"Mariah Carey was five hours late" - Tiffany Bakker
Mariah Carey is not ready. It’s close to midnight on a freezing New York winter’s night in 2010 and the woman who has sold more than 200 million records, and who still has the most number-one singles of any solo artist in the US, is somewhere in SoHo’s swanky Mercer Hotel doing something very important that does not involve talking to me.
Five hours earlier, I arrived at the hip downtown hotel, a favoured celebrity haunt and paparazzi magnet, prepared for a 7:30pm audience with the icon. “Mariah is not ready,” an assistant says defiantly and motions me to an expensive looking olive sofa as a snippy concierge looks me over, unimpressed. The minutes tick by at a glacial pace. Then the hours. I know the superstar has a reputation for being late, but by 9:30pm, I’m about to start climbing the expensive walls.
“Mariah is not ready,” another flustered assistant bleats apologetically, before promptly disappearing back into an elevator. At various points, a string of assistants emerge, all with a variation of the same pained expression. Mariah is still not ready.
Around 10pm – well into hour three – I ask one flustered twentysomething if I can go nearby to grab some food, but she looks at me, horrified. “NO, NOT IN CASE MARIAH IS READY.” By 12:01am, I’m losing the will to live. Even the concierge has begun to regard me with pity, offering me a glass of water. (“It’s sparkling, but you don’t have to pay for it,” he says, as if I am Oliver Twist.)
Then, like an oasis in the nowempty lobby, another assistant appears and grandly declares, “MARIAH IS READY!” The fact that I have been waiting for five hours and am barely conscious is not mentioned.
“Mariah works so hard. She’s talking to you at midnight!” she continues, as if the singer is Mother Teresa. I’m led into a vast penthouse suite where the lighting, mercifully, is low. Standing in the middle of the room in a tight, plunging black dress, immaculate hair and make-up, and the highest heels you’ve ever seen is Mariah Carey. I feel like Jodie Foster being led to Hannibal Lecter.
Like the Queen, she extends a hand, but her grip is fleeting and she snatches it back as if having to come into contact with a member of the public – and a dreaded journalist at that – is punishment enough.
She sits. I sit. One of the assistants – I’m not sure which – sits so close behind me I can feel her breath on my neck. We talk about her new Christmas album (the whole point of the interview!), motherhood and her then-husband (US TV star Nick Cannon), but her answers are short and it is clear that Mariah is over it. So I go for it; I ask her about being considered “difficult”, a question a man in her position would certainly not get, but I am tired and cranky. Her eyes flash darkly. “Look,” she says, making direct eye contact for the first time. ‘‘I’m very regimented and I work – let’s not get it twisted. I really do go to work. People don’t think that what I do is work, but it is. I mean, I’m here talking to you at midnight.”
I want to remind her that our scheduled time was 7:30pm but ... minor details. She huffs and glares at the assistant over my shoulder. Mariah is ready – to leave. It’s bone-achingly cold when I step onto the street, and it’s after 2am by the time I finally walk in the door of my Brooklyn apartment. I spend most of the next week in bed with the flu. And I never want to hear another Mariah Carey song again.
"Jennifer Lawrence broke my heart" - Naomi Chrisoulakis
The top button of Jennifer Lawrence’s blue silk shirt is undone. But the A-lister is completely oblivious to the eyeful I’m copping as we exchange pleasantries ahead of the 20 minutes I have to interview her in a fancy Beverly Hills hotel (“I’m a Leo, too!” she exclaims when I tell her it’s my birthday and that we have the best star sign. She high-fives me. “That is such a Leo thing to say but it’s also the fuckin’ truth!”). Do I point it out and embarrass one of the world’s most famous people, or leave it be and feel like a creep? As we sit, I make a gesture at my own top to try to tell her with my eyes that I’m getting a view of her lacy white bra that would make a teenage boy faint. She glances down. “So, that’s cool,” she says, rolling her eyes and dragging the shirt to one side to expose even more of herself.
Embarrassed? Hardly. “I was doing that the whole time, so he [the previous interviewer] totally saw my tits. Wow, oh man,” she says, laughing. “You know when you do the mirror test and you’re standing? And then you sit and, huh, your tits just come out. I really wish that a female had been first!”
I’d hit interview gold within the first few minutes, and thought to myself, she’s exactly what I imagined: the funny, carefree, fantasy BFF that I’d seen on talk shows. But over the course of the interview, which is for 2014’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, anxiety emerges under the bravado. When I ask her what the weirdest thing about being famous is, her grey-green eyes flicker. “Tiny little normalcies that you don’t even notice get taken away,” she says quietly. She’d love to go back to being anonymous. “I would go to the grocery store because I wouldn’t be afraid of somebody following me back to my house, or I would go get my own coffee,” she says.
“There’s an anxiety that comes with opening the front door every single day. There’s a physical stress that you feel before you just walk outside. I would love to not have that. I would love to just go back to a few years ago when there was no feeling that came with walking out the front door and unlocking my car,” she continues.
Suddenly, being rich and famous doesn’t sound all that amazing. So, how does she deal with it? “Every job has a downside. I have to be doing this. I couldn’t not do my job. I love what I do so much that whatever comes from that was meant to be. That’s what I try to tell myself when I have panic attacks!” she says, laughing. “Kidding! Don’t write that. Don’t write that, oh my God!”
As she tells me she’s careful what she shares with friends because she’s never sure where it might end up, I feel incredibly sad for her – as gorgeous, rich and famous as she is. And when she turns down my cheeky request for a selfie together (“I don’t trust social media”), I realise that I’d gotten her all wrong, after all.
"Jonny Lee Miller was monosyllabic" - James Mottram
When I asked Jonny Lee Miller how he felt about doing interviews, I got a blunt response: “A real pain in the arse!” Message received – loud and clear. I was speaking to Jonny for the film Dracula 2000, a modern-day take on the classic vampire myth. Except that it was now the following year and going under the title Dracula 2001. Jonny was the lead, Simon Sheppard, opposite Gerard Butler’s Dracula. It was – to put it kindly – a stinker.
Back then, Jonny was riding high. He was brilliant in Trainspotting as the Sean-Connery-impersonating heroin addict Sick Boy, and he was part of a wave of exciting young British actors alongside Ewan McGregor and Jude Law. He’d already been married and divorced to Angelina Jolie, but any sense that he might open up to me for a heartto-heart was soon shut down the very moment the interview started.
Writing for a British magazine, I had 30 minutes, one on one, in a London hotel. After about five of those, I was beginning to sweat, as one monosyllabic answer followed another. Were you always a performer off screen? “No”. Were you shy? “Yeah”. Even when we talked about the film (which was his job, let’s not forget), he did not have the energy nor desire to play the game. Were you a fan of the horror genre? “No, not particularly.” To quote Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers film series: “Throw me a frickin’ bone!”
It was clear Jonny was uncomfortable with the spotlight. The hype around him following Trainspotting “only exists in magazines”, he said. “You don’t wake up in the morning with trumpets blaring.”
I gamely struggled through to the end, plugging the uncomfortable silences with any questions I could think of, only just avoiding, “What’s your favourite colour?” It was a big disappointment: the coolest character in Trainspotting was, perhaps, not so cool in real life.
"The Kardashian's hoodwinked me" - Alexandra Carlton
It was an ordinary weekday morning in 2012 and I’d just arrived at my job as deputy editor of a now-defunct Australian fashion magazine. “Did you see it? Did you see it? You were on Keeping Up with the Kardashians last night!” screamed at least five of my colleagues.
I stared at them blankly. What were they going on about? For starters, I had my own boobs, bum and eyelashes. I think that would make me contractually ineligible to appear within 20km of a KUWTK film crew under any circumstances. Aside from that I knew next to nothing about the show and I’d never appeared on it – or so I thought.
Several months earlier I’d done a phone interview with Kourtney, Kim and Khloé Kardashian to promote their new Kardashian Kollection denim line. To be honest I didn’t have a clue who they were. But I did what journalists do: I researched, I prepared questions and I called the girls at the agreed time.
Phone interviews are tricky when you’re talking to more than one person. It’s hard to keep track of who’s saying what. My usual technique is to ask each participant to announce their name so I can register how each voice sounds. I remember some odd shuffling and giggling at the time, but each sister did as they were asked. “Hi, I’m Kourtney.” “Hi, I’m Khloé.” And finally, “Hi, I’m Kim.”
With that out of the way the girls told me about their jeans – Khloé liked a boot-cut for her curves, Kourtney preferred skinnies. Kim sounded a touch confused whenever I addressed a question directly to her, but I put it down to her being, well, a Kardashian. I hung up, wrote the story and it went to print.
Fast forward several months to my colleagues’ glee at my KUWTK debut. It turned out the Kardashian side of our interview had been filmed and aired on the show. Except there was one thing missing: Kim.
Apparently I’d only been speaking to Kourtney and Khloé. Kim had never been on the call. Instead of letting me know, the youngest and eldest Kardashian sisters had impersonated Kim over the phone, and giggled hysterically through the interview with their hands over the mouthpiece.
I felt like an idiot. But, then again, I challenge anyone to tell the difference between any of those sugary Southern Californian accents. Now when I think about it, I laugh. As it turns out, I really can’t keep up with the Kardashians.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of marie claire.