To say she’s an icon would be an understatement. Somewhere between the late 80s and early 90s, Mariah Carey shot to fame as one of the world’s most renowned voices in pop music.
Three decades later and her legacy and music remain just as relevant (read: that first time you hear All I Want For Christmas Is You each and every year). marie claire sat down with the 53-year-old to talk about her icon status, 90s fashion, and ultimately begging the question: how soon is too soon to play Christmas carols?
marie claire: Nineties and noughties trends have had a major resurgence in popularity. What personal fashion moments stand out to you?
Mariah Carey: Well, I don’t want to be all about me, but I’m gonna have to go with my Butterfly era. The Honey video in particular, which is interesting because that was the first video where I actually got to have fun and be myself. It was the first one I really enjoyed making. That was 1997, when I was born and from the womb.
MC: What is a look you feel is best left in the past?
Carey: I think there are several but I will say this: I got robbed in terms of the “ripping off the top of the jeans” [look], because everybody did that. I was just like, “I hate these friggin’ high waists!” And that’s why I ripped off the top of them. When I collaborated with Jay-Z, I just ripped off the top of the jeans with my stylist and we were like, “Oh, that looks so much more flattering.” And then the next thing I know, it’s everywhere. I’m not saying it’s best left in the past, but let’s just say I feel robbed by that.
MC: You’ve recently announced your collaboration with Swiss jeweller Chopard. No doubt you are often asked to collaborate with design houses, so what makes Chopard the perfect fit for you?
Carey: Well, I live for Chopard. To me, their fine jewellery is pretty close to unparalleled, so I’m just truly honoured to be working on this collection. It’s a great partnership because of the collaborative nature. I felt comfortable having input on everything and being really involved, to make it a representation of myself that I feel proud of. It’s all that more special when you really know it represents you and what’s important to you, including Chopard’s use of ethical gemstones and diamonds.
MC: If you could wear only one piece of jewellery from your collection, what would it be?
Carey: What’s the ensemble? Like, what am I wearing? Is it a dress?
MC: A major, own-the-red-carpet glitzy-gown moment.
Carey: Well then, absolutely it would be the butterfly necklace with the three butterfly strands on either side, hands down.
MC: Why is the butterfly such a significant motif for you?
Carey: I have an album called Butterfly, right? This year marks a very big anniversary for that album, but since I don’t acknowledge time, that’s not the reason why. It’s a very important symbol for me because when I made the album Butterfly it was in the middle of my – I don’t want to say transformation – but I was able to get out of a very difficult period of my life… to become empowered in my own life. I found the strength to be that person who is strong enough to say, “Hey, I don’t have to take things that I don’t want to take from people, or I don’t have to adhere to a man’s rules because that’s what he wants it to be.” I’m not trying to make a statement and be all like, “Look at me.” I’m just saying that the butterfly represents my freedom, to me.
MC: What memories do you have from previous trips to Australia?
Carey: I really miss Australia and send so much love to you all. Coming there was one of my favourite times. Actually, one of the highlights of my career was singing on stage with the now late Miss Olivia Newton-John in Australia. It’s something I’ll never forget… she was just the sweetest woman ever. It’s a memory I’ll always keep and hold dear.
MC: After all this time do you ever still get butterflies before performing?
Carey: Sometimes I do, yes. I haven’t performed in three years and I’m getting ready to perform in this Global Citizen show (globalcitizenfestival.com). I’m very excited and hopeful that my fans will show up.
BP: Was there a particular moment when you realised you had been elevated to a music icon?
MC: I don’t know that I even still think that has happened. It’s a weird thing, because I grew up with such low self-esteem. I have a song called Make it Happen where I tell the story about where I came from. We weren’t poverty stricken, but we did not have much of anything. I had three shirts to my name that I would wear to school.
MC: As the undisputed queen of Christmas, what are you most looking forward to about the festive season this year?
Carey: Well, first, I have to answer that question by saying that I never said I was the queen of Christmas.
MC: You don’t have to, the world has given you that title.
Carey: Oh, my goodness. Well, for me, the best times are the peaceful times. Christmas is a time when we can take a moment to reflect. I wait for Christmas all year and I’m honestly very sad when it ends.
MC: Most importantly, when do you think it’s OK to start playing Christmas songs?
Carey: Well, I’ll tell you one thing: not yet! [Laughs]