Mariah Carey opens her heart - and the doors to her 12,000-ft triplex apartment in Manhattan.
She's sold millions of records, has dated some gorgeous men, is about to embark on a new movie project and has just become the face of fashion label Pinko, as she reveals in our exclusive interview. But despite all that jet-setting, there's nothing Mariah likes better than kicking off her designer heels and hanging out at her extraordinary home in the Tribeca district. She moved there after her break-up from music mogul Tommy Mottola, creating a girly retreat worthy of one of the pop world's most sensual stars.
Mariah Carey is living a life she could only have dreamed of when she was growing up. She's sold hundreds of millions of albums, has dated some very famous, handsome men - pro baseball star Derek Jeter and Latin heart-throb Luis Miguel included -- and her name has become synonymous with all things glam.
And after dominating the charts, now she's striking a pose as the new face of stylish Italian label Pinko, following in the very fashionable footsteps of the label's muse, Elle Macpherson, as well as Eva Herzigova and Naomi Campbell -- the later of whom just happened to be on hand to help Mariah celebrate her campaign's debut in London last week.
The starring fashion role is just the latest chapter in the pop superstar's comeback tale: she's made a complete turnaround from that infamous hat-trick of hurdles -- being unceremoniously dropped from her record label, seeing her starring film debut, Glitter, fail, and undergoing a much-talked about hospitalisation for "exhaustion" - in 2001. A less well-known, but equally painful blow, was the death four years ago of Mariah's Venezuelan/African American father. Her mother, an Irish American, split from him when Mariah was just three, and it was only recently that the singer had grown close to him once more. "I had a really hard time with it," she told Hello! of the loss. "But we were able to get some closure."
Sitting down with Hello! for this intimate chat during her stay in London, Mariah has a pragmatic approach to all that she's been through. "In life, there have to be ups and downs," she opines. "You can't be happy every day, because then you wouldn't appreciate it." She knows she paid a high price for fame, because her time was never her own. "I learned a lesson, going through that experience and letting people treat me like a robot: 'Keep on going, keep on going'. I learned to go inside myself, and to trust that God would get me out of the situation.
"People thought that as an artist, I would never be able to get out of the situation I was in. If I am capable of getting up and doing it again, with sales that not many people achieve in this business, that's proof that anyone else can do it, too. It's living proof of something."
Not only did the resilient 36-year-old star make her way back, she's also showing her strength these days in more ways than one. Undaunted by the past, Mariah's also back on a film set, shooting the independent drama Tennessee back home in the US.
Her phenomenal return began with 2005's top-selling The Emancipation of Mimi, which saw her finally come into her own seven years after her split with ex-husband Tommy Mottola, the Sony boss who discovered her. Again, she's quite introspective when she discusses the ill-fated marriage, which began with a fabulous fairytale wedding in 1993. "I regret the situation a lot, because I was young and ignorant, and I didn't realise what I was doing," she admits. "If I could go back again, I wouldn't do it."
Although Mariah's keyword is faith and she described to us the qualities in a man who could make her fall in love --"generosity, a sense of humour and stability" -- she's candid about her prospects for a second chance at happily ever after. "I believe in it for people who are really made for one another, that aren't going to get a divorce," she says. "I believe in marriage as an institution: I'm a romantic. It's great that people get married -- and stay married -- have children and a wonderful life together, but I don't know if it's going to happen to me."
But Mariah is full of surprises. Despite her sexy image, she's actually a self-described "prude" -- and when it comes to marriage and family, she tells us, she wants "the whole package". "Because that's what's best for the kids," she tells us. "To be the child of a famous person already would be tough enough and weird enough. If you are going to being someone into the world, at least give them a good stable start."
Similarly, in light of her ultra-glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, you might think that this sexy chanteuse, who has been everywhere from London to New Mexico of late, is too busy or too cool to do something so very ordinary as to lay down roots. But the case is quite the contrary for this very traditional New York girl.
The place she calls home, admittedly, is palatial: stunning views of the New York skyline, including the Empire State Building and the Hudson river: an impressive 12,000 sq. ft. of luxury occupied by lavish spaces to suit a diva's every mood -- the Marrakesh and Mermaid rooms just two of many; and amenities ranging from a marble steam room, complete with waterbed, to climiate-controlled closets the size of some people's flats. This is Mariah's amazing Manhattan triplex, the place the R&B superstar has called home for six years.
Upon snapping up the deluxe digs, which take up the three top floors of a 1930s onetime office building, she immediately set about making every once worthy of one of world's starriest stars. To meet the challenging task, she enlisted the skills of New York interior designer Mario Buatta, whose famous clients have included Barbara Walters and Billy Joel.
The end results were spectacular -- the Tribeca pad was transformed into the fantasy home Mariah had always wanted: a girlie's girl dream house, a homage to all things glitzy and glamorous. Art Deco and "Old Hollywood," it was the kind of place Mariah, who moved a dozen times as a child, had fatasised about when she was little.
Her new, decadent home was so fabulous, in fact, that it soon featured in prestigious design bible Architectural Digest. "It's like a movie set," she exclaimed TV journalist Barbara Walters, when invited inside for an on-air chat.
This Big Apple bachelorette pad was her first real home since her divorce, and Mariah apparenly look very little in the way of furnishings when she moved out of the home she and Tommy had shared. When it came to designing the world-famous songbird's new nest from scratch. "I wanted to create a background for Mariah's own glamour," Mario was quoted as saying. "She exudes glamour, and sex appeal, too." And "perfectionist" Mariah, "knew what she liked and could make decisions immediately."
Femininity was key, with lots of pink touches and glazed walls. "I like it," enthused Mariah, "because it looks like candy." The living room was a creamy haven in neutral tones -- "So they're not jarring," she once explained -- and there was a surprisingly homely and cosy kitchen. "I want it to be like a country kitchen in the middle of the city," she told MTV at-home show Cribs.
Everything was perfect. That is, until disaster struck. A burst water pipe flooded all three floors. Mariah and Mario found themselves back at work, restoring every inch of the home to its previous glory, put back together as it was, piece by piece.
Luckily, most of the furnishing and keepsakes were saved. Her most prized possession perhaps, and one that has a special place of honour, is the white baby grand piano once owned by Marilyn Monroe. Mariah bought the piano for about 0,000 at an auction of Marilyn memorabilia, and has even dedicated one of her home's many bathrooms to all things Monroe. "She's her icon," designed Mario has said. "She feels close to her persona, that thing of being a glamour type -- and she's a total original, as was Monroe." Another nod to Mariah's very girlish streak is a Hello Kitty themed bathroom.
Looking around Mariah's home, there is plenty of symbolism. For example, the ornately handcarved fireplace was one of the few things she took with her from her home with ex-husband Tommy: its motifs include flowers, hearts and butterflies, "all sorts of references to her life." Speaking to In Style, Mariah acknowledged: "I love it because of what the butterfly represents: freedom." There are more sentimental mementoes in the family room. There, framed photos are displayed, hanging by pink ribbons, along with other keepsakes left to her by her late father.
Even her walk-in shoe closet has ties to her past. As a struggling teenage singer trying to make ends meet she owned a single pair of holey shoes -- a size too small, as they were hand-me-downs from her mum -- which she wore every day. Now, she has an entire room dedicated to her designer footwear, which she believes number around 1,000 pairs. "There was a time when I only had one pair of shoes," she told Barbara Walters in 2006, "so I don't feel that guilty about having this shoe closet. It is a favourite spot of mine." The shoe displays perfectly complement Mariah's climate-controlled closets, in which her sexy ensembles are arranged by colour, fabric and occasion. "If anyone ever buys this place," she has said, "they'd better be a diva or they can't live here."
It's clear that Mariah is passionate about fashion, and during her stay in the capital last week, she also spoke to us on that subject -- including the size 0 debate. She also candidly talked about a range of other revealing topics as she explained why, from bouncing back to falling in love, she'll always keep the faith.
Let's begin with your relationship with Pinko.
"I discovered the label while I was staying in Capri, and I loved it. Every time I went back to Capri, I would go back to Pinko! It's fantastic."
One thing that's being talked about, especially here in London during Fashion Week -- is the 'Size Zero Debate.' What's your opinion?
"I don't think that it's fair that people have to struggle to be a size 0. For real women, it's difficult because a lot of clothes are made for models who don't have curves -- which is how clothing hangs the best, on really straight figures, like toothpicks. But that's not fair for everyone else, because then you expect people to look like that, and they can't. If someone is naturally skinny, that's great, but if they feel pressure to do themselves harm in order to fit into a size 0, I don't think that's right."
What do you remember about your days as a struggling waitress?
"I lived from hand to mouth. I used to think, 'Okay, do I eat today, or do I take the subway? Once I started to have some success, I immediately had access to things that I used to only dream about. But on the inside, I'm still the same person I was before all this happened. I keep working hard, I still think that, for some reason, I have to work harder than anyone else. I thank God for everything I have."
Why do you think you have to work harder?
"It's something that's gotten stuck in my head. I'm more comfortable with this now, but I feel like came from a handicapped place. To have grown up in a single parent home, to be bi-racial, to not have any money, to have to fight to succeed. Noone but my mom believed in me. First you have to have faith, and later you have to act. And that is what I've always done."
Are you in a relationship right now?
"More or less. I don't know. I don't talk about that anymore (Laughs)."
Will we ever see you in a wedding gown again?
Would you like to have children?
"I don't know. What I want is to have children in a good way, with the right husband, with the right family life."
So you wouldn't have children just to have them, then.
"I don't think that's what I want. But who knows? Five years from now I might get hysterical and say, 'I have to have kids!'. But I don't think so."
Would you only have children if you were married?
"I think so."
An important phrase for you is 'Never quit.'
"When I was little, my mom would tell me, 'Never say, "If I become a success," say "When I become a success." And I think that I held on to that: it became my mantra. You have to trust that things are going to turn out okay, even though you can't really see just then that they will. You have to believe, because if you don't, you'll never get anywhere. You'll sink."
Where did your amazing voice come from?
"My mother is an opera singer and my father had a Pentecostal church in Harlem. I feel like a mix of everything has made me able to sing like I do. It's a gift from God."
You talk a lot about God and faith. Why is it so important to you?
"I go to church whenever I can. I go to a church called True Worship in Brooklyn. It's very humble, across from some housing projects. But it has a really great minister who is available 24 hours a day, if you need to talk to him. He's a very, very smart man, a great person."
What's in store for the future?
"I'm doing a movie in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I want to do the best job possible. It's with Lee Daniels, the producer of Monster's Ball. It's so exciting -- he's incredible. He worked with Halle Berry, who won an Oscar for the movie. He worked with Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman, with Helen Mirren... It's a challenge."
Would you like to do more projects like that?
"Right now I'm really involved in this particular film, but I want to do more. This is an independent movie -- it's not about being a diva, it's just about being there, being a part of the group."
What is the most important thing your parents taught you?
"My father died four years ago... His mother left a lot of photographs, pictures from as far back as my great-grandmother. And it's just fantastic, something that most African Americans don't have because back then most didn't have access to cameras and things like that. My mother, because she's Irish, can trace everyone back probably to the Middle Ages."
What has success shown you?
"I supposed that to succeed, first you have to have lost something, which shows you how to be thankful for everything -- for the good moments and the bad. That's what I've learned."