How Mariah Carey celebrates Christmas—fabulously, of course
LOS ANGELES—Mariah Carey does not move close to the Christmas tree. It’s the Christmas tree that moves close to Mariah. That was how I knew I was in the presence of a fabulous diva—when Mariah was posing for photos beside a Christmas tree at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Earlier, inside the adjacent ballroom, she gave her first public performance of “The Star,” the song she composed with Marc Shaiman for the animated film of the same name. Her adorable twins, Monroe and Moroccan, sang in the background with adult and child backup singers. The 6-year-old kids are her offspring with ex-husband, comedian Nick Cannon.
After the performance, the diva, still in her sequined gown, sat down for an interview. She explained how she decided on her look: “First of all, it was all about ‘what are we doing with my hair?’ And just to go along with the spirit. The room looked so pretty, so I wanted to do something sparkly.”
Speaking of sparkly, among her bling was the $10-million, 35-carat diamond engagement ring that Australian billionaire James Packer gave her. The couple called off the engagement more than a year ago. “By the way, the ring is on a different finger,” she said with the most disarming smile. “It’s a gift, and we were talking about gifts.”
Mariah also voiced Rebecca, a hen, in director Timothy Reckart’s “The Star” which, for a change, tells the story of the birth of Jesus from animals’ perspective. The animated film boasts a talented cast: Steven Yeun, Keegan-Michael Key, Gina Rodriguez (Mary), Zachary Levi (Joseph), Christopher Plummer, Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson, Ving Rhames, Kris Kristofferson and Kristin Chenoweth.
Excerpts from our chat:
Your song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” is among the top holiday songs of all time. What are the elements of writing a good Christmas song? It’s the feeling and the spirit. I wrote “All I Want for Christmas Is You” long ago. It’s more festive—just to get you in the holiday spirit.
How important is it to have a story like this so kids will understand that Christmas is more than just about getting gifts? It’s very important to have a story like this. They told the story through the eyes of the animals, so it allowed for some humor to come into the mix, aside from being informative. When Marc Shaiman and I wrote the song, we asked the children (her twins) to participate in the track with me. That gave it a very Christmas-y and fun type of vibe, while sticking to the message and the spirit.
You also voiced Rebecca, the hen, which makes me think of mother hens. Was that something you related to? They probably think I sometimes act like a mother hen (laughs). Just to join the cast, even in the smallest way, was a lot of fun.
What puts you in a Christmas mood? It’s not too hard to get me into a Christmas mood. I love everything, from decorating the Christmas tree to going on a two-horse open sleigh ride—that’s the truth—through the snow.
And it’s good to go somewhere warm afterward, as well.
Can you describe how your house looks like at Christmas? The house is like Wonderland (laughs).
What do you plan to give your kids this Christmas? It’s not the easiest thing in the world, now that the twins are 6 years old. They write their list to Santa Claus. Whatever he brings them, I’m sure he uses his discretion (laughs).
What’s the best Christmas gift that you received as a child and as an adult? Any time I get to enjoy the holidays and have a peaceful and great experience, that’s a gift. When I was growing up, my mother (Patricia Hickey Carey) tried to make everything a good experience for me. So, even if she didn’t have a lot of money, she would wrap up fruit sometimes, and she’d give that to me. Because it’s fun just to open presents when you’re a kid.
A Barbie doll that I got when I was a kid was one of my favorite gifts.
How important is religion in your Christmas celebration? Without getting too deeply into it, the children are starting to ask questions about religion and the meaning of certain things. It’s a process.
Is Nick very much involved as a father? Yes. Nick is a great father. We get along well. I’m very thankful for that.
Do you have a Christmas tradition that you began with your children? I have so many traditions, everything from live reindeer to Santa Claus coming in. It’s really about making them happy.
What drives you to keep working hard? I love Christmas, so I just enjoy this project. I’m doing a Christmas tour this year. I have another project called “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which is inspired by the song. We did a children’s book, as well, so it’s something that I look forward to all year long.
Tell us more about “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” which is a direct-to-video animated film. It’s about a little girl who wants a puppy for Christmas. Her father doesn’t want her to get one, because she’s allergic. [And] she goes through her journey.
I don’t want to give it all away, but it’s a fun holiday movie for kids. There’s a character who’s a caricature of myself as a little girl.
We made a children’s book years earlier based on the song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and turned it into the animated film.
Are you still pursuing an acting career? Lee Daniels’ movie, “Precious,” was such a therapeutic experience for me. I’d love to do some good work in film, as well.
Who are your guiding stars? There are so many people that I adore in this industry, whose music I have grown up listening to. Meeting the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was one of the greatest moments of my life.
When we hear the name Mariah Carey, there’s this sense of fabulousness. To you, what’s the meaning of a good life? I’d love to get to sleep as much as possible, wake up, have some fun, work, make music, go back to sleep, take care of the kids, and hang out with you (laughs).
What do you enjoy doing when you’re at home? Cooking is fun (laughs).
When you’re relaxing at home, are you just as fabulous, sipping champagne, perhaps? Do you see champagne here (laughs)? Because if you do, pass it my way. I’m kidding.
And are you always dressed up? Always (laughs). No, I dress down at home.
Can you describe your closet? Do you have a lot of shoes and 10,000 dresses? I wore a lot of those clothes perhaps in a music video or a photo shoot. I do have lots of footwear.
They’re actually more for work and for public appearances.
Can you recall how you were discovered? I was a background singer for a singer named Brenda K. Starr. She was kind enough to bring me to a party, where I met Tommy Mottola. He took my demo tape, which had a lot of the songs that I’ve already written, even in high school. Some of those songs ended up on my first album.
When did you discover that you could sing well? My mother was an opera singer. She also sings different types of music. She instilled in me that it was possible to be a professional singer.
Were you aware of the pitfalls that young artists fall into when they’re exploited financially? I was lucky enough to have seen a documentary about The Beatles selling their catalog. So, I hold onto my own catalog as a songwriter, because that’s where the power is.
Any regrets? What were your thoughts when you watched your reality show, “Mariah’s World”? Hmm, no. You can’t live life in regret. It’s about moving forward and being a good person.
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