended up getting 'Our love story' engraved on the inside of our wedding rings."

You had only eight guests on your big day in the Bahamas — it must have been a struggle keeping such a great secret...
"We did an amazing job of keeping it private. We didn't want people following us, and we didn't want anyone giving us their opinion, saying it was too soon, you need to wait or whatever. We knew it was right, and it was really nobody else's business."

In June 1993, you had a huge wedding to former Sony Music Entertainment boss Tommy Mottola, and your split from him was quite acrimonious. Did you feel you wanted something completely different?
"I wanted the opposite of what I did the first time. Nick and I wanted it to be about us, no fuss, no worrying about everyone else's opinions. I can honestly say that my wedding to Nick was the most beautiful day of my life. For once it wasn't about all the hoopla."

What did your friends and family have to say when they found out?
"I was getting loads of calls from people asking, 'Is it a rumour? Is it true?' People were a little shocked but they were all very happy for us. We'll definitely get them involved in another celebration, though. We've been talking about doing a bigger wedding on our first anniversary. And maybe another one every year!"

How did you know that Nick was The One?
"We really have similar interests — he's so much fun. It's usually hard for someone to keep up with me, wanting to do the festive stuff all the time. But he loves it, and that's the cool thing about it. We're both very festive in general, which I think is so important. Nick hired the Six Flags amusement park in LA for me one evening and we had the best time, going on rollercoasters and having fun. He's also very romantic, and I am too. He'll write 'I love you' in rose petals on the bed, and he writes me cards — special, personal cards. He's just fabulous."

You have a hectic work schedule. It must be hard to be away from him...
"Yeah, it is. We try not to be apart for more than a couple of nights but it's special when I see him again. Nick is so supportive of everything I do. And he's very successful himself, so he totally understands the commitments. We work as a team."

What was it like working with your husband on your I Stay in Love video? He was directing it — was he allowed to boss you around?
"It works perfectly because we choose to work together. He's not one of those people who's going to tell me what to do. He'll be like, 'What do you think of this?' It's banter back and forth. He must be a good influence as it was the first video shoot I've over been on time for — we ended early two days in a row, and we were under budget. He's helping me with the diva stuff! In fact, he's being the diva at the moment — he's upstairs in bed watching movies. But seriously, he's so talented and it's a privilege to do these projects together."

You once told me that you weren't sure if you'd ever be able to bring children into your "crazy world". Has Nick changed your mind?
"I've changed my mind because I'm with The One. I think we would make good parents, and that we'd be able to figure out how to do it properly."

There are rumours you're expecting...
"People are constantly asking me if I'm pregnant, but I don't like to talk about it too much. I just think about it as the next phase. We'll see."

What did Barack Obama's Presidential election victory mean to you?
"I'm still so stunned by it. Obama becoming President is just the most incredible achievement. My mom is Irish and my dad was African-American/Venezuelan, and when my parents got married they weren't allowed to be together in a lot of American states. It was illegal because they were an interracial couple. When I look at this, and I think about my grandmother, my great-grandmother and my mom, who was heavily involved in civil rights, it makes me tear up. It makes me so emotional as for once we did the right thing and everyone got involved. People saw past the race thing and the world seems better already. There's a real feeling of hope."

You appeared on The X Factor, where Simon Cowell described you as "quite simply, the biggest star in the world". How did you find the experience?
"I really enjoyed the whole thing, and I was so impressed by the level of talent. I really liked Alexandra — by the time we'd finished we were like old friends. Eoghan was really sweet — very cute. He doesn't have a small voice — he has got this voice that has star quality. And I really like the group JLS; they have a lot of personality and work well together."

You're on course to overtake the Beatles' record of 20 US No.1s, which will make you officially the most successful recording artist of all time. Despite all your success, do you still worry about what the critics say?
"I'm my own worst critic. Do I read the reviews? Yes, the good ones! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion in every arena of life, from music to politics, but I try not to read negative reviews."

How do you plan to spend your first Christmas as Mrs Cannon?
"We're all going to Aspen, like I do every year, but it'll be extra-special as it's the first Christmas with Nick. I plan lots of fabulous, festive stuff for him — I think he's going to love it."