In Person: Mariah Carey

Meet a young lady who sings more than just the blues.

Seventeen (US) October 1990.

The soulful sounds of Stevie Wonder echo softly from a boombox, empty takeout cartons lay scattered across the only couch in the room, and a couple of guys hang back in the corner talking quietly. Still, the cavernous rehearsal studio is charged with anticipation. And a few minutes later we find out why, when Mariah Carey walks in.

Despite being the hottest pop sensation since Whitney Houston, Carey, clad in a pair of worn jeans and simple white shirt, is unassuming, almost bashful, as she reaches for the microphone. "Mind if I just sort of play around a little?" she asks huskily.

Soon the room is filled with a heart-wrenching rhythm-and-blues ballad as this lissome diva carries the listener away on a riveting seven-octave roller coaster of sound.

From the moment she can "remember remembering," Carey says, she's always wanted to play around with sound. Which isn't surprising since the main influence of her youth was her mother, a New York City Opera singer. "I knew from watching and listening to my mom," explains the twenty-year-old, "that singing could and would be my profession. And besides, she had to tear me away from the radio each night just to get me to go to sleep."

At seventeen, prompted by an unquenchable desire to sing, Carey left her home on Long Island and moved in with another struggling singer in New York City. It's here that the story takes on a Cinderella-esque twist. In between waitressing — for just enough money to eat and pay rent — Carey spent her time schlepping her demo tapes around town to music execs who rarely, if ever, agreed to see her. Then one night... fate stepped in. "I'd left my demo tape at this party," says Carey, "and Tommy Mottola, the president of CBS Records, picked it up. There was no phone number or anything on the tape, so the next day they tracked me down." Then her single, Vision of Love, broke music-industry records by topping all the charts. Sounds as if the slipper fit, doesn't it?