Mariah Carey: Our New VBF
By opening up about her mental health, the ‘diva’ is letting us into her not-so-perfect world
Diva: the 48-year-old’s high-maintenance persona is a clever way to draw a line between her public and private lives
In the 28 years that Mariah Carey has been releasing music her sound has evolved from balladeer to hip-hop and pop icon to move with the times. From her 1990 debut single, Vision of Love, to her 2007 single Touch My Body, the five-octave singer has had 18 number ones, making her among the most successful of solo acts.
Often described as a diva, the Elusive Chanteuse – the name comes from her brilliantly titled album Me. I Am Mariah . . . The Elusive Chanteuse, from 2014 – has taken ownership of that role. By wearing sunglasses indoors, insisting that photographers take pictures only from her right side, and doing television interviews wearing silk lingerie and high heels as she props herself up on a chaise longue, she delivers the character we demand of her.
For writing perfect songs like Always Be My Baby, Fantasy – the original and the remix – and Heartbreaker alone, she’s an eternal and reliable VBF, but by opening up about her mental-health issues, as she did in a recent interview with People, the diva is letting us in.
Carey told the American magazine that she has been living with bipolar II disorder, a condition she was first diagnosed with in 2001, and is now seeking treatment.
Mariah Carey: Vision of Love
Mariah Carey: Always Be My Baby
Mariah Carey: Heartbreaker
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she said. “It was too heavy a burden to carry, and I simply couldn’t do that any more. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love – writing songs and making music.”
As the 48-year-old is one of the most famous singers in the world, her diva persona is a clever way to draw a line between her public and private lives. Even when she appeared on MTV Cribs, in 2002, she made a point of keeping some parts of her home to herself. Sure, she may have taken an iconic dip in her tub for the cameras, but her bedroom was out of bounds, as was the room where she kept Marilyn Monroe’s piano. In a career that demands every inch of her, these were small victories.
In the three decades that Carey has been in the public eye, the conversation around mental health has become more open, but her mental state was once considered a joke. Not long before the release of Glitter, a critically panned movie that Carey starred in, alongside Terrence Howard, she suffered a physical and mental breakdown and was hospitalised by exhaustion.
Carey’s behaviour had been growing more erratic in the months leading up to its release, in 2001. She crashed the set of MTV’s TRL, one of the most-watched TV shows in the United States at the time, pushing an ice-cream cart. As scenes like that played out on mainstream TV, her breakdown became public – and she suffered extreme media scrutiny in a time when she needed compassion. A mistake we repeated again in 2007 with Britney Spears.
With album titles like The Emancipation of Mimi and Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, and songs like Hero, Through the Rain and Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme), Carey has touched on personal struggles, hinting with a perfect melancholy that all is not what it seems. But she says she’s in a good place now.
“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating,” she says. “It does not have to define you, and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”