Mariah Carey Reveals Feeling ‘Less Than Human’ Growing Up Mixed In A Predominantly White Neighborhood

Mariah Carey holds many titles in her three-decade-long career.  She’s a chart-topper, multi-award winner, history-making in many ways, and even has been dubbed the “Queen of Christmas” thanks to her 26-year-old original holiday song “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.  All the while and with everything she has accomplished, the legendary singer has revealed in some ways in her newly released memoir, “The Meaning of Mariah Carey”, that although she always wanted to be a star, her life’s trajectory didn’t line it up for such.

Already a global superstar at the time, Mariah’s holiday album “Merry Christmas” was released in 1994 which house the hit Christmas single “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.  What nobody could have guessed would have been the immortality of the record, as last year it hit the number-one spot on the charts after 25 years, her first number one since 2008, as well as became the first Christmas song in 60 years to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  

Carey discussed her process of creating the song with the LA Times and reminisced on how fun the creation was.  Reflections on the song brought out the revelation that the “you” she is referring to was happier times that the holidays bring.  “This is going to sound like I’m making it up or whatever, but it really did come from a place of wanting to write something that felt like Christmas,” the iconic singer said. “It wasn’t just like, Oh, we’re going to put some sleigh bells on this record. Or, I’m going to talk about snow. I mean — of course, I do talk about lots of Christmasy stuff in that song! But I was trying to do something a little different. I wanted to think of everything that made me feel in the holiday spirit. I was casting my mind back. What are the things I wanted out of Christmas as a kid?”

She then dives in a bit deeper, bringing up her memoir and how in it, her mother (although the two had a very contentious relationship) was the reason that the holiday season was a special one for her.  “The book is very real about what happened to me as a child and throughout my life. It’s true, growing up, Christmas wasn’t always happy,” she recalls. “It wasn’t like I was depressed around the holidays. I always wanted the holidays to be the best. But, you know, dysfunctional family members and lack of funds sometimes made it a dismal affair. But no matter what, I would try to be festive. 

“I have to give credit to my mother,” she continued. “Even though I have a very, um, layered relationship with her, I have to acknowledge that she was the one who made Christmas a big deal for me. She was super into Christmas trees; she’d be making mulled wine on the stove. She and her friends would be singing all the traditional Christmas songs. They’d go out caroling.”

Carey’s memoir details a childhood filled with hardships and struggles due to her being biracial and growing up in a tough household with rough upbringing.  Stories of fights between her brother and parents and tales of trauma in the home and school fill the pages that carry on throughout her life.  

However, she had a “saving grace” that kept her head above water growing up, and that was music.  She details it within her book and spoke with supermodel Naomi Campbell on her web series No Filter with Naomi on how music got her through the tumultuous times.  “As a very young kid, and it was around 3 or 4, I started humming to myself and singing and making up little melodies and just really being obsessed with music and stealing the little radio from the kitchen and bringing it into my bedroom and living vicariously through the music,” Carey recalled. “It was always my saving grace,” she added. “It’s always been my saving grace.”

Customary to Mariah, a lot of her music comes from personal experiences within her life. Finding inspiration in this, she wrote a song for her 2002 album Charmbracelet with the title “My Saving Grace” dedicated to music saving her through tough situations.  

“You know what,” she asked rhetorically while being interviewed for MTV News in 2002, “I did actually have time to take a break, which is really what I needed. [I needed] downtime, just to sleep. And actually, the writing process and working on this album has been something to immerse myself in because I realized how that has always been my saving grace. There’s a song on the album called ‘My Saving Grace. But it actually is [my saving grace], just to go into that process and really live the process of writing, recording, the whole thing, up to the main inception to the mastering of the record.”

About Jamari Williams

Jamari Williams is a seasoned journalist who works mainly in the fields of music, film and television. Jamari is a Morehouse graduate who began writing at the age of 12 and have wrote for many new media companies.

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