Simon Hattenstone: Simon Hattenstone was told Mariah Carey would only talk about her Christmas tour. But the singer opens up about controlling men, family troubles and her diva demands.
Mariah Carey is the most famous, or infamous, diva in the music business. And today she doesn’t disappoint. When I ask whether the outlandish stories about her are true, she becomes spectacularly diva-ish about her own divadom. “Are there myths about other people and their diva-ishness?”’ she asks. Of course, I say – but not as many. “So I have more myths about the diva-ishness?” Yes, but I’m trying to find out if they are true. OK, fire.
Is it true you once asked for 20 white kittens and 100 white doves as a rider? (In 2009, it was reported that this is what she had asked to be surrounded with when opening the Westfield shopping centre’s Christmas lights, but she was turned down on health and safety grounds.) “No, 20 cats is an absolute lie. I’m not a cat lady. I don’t have one cat any more.” Fair enough, I say. Do you insist on a new toilet seat and gold taps whenever you stay in a hotel? “I mean, honestly? Golden taps! I could just buy a house for that!” Please, can this next one be true – your reputation is at stake: do you only bathe in French mineral water? “No, I bathe in milk.” Really? “Yes, sometimes I use milk as a beauty treatment. I don’t want to give away all my secrets.” Hot or cold? “‘Cold milk.” So the mineral water is not true? She smiles. “Well, I guess if there’s no clean water and I had to use mineral water, maybe I would.”
This comes towards the end of one of the strangest interviews I’ve ever done. When I first arrive, the waiting room is so cold I’m convinced Carey’s team will only let me meet the Queen of Christmas once I’ve been cryogenically frozen. It’s a gorgeous LA day out there, but this is Planet Mariah. Brrr.
The room gets colder and colder. I’m still waiting. Eventually, an imposing woman whisks me upstairs. “Mariah will answer no personal questions,” she says. “But you can ask her anything – anything – to do with her upcoming Christmas tour.”
A giant of a security man blocks my way. “Yeah, all the interesting stuff,” he says, without irony. Jesus. I’ve just flown from London to LA at a few hours’ notice to meet the great Mariah Carey to discuss … her Christmas tour, and nothing else. There is no time to argue.
I am led into the interview room. Only it appears to be a film studio – camera operators, producers, makeup artists, cushion primpers. But I can’t see them clearly. The room is dark. At the end is Carey, sitting like a waxwork on her throne.
My chair is opposite her, but about three metres away. If I lean forward and stretch my arm out, I’ll still be touching thin air. There is a flurry of whispers and panicked activity. Carey is unhappy. I am moved, then returned. She is every bit as poised – only on a new throne.
Carey, 48, looks Jessica Rabbit fabulous, but I wish I’d brought my specs. I can make out a tight red dress and rocks galore – two huge butterfly diamond rings, diamond necklace and bracelet. Even her sandals are sparkling.
It’s great that you’re coming to Britain for the Christmas tour, I say. She smiles graciously. “Thaaaaaaaank you,” she says. “I’m so excited, especially coming to Britain at Christmas time is gonna be so special. I feel it’s one of those places you like to be during the holidays. I mean, it’s great all the time, but the holiday period is especially festive.”
Keep on topic. Her team’s orders ring in my ears. What will you be bringing to the Christmas show? “I’m bringing everything I can for Christmas. It’s really about the music and being with the fans at Christmas time. I’m trying literally to spread good cheer to people who come to the show.’”
Behind Carey, I can make out a huge Christmas tree. It’s 1 June. To my left and right, her team are standing and kneeling, faceless shadows in the dark, ensuring I stay on topic. Will there be reindeer at the show? “I can’t respond about the reindeer. I’m definitely gonna have reindeer in my house at Christmas.”
Her people told me that although she doesn’t do personal, she is happy to talk about being a proud mom. She has seven-year-old twins, Monroe and Moroccan, with her former husband, the actor and comedian Nick Cannon. Do the kids like Christmas? “They luuuuurve Christmas. They’ve met Santa Claus.” What did he say to them? “He told them not to use bad language.”
Two minutes in, we’ve exhausted Christmas. I swallow loudly. She smiles. Are the twins like you, I ask. “They both have traits. My son is a little bit bossy.” Does he get that from you? “Bossiness? Not on his level, no. He’s next level. I’m not that bossy, honestly. I try to be nice. I doooo,” she coos. Then her tone changes. “I know everybody thinks I am. Whatever. I don’t know what they think. I don’t care.” Do you think there are lots of misconceptions about you? “Yeah, I do.” Such as? “I don’t know and I don’t want to know. If I looked at every single thing people say about me I couldn’t exist as me, so I’d rather just see certain things.”
Carey is not merely Queen of Christmas, she is pop’s record record-breaker – the first star to have their first five singles top the US charts; the most weeks at No 1 in the US singles charts alongside Elvis Presley (79); the only artist to have had three singles debut at No 1 (Fantasy, One Sweet Day with Boyz II Men and Honey). One Sweet Day spent longer than any other single at No 1 in the US (16 weeks). Merry Christmas is one of the bestselling Christmas albums of all time (15 million and counting), and her joyous All I Want for Christmas Is You is the bestselling Christmas single in the US (in the digital era). Her vocal pyrotechnics inspired a generation of singers to perform big (see just about every female singer on a TV talent show).