Mariah Carey gets candid about the “complicated” relationship with her mother Patricia like never before.
In her new memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, the singer explains the history of their rollercoaster bond, even including her mother in the opening dedication. “And to Pat, my mother, who, through it all, I do believe actually did the best she could. I will love you the best I can, always,” it reads.
Carey discusses how she’s always wanted to be her mom’s light and make her proud, saying how much she respected her as a singer and working mother. ” I loved her deeply, and, like most kids, I wanted her to be a safe place for me. Above all, I desperately wanted to believe her,” she writes.
“But ours is a story of betrayal and beauty. Of love and abandonment. Of sacrifice and survival. I’ve emancipated myself from bondage several times, but there is a cloud of sadness that I suspect will always hang over me, not simply because of my mother but because of our complicated journey together,” Carey continues. “It has caused me so much pain and confusion. Time has shown me there is no benefit in trying to protect people who never tried to protect me. Time and motherhood have finally given me the courage to honestly face who my mother has been to me.”
The GRAMMY-winner has never shied away from her tumultuous family history, but many Lambs may be shocked at the great detail Carey goes in on explaining the depths of her “trauma and deep sadness” on the subject. She describes the “excruciatingly painful” process she’s had to undergo of removing toxic people she loves, saying “there is no “artful” way of letting go of my mother, and our relationship is anything but simple.”
“Like many aspects of my life, my journey with my mother has been full of contradictions and competing realities. It’s never been only black-and-white—it’s been a whole rainbow of emotions,” she continues. “Our relationship is a prickly rope of pride, pain, shame, gratitude, jealousy, admiration, and disappointment. A complicated love tethers my heart to my mother’s.”
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Patricia and Mariah’s father Alfred Roy divorced when she was three years old, and Mariah was raised predominantly by her mother after the separation. Carey admits to still craving a mother like the ones she saw on TV as a child, one she says will have “genuine, sustained interest” in her before asking her for money or favors. At one point in the book, the star describes a time when she nearly drowned at the beach at seven yeas old, with the entire incident going nearly unnoticed by her mom despite her “hysterical crying.”
Mother to 9-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe, Carey has dug into her mother’s turbulent relationship with her own mother to shed some light on their dynamic.
Patricia’s own mother was vehemently against her marrying a Black man, yet alone having children with one, Carey reveals. “That was an abomination. It was the ultimate humiliation. My mother’s marriage to my father was beyond betrayal to her mother; it was a high crime against her white heritage, punishable by excommunication,” she writes. “In my grandmother’s view, my mother loving my father made her a bottom-feeder, procreating with the lowest human group and making mulatto mongrels—me and my siblings. Needless to say, my grandmother completely disowned her daughter.”
Carey explains that there is no way to easily overcome the rejection of one’s mother, and questions her mom’s motivation for marrying her dad, wondering if it was an act of “rebellion” or a cry for attention. “To be honest, I don’t know if my mother ever wanted to get married and have children so young. I could understand her wanting to create a safety net, a new family of her own, and to continue blazing trails, leaving her backward home and family behind,” the book reads.
Patricia, a Julliard-trained opera singer-turned-vocal coach herself, gave up her own career to start a family, something Carey confesses pushed her to not follow the same fate. “Watching their dreams go up in flames burned a cautionary tale into my mind,” she says.
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Carey thanks her mother for the exposure, encouragement and “lifelong lessons” she has given her, but wonders if Patricia held her talent against her, even at a young age. She recalls a particular instance as a teen, with her mother shouting at her, “You should only hope that one day you become half the singer I am,” after a sing-along in the car.
“Still, to this day, what she said haunts and hurts me. I don’t know if she meant to cut me down to size or it was just her bruised ego talking; all I know is that those words that shot out of her mouth pierced my chest and were buried in my heart,” she describes.
“There was a distinct shift: she made me feel like the competition, like a threat. In place of our previous bond grew a different tie, a rope tethering us through shared biology and social obligation,” Carey adds. “Having people you love be jealous of you professionally comes with the territory of success, but when the person is your mother and the jealousy is revealed at such a tender age, it’s particularly painful.”
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As Carey explains, it’s taken years for her identify the “significant neglect” she experienced as a kid and how she never allowed it to waver her faith in her own talent and eventual success. She talks about growing used to being underestimated, taken advantage of, and feeling jealousy by people she’s close to, but that it never cut deeper than when it came from her own mother.
“It has taken me a lifetime to find the courage to confront the stark duality of my mother, the beauty and the beast that coexist in one person—and to discover there’s beauty in all of us, but who loved you and how they loved you will determine how long it takes to realize it,” the book reads.
As any member of the Lambily knows, Carey is not one for celebrating birthdays, describing herself as “#eternally12” while celebrating her 50th earlier this year. She explains the history of this in the book, saying it all stems back to her 18th birthday. “I thought I was a failure because I didn’t have a record deal yet. That was my only goal. It was as if I was holding my breath until I could hold a physical thing, an album that had “Mariah Carey” printed on it. Once I got my deal I exhaled, and my life began,” she writes.
“From that day on, I calculated my life through albums, creative experiences, professional accomplishments, and holidays. I live Christmas to Christmas, celebration to celebration, festive moment to festive moment, not counting my birthdays or ages,” Carey adds, discouraging the need to worry about time ticking away on a clock. “Time seems like an inadequate way to measure or record it. Not living based on time also became a way to hold on to myself, to keep close and keep alive that inner child of mine…It is a waste of time to be fixated on time. Often time can be bleak, dahling, so why choose to live in it? Life is about the moments we create and remember.”
The Meaning of Mariah Carey is now available.
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