The Money Honey

She's got a new movie, a new record, and a new contract estimated at $100 million. But unfortunately for Mariah Carey it's her personal anguish, not her professional triumphs, that's been making all the news.

Allure Magazine by Michael Thompson

Allure (US) September 2001. Text by Vanessa Grigoradis. Photography by Michael Thompson

Teenyboppers want to be her. Rappers like Eminem, her newest pal, are psyched to hang out with her. President Bush thinks—what does President Bush think? "Hmmm..." vamps Mariah Carey, batting her eyelashes just a bit. "Do you think he would like me too?"

How could he not? Carey is immensely likable. Fun, open, and honest, but not saccharine, she's the girl in high school who had so much of her own stuff going on that she didn't need to play the popularity game. This makes her recent travails—a skittish and strange appearance on MTV's TRL, (unsubstantiated) rumors of suicide, and her subsequent hospitalization for an emotional and physical breakdown—even more heartbreaking. In 20/20 hindsight, the four or five times Carey rescheduled this interview and the two-hour-long delay on the appointed evening could have been signs that the Grammy-winning diva was not on the top of her game. Even so, meeting with her was worth the wait. With her hair now nearly as platinum as her multitude of albums, Carey, 31, lounging in a New York hotel penthouse and sipping a glass of white wine, is the world's best-selling female singer and wants to be one of its biggest movie stars, too. Leaving Janet Jackson in the dust as the highest-paid female artist (Carey's reported $100 million deal is for four albums; Jackson's reported $80 million is for five), Carey is also producing and writing the soundtrack to—and starring in—Glitter, the story of a young girl making it as a singer in the 1980s (sound familiar?). It's a classic triple play a la Madonna, and, significantly, on the promotional material for Glitter, the name is no longer even Mariah Carey. It's simply...Mariah.

Carey—oops, Mariah—says that "acting has helped me grow as a writer and a singer," and she's already moving on to her next project, Wise Girls, a Mafia movie with Mira Sorvino. She loves to channel her character, Rachel, who has a Brooklyn accent and "really long nails she's always teasing her hair with." She lets out a deep laugh. "The more I go into Rachel, the more I really like her. Because this girl is very, 'We're doing this, this, and this!' whereas I'm always like, 'Let me explain myself, because I don't want to hurt your feelings.' But now this freaking girl! Very helping me express my anger!"

It's not clear that Mariah needs help expressing herself, as she always seems to say what she feels. Would she like to star in a Broadway musical? "Nah," she says at first. "But maybe if I wrote it myself." Does she wish she went to college? "What?" she shrieks. "I went to the school of life. Can you really see me in some room listening to some professor?" Then there's her description of high school math. "I was the kid who was like, 'Um, how exactly is this going to help us in life?' I knew I was going to have [an accountant]." She laughs and cocks her head in mock ghetto fabulousness. "I just didn't know they were going to rob me!"

Then Mariah expresses that she's more than a little annoyed because of a conference call she had an hour ago—she doesn't say why, but it's clear that it has something to do with Sony, her old label, which also happens to be run by her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola. Their unhappy marriage ended three years ago, but the gossip columns still report conflicts. Since then, Mariah has dated Derek Jeter and is now with Latin pop superstar Luis Miguel, who recently gave her the $1 million diamond bracelet that Julia wore to the Oscars. "Yeah," Mariah says dreamily, "that was nice."

But the dreaminess is dispelled when I bring up Jennifer Lopez, that other pop-singing, movie-starring diva, who's been called the "Latin Mariah," and who, in an earlier interview for this magazine, told me she was a big believer in at least eight hours of beauty sleep. "Oooh, that just pisses me off," Mariah says. "Right now, I've just signed this big deal that everybody's watching. I don't have time to relax. I don't have at least eight hours—eight hours, that's like a joke! I wish I could, for my voice. Not for my pores!" She fumes so much that she sits upright in her chair. Then she claps a hand over her mouth. "Oh, no!" she says. "I don't mean to be mean. I just can't help it!"

Blame it on that Rachel character.


"I've got a new house now, my first. I guess I had one before [when married], 'cause I paid for half of it. Even though everyone wants to think that I was a princess who was kept in a nice cage and who didn't pay for anything, the truth of the matter is that those people almost made me go bankrupt. In my new place, I did a big renovation, and the parts for me are now [including an in-house salon designed to the specifications of Carey's hairstylist and makeup artist], but not the rest of the pad, the parts for the fun folk. It's in downtown Manhattan, because I got turned down from every co-op board uptown. There would be these people on the board who were, like, 60 years old, and they'd all ask, 'What time do you get home at night? What are your hours?' And it's like, when I'm doing a record, especially with other artists, it's a really collaborative process, and I'll be walking in at 3 A.M. with a bunch of people who've come back to my house to do...whatever, you know? I'm not going to change that."


"I did this TV special two years ago at my junior high, walked in all, 'Guess who's back?' I had little ensembles of gym shorts and the school jacket in the colors of the school, and little platform stilettos made out of the Adidas king of shoes. The kids were kind of, 'What is this?' But it was cool, because that was where most of my insecure memories were. I was relatively happy in high school, but I was really working on music most of the time and not taking [school] that seriously at all."


"When I was in high school, my brother was living in Manhattan—I was forever Morgan's little sister. He was a bartender at all the big clubs when I was in, like, seventh grade. He paid for my first demo. Then, after I graduated, he was modeling in Italy, so I stayed in his apartment. And then I met a girl who let me sleep in her house, on top of her kitchen—literally, you would step on a counter to get up to it. All I had was my Marilyn Monroe posters up there. But I didn't mind. I was happy to know I was on my way."


"I decided to sign with Virgin mostly because of Lenny Kravitz, who is an old friend. He's really happy there, and even re-signed after ten years, so I figured that was pretty good. They [Sony] still have a big stake in this album, and they're very proud of that. I'm not, but whatever. After all the years I've put up with certain things, I think I should be released now. It shouldn't be about finding the new way to mess with me. Like, OK, you've surely done your share of damage. Couldn't we stop now? Couldn't we call it a day?"


"Right now I'm in a zone where it's like, I'm with myself. They say don't make any life decisions at certain points in your life, and at this time it's about movies, videos, songs, albums, interviews, work, focus. I couldn't even exist within a relationship. [Luis Miguel, her boyfriend] doesn't talk about his personal life, so I don't feel like it's fair for me to sit here talking about stuff. Anyway, a relationship requires giving of yourself to be in something. And I don't have it. I mean, I'm not even very fair to myself."


"My muscles are really big—if I were to work out for two days, I would look like I'd worked out for two weeks. So I never work out my upper body, and my legs I don't have to worry about, but my brother used to be a trainer, so if I have a video or something coming up, I check in with him and work out for just two days. It's better than another trainer who doesn't know our genetics, 'cause between African-American, Venezuelan, and Irish, we've got a lot things going on there. So he knows, like, 'Do these exercises, do some abs, don't overwork her arms'—because I'll come out looking like The Incredible Hulk. I was the arm-wrestling queen of my school."


"I eat cheese and bread a lot, and I love pizza. Really! I'm bad. The best thing I have is this drink, it's 100 percent egg protein but it's really hard to find. It's good, even though it sounds gross. It helps your hair and stuff, and there's no carbs—it's just protein. You mix it with ice and it becomes, like, a glossy shake. I get it in Spain. We fly somebody there."


"I would never let anyone cut my hair, because it grows really slowly. I worked the curly hair thing for many, many years, maybe too many years. Now, because my hair is lighter—due to the sun [laughs]—I get it straightened all the time, because my hair looks frizzier when it's lighter. These highlights are for Wise Girls. It's lighter than it's ever been."


"I have supersensitive skin; my doctor told me I have an allergy to the sun. It's funny, I think of the bottom part of me—my legs—as my dad's side, so I get tan there, and the top half as my mom's, so I always cover it up. It's bad though, because I love the ocean. That's what revitalizes me—not a pool, but an ocean."


"My feeling about plastic surgery is, whatever's going to make the person feel better about themselves. Some things I feel are excessive, and I don't think they'd be right for me. But I don't judge people for anything, on any level—sexual orientation, race, creed, color—it's just not about what I'm going to impose on somebody else. But I'm hoping that when I'm older, there will be a new method."


"My favorite spa thing is the hot-rock treatment. I never sleep—literally, I sleep like three hours a night—and everyone thinks I'm Supergirl because I just keep going, but the truth of the matter is I do require food and sleep. It's like, 'Hello, I am not a cartoon character!' But this rock thing completely puts me to sleep."


"I live for baths, I'm a total bath queen, but I can't put in oils or things like that because my skin is so sensitive. If I could, I would live in the bathtub. It's the only place where I relax. I stay in there for an hour and talk on the phone. Trust me, I've got to take every minute I can for myself. I just have no time."