The meaning of being Mariah carey
What makes a great song that leaves a lasting impression? A large part of it depends on the storytelling skill of the songwriter – the ability to weave words that invoke feelings, reminiscing memories, renewing hopes, and even healing emotional pain. Coupled with the singer’s prowess, it can take only a few minutes for a powerful song to leave the entire world spellbound. Mariah Carey’s Christmas song is a perfect example.
Yes, you’ve got it right! It’s ‘that’ Christmas song – All I Want for Christmas Is You. When the holiday classic was released on October 29, 1994, not only did it become a phenomenal, global hit, but also received critical acclaim, topping the charts in 26 countries. The New Yorker described it as “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday cannon.” Today, it’s one of the all-time favorite holiday songs, which include Christmas Carols and Wham!’s Last Christmas. Her Merry Christmas album is the bestselling Christmas album of all time, with global sales of over 15 million copies.
But there’s more to this music Diva, who is also named the Queen of Christmas. Behind the glamorous exterior and extravagant lifestyle is a woman whose inner journey was nothing but grievance and struggle. It was a journey in search of true self-love and acceptance against neglect and rejection from her own mother.
Born on March 27, 1969, the youngest of three children, Carey’s destiny seemed to be firmly set as her parents named her after a song from the 1951 Broadway musical Paint Your Wagon. Her father, Alfred Roy Carey, was an aeronautical engineer and her mother, Patricia Hickey, a voice coach and opera singer. On the surface, they looked like a young, affluent married couple with a promising life, but the truth is that Carey’s childhood was traumatic which left emotional scars into adulthood. She’s made a recovery only recently after years of psychological counseling and therapy.
As a daughter of mixed-race parents (her father was African American of Venezuelan descent, while her mother came from an Irish American family), Carey constantly experienced racial tensions in her community. The hostility was so severe that their neighbors poisoned the family dog and set fire to their car, resulting in Carey spending considerable time alone as a young girl.
When she was three, her parents divorced, and Carey and her older brother, Morgan, lived with their mother. It was the time she began imitating her mother’s singing of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto in Italian, unintentionally revealing her prodigy that even stunned her mother.
To Carey’s surprise, Patricia did not really appreciate her talent although she took after her mother and trained under her. In Carey’s 2020 memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, she admitted their relationship was the source of lifelong frustration and torment. One of her most vivid childhood memories is an incident in which Patricia said that Carey “should only hope that one day you become half the singer I am.”
Carey’s confusion over her mother’s rejection was shed to light years later. To Patricia, the sight of her children was a reminder of her own “failure” to meet her family’s expectations and pursue her own dreams. The marriage was a selfderogatory act in the eyes of Carey’s grandmother who could not accept that her beloved daughter could fall in love with a colored man. Carey’s career success even put further strain on their relationship which she was desperate to maintain although it breaks her heart every time she thinks about it.
The beginning of healing came when Carey was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2001, following her hospitalization for physical and mental exhaustion from an insane work schedule since the launch of her first self-titled album in 1990. The recovery process was “excruciatingly painful” and has taken her “a lifetime to find the courage to confront the stark duality” of her mother. Carey later admitted, “To this day, what she said haunts and hurts me…those words that shot out of her mouth pierced my chest and were buried in my heart.”
It was also those putdowns and hostility from her family and others that kept her dreams alive. The 53-year-old singer said she has slowly learned to accept and love herself without the need for validation from her family. The only legacy from the trauma is probably her insomnia which has made her a night owl
Who could have believed that Carey’s singing genius – her ability to reach five of the eight octaves in the vocal range, a rare trait even among iconic singers – would have made her the center of envy and hatred since she was a little girl? Yet, she just bit the bullet and climbed her way to become a global sensation, with bestselling singles and albums one after another, throughout her 32 years in the music industry.
Interestingly, her music mostly brings about good feelings, happiness, hopes, and fun. When asked about her life lessons, Carey said she learned her first lesson about having faith in yourself during her early days as a singer.
Too young! Too light! Too black! Carey said she’s heard them all. But as long as you don’t lose hope in yourself, you will find a way out. “There are a lot of different storms that I feel like I’ve weathered throughout my life, even from childhood, and each one of them prepared me for the next one.”