Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Mariah Carey — the best-selling artist of the '90s, five-time GRAMMY winner, five-octave singer, Glitter star and mother of twins - turns 50 today.
The pop legend was born in Long Island, New York, in 1970. Despite an initially slow response, her debut album reached number one in the US charts, went multi-platinum and led to Grammy Awards for Best Female Vocalist and Best New Artist.
Since that moment Carey’s distinctive high-pitched harmonies and melismatic runs have continued to define pop music. With record sales of 54 million, she is one of the bestselling female artists of all time.
Here are 12 Things You Might Not Know About Mariah Carey
1. Mariah Carey’s name was inspired by music.
Carey was named after They Call The Wind Mariah, a song from the musical Paint Your Wagon. Her full name is Mariah Angela Carey. She was born in Huntington, New York, on March 27, 1970, to an Irish-American mother Patricia Hickey and an African American/Venezuelan father Alfred Roy Carey.
2. Mariah used to cut class.
She cut class so often in high school that she got the nickname Mirage! See, she’s also just a normal human being…
3. Mariah kept her singer-songwriter works a secret from her mom.
Her mother was a mezzo-soprano New York City opera singer and a freelance vocal coach. Though introducing Mariah to classical opera, Patricia never pressured her to pursue a career in it, as she never seemed interested. She said Patricia had "never been a pushy mom. She never said, 'Give it more of an operatic feel'. I respect opera like crazy, but it didn't influence me."
4. Mariah studied cosmetology in Manhattan before making it big.
To afford her rent she worked a number of odd jobs to support herself, including hat/coat-checker, hostess, hair sweeper in hairdressing salons, and waitress.
In December 1988, Carey accompanied Brenda K. Starr to a record executives' gala, where she handed her demo tape to the head of Columbia Records, Tommy Mottola, who listened to it on his way back home. After the first two songs, he was so enamoured of Carey's voice that he returned to the event, only to find that she had left. After searching for Carey for two weeks, he immediately signed her. (She went on to marry Mottola in 1993!)
6. Remixes and Urban Hip-Hop features were mainstreamed on pop radio by Carey
The Fantasy Remix featuring ODB (Old Dirty Bastard) of the Wu-Tang clan was a landmark for hip-hop and urban sounds intertwining throughout pop radio. In the years to follow Fantasy came Honey featuring Mase, The Lox, Breakdown featuring Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, and perhaps most notably to the music indulging youth of today: Heartbreaker featuring Jay-Z. Without Mariah’s affinity for hip-hop features, we possibly would not hear songs with black rap artists on mainstream radio. Thanks Mimi!
7. Mariah holds the record for the longest-running number one song in history together with Boyz II Men.
The song, One Sweet Day, spent 16 weeks in the top position on the Billboard Hot 100. The band and Carey wrote the song together. And interestingly enough, Mariah has writing and producing credits on almost all of her recorded material, an uncommon practice among many female pop stars.
8. Mariah’s dogs live better lives than most people.
She has eight jack russell terriers. Their names are: The Good Reverend Pow Jackson, Mutley P Gore Jackson The Third, Jill E Beans, Pipitty Jackson, Cha, Jackie Lambchops, JJ and Squeak E Beans. From spending £28 000 a year on spa treatments for them to flying them all by private jet for a five-star "canine vacation" at the luxury Paw Seasons doggie hotel in Bristol, where she gave staff personalised daily menus to follow for each of them, Mariah’s dogs are living the life!
9. Mariah has a five octave range, which is two octaves higher than normal soprano.
She also has the ability to reach notes beyond the 7th octave. Referred to as the "songbird supreme" by the Guinness World Records, she was ranked first in a 2003 MTV and Blender magazine countdown of the 22 Greatest Voices in Music, as voted by fans and readers in an online poll.
10. Her godmother is R&B icon Patti LaBelle.
11. Mariah's song Obsessed is directed at Eminem.
He claimed the two had a sexual relationship, although she denied it and said they just spent time together. Eminem has directly referenced songs: "What you trying be? My new wife? / What, you Mariah? Fly through twice" on Superman and on When The Music Stops suggested that he would "beg Mariah to take [him] back" before censoring his lyrics.
12. Carey purchased Marilyn Monroe's white baby grand piano for $662,500 at a Christie's auction in 1999.