Mariah Wises Up: An Exclusive Interview

Mariah Carey

Mariah Wises Up: An Exclusive Interview

Good morning from Sundance where yesterday, believe it or not, Mariah Carey and I sat down for a nice official chat on the deck of a multi-million dollar ranch built on top of a snowed capped mountain. The occasion was her movie Wise Girls, in which Mariah plays a snappy, funny waitress with mob ties. She had such a good time making the movie that she’s already signed on with the producer, Anthony Esposito, to make another comedy for him.

Considering how much I write about Mariah's ups and downs in this column, I thought I'd give you the mostly unedited Carey today. Sure, some subjects were off limits (breakdowns, record contracts, etc.) but Mariah — dressed in a black cat suit with a big cross hanging around her neck and resting on her ample cleavage — was pretty laid back, funny and articulate.

Of course, she was four hours late getting her press day started, but she wouldn't be Mariah otherwise. You didn't think she'd changed completely did you?

FOX: I was really impressed with your comic timing. It was different than in Glitter
MARIAH CAREY: Hello? Of course. I hope we don't compare it. But this was written as a gritty script, with this character written as a brassy, ballsy — what's another word for ballsy? — tough chick. My whole life I've been the class clown. But you only see me as Mariah Carey the singer dealing with serious issues.

My life might as well be a party. Why mope about life? My way of getting through things in life has been to be a joker. People don't know that about me. And that's what attracted me to this project. A lot of jokes were written, but a lot of stuff was adlibbed.

FOX: Did you base her on someone you knew?
MC: I was going to base her on this one girl I went to beauty school with. I did some research to try and find her.

FOX: You seemed very self-assured in this movie.
MC: I was very comfortable. But with Glitter the character was passive. It didn't allow me room. She wasn't a broad, brassy character, so there wasn't very far to go with it. I always wanted to do independent projects. I wanted to do smaller things first. People looked at me and said, "You're a big star. How can you be anything other than a musical artist in a movie?" And it took Anthony Esposito, David Anspaugh and Mira Sorvino to see it. They believed in me.

FOX: So you're going to continue with the acting?
MC: Well, what do you think I should do, Rog? Did you like the performance in the movie?

FOX: Yes.
MC: From that, would you suggest I continue if it's something I enjoy.

FOX: (cornered) : I'd suggest it.

MC (laughing) : Well, then I agree!

FOX: But after what you went through this fall, some people wouldn't go back
MC: But that's not how I am. I was never handed things on a silver platter. People have no idea. I've been misrepresented drastically.

FOX: What's the biggest misconception?
MC: There have been so many! My whole life is a misconception! People call me the "Princess of Positivity." I like to take a situation and swirl it into positivity. It's all about the swirl. If I were to drown in what people say or think, I'd be dead by now. You have to be resilient. I grew up as a poor kid with a different perspective, an interracial kid.

RF: Was that really a problem for you?
MC: Internally it was a struggle. People still don't get it. They still make racist remarks around me.

FOX: What do they say?
MC: Things that wouldn't be normally offensive in their minds. But I see things from both sides.

FOX: So things still bother you?
MC: I'm not devoid of emotion, of course. Everyone has feelings.

FOX: What would you take from this movie experience into videos?
MC: Videos are so different. But with this movie it wasn't about angles. It was about feeling completely free and not worrying about the camera. Videos will always be about a glossy product — even if it's gritty you got to look good.

I loved making "Honey." That was the first time I got to be free and be myself in a video. That was fun.

FOX: You sound like Stevie Wonder when he broke free of Motown.
MC: Well he's my favorite artist of all time. Have you met him? Isn't he the most incredible person,  spiritually? He's so fascinating to watch. The Butterfly album was like that for me. It's still my favorite album and the one that my fans associate the most with me.

FOX: Walter [Afanasieff, her longtime collaborator, from whom she is now estranged] worked with you on that.
MC: We did, but I worked with a lot of people.

FOX: Would you like to work with him again?
MC: Mmmm. I would like to.

FOX: Do you like to tour?
MC: Now I do, but I didn't used to. I used to be very inhibited. But now I tour for my fans, the real hardcore fans who get the inside jokes.

FOX: What kind of album would you like to make next?
MC: I'd like to and I'm going to make an album that reflects what's going on inside me. I can never put my finger on it until it happens. I'm going in a creative direction that's more about healing in terms of the way Butterfly was. I'm a fan of music. I listen to hip-hop, then I put on a Stevie Wonder album or an old rock record that I might like.

FOX: What's an old rock record you really like?
MC: There are so many I can’t even name.