Today, Mariah Carey is, at 21, the proud possessor of a debut album whose worldwide sales exceed seven million, and a pair of Grammys awarded this year for Best Female Vocalist and Best New Artist. Back in 1988, however, the only award she might have got was New York's Worst Waitress. "I worked in a sports bar and they had these huge screens where they watched sporting events and pop videos. The boss felt sorry for me because I was such a pathetic waitress that they thought no one else would hire me. The coat-check was right across from the screen and I always said I wanted to go back and watch my own video up on that screen. One day I'll do that but the food's not that great there, so I've got to go when I'm not really hungry, hahaha!"
The rapid rise of Mariah Carey is one of those showbiz stories that should have gone out with the Ark. The third child of a former opera singer now a voice coach, Mariah was inspired by her older siblings' soul, jazz and gospel records, and instructed in vocal technique by her mother. Dedicated to singing and, with a friend seven years her senior, Ben Margulies, helping her to write songs, Mariah left school as soon as she could. Supporting herself in Manhattan's more unfortunate drink'n'eateries, she worked at her musical ambitions, by chance getting her demo tape into the hands of the CBS Records' President, Tommy Mottola, at a party.
Driving home, on a whim he actually played it. What he heard was a voice of prodigious power, range and nuance, so he turned the car round, but Mariah had already left. Tracking her down the following day, he signed her as a "priority artist" and, while retaining overall "executive producer" control, stuck her in the studio with such copper-bottomed hit-mongers as Narada Michael Walden and Rhett Lawrance. Voila, the first single Vision Of Love went to Number 1 in America, swiftly followed by Mariah's self-titled album.
"For her second album, The Wind (released in September and trailered by a new single, Emotions, co-writer Ben Margulies has been sidelined, as have the host of studio wizards. Now it's just down to Mariah and two producers/co-writers one for the dance tunes, the other for the ballads as this self-confessed "introverted person" copes with the stardom so recently thrust upon her.
"I've done this album in four months, staying in the studio literally every night until about five in the morning. I go home to sleep, and wake up around 2.30, three, go back to the studio and repeat the same thing, so it's not as though I have so much time to go out and meet people and do the normal, everyday things."
Carey's name has, in fact, been linked to the veteran record man Tommy Mottola himself, "You have to expect people to talk about you," Mariah takes it all in her stride. "You can't think you're just going to put a record out and be really successful and people are not going to gossip about you. And there are a lot of worse things they could say. When you work with someone on such an intense level as we did people are going to say things when it's a girl and a guy. If I was a man, or was working with another woman, they wouldn't say it, I can't worry about what people think.
"When you start believing the hype, that's when you go downhill. I definitely feel the same person I was two years ago when no one wanted to listen to my tape. That's what keeps me grounded. Maybe because I'm doing the same thing, music that's what gives me the most pleasure. The rush of being new and hot can fade it will fade but the music will always be there."