Mariah Carey, 52, is definitely a living legend, having amassed an incredible career since she got her start at 18. The “Emotions” singer signed a deal at Columbia Records in 1988 when then-head of the label — and her future husband — Tommy Mottola listened to her demo at an industry event. Since her debut on the scene, Mariah has shattered record sales and won numerous awards, but her life getting to that point wasn’t always easy, with a challenging upbringing that shaped her into the woman she is today.
Mariah was born in 1970 in Huntington, New York to Alfred Roy Carey and Patricia Hickey and was the youngest of three children. Although the diva has lived in the spotlight for most of her life, she only recently shared the more intimate details of her home life in her memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, released Sept. 2020. Below find more of the details of the “Heartbreaker” songstress’ life growing up with her parents, Alfred and Patricia.
Mariah Carey’s Father Alfred Roy Carey
Alfred Roy Carey was Mariah’s father and was an aeronautical engineer of African-American and Afro-Venezuelan descent. His father, Mariah’s paternal grandfather, actually changed his surname from Nuñez to Carey to sound more American/Eurocentric — something many immigrants did at the time to cope with racism.
Racism was definitely a prominent theme in Mariah’s life, and something her father and mother, Patricia, who is of Irish descent, dealt with during their union. The couple met in 1960 and fell in love, eventually getting married despite Patricia’s mother forbidding it. “I was in love with him and I just felt … it was the right thing to do,” Patricia once recalled on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The couple definitely endured judgement and hostility while living together as an interracial couple, even getting shot at once through their window. “They didn’t like us because we were living as a black and white couple, and that just wasn’t done,” Patricia continued to Oprah.
“My father identified as a black man,” Mariah said in her memoir. “No one asked him because he was clearly black. But people always ask me. If we were together, people would look at us in a really strange way. As a little girl, I had blonde hair and they’d look at me, look at him, and be disgusted. I understand people want to hold on to their roots. But for me, I was a complete nonentity because of it,” she said. “Maybe that was part of my drive to succeed. I’ll become accepted.”
Mariah’s father and mother ended up getting divorced when the “Through the Rain” singer was three, and she lived with her mother while her siblings, Alison and Morgan, stayed with their dad. Mariah had little contact with her father after the split, and he sadly passed away in 2002.
Mariah’s Mother Patricia Hickey
Life wasn’t always easy with Mariah and mom Patricia, as the singer explained in her memoir the strained relationship the two went on to develop. Patricia was a former opera singer and vocal coach, and therefore heavily influenced Mariah in her love of music. That situation became problematic, however, when Mariah’s career began to grow and superseded her mother’s ten fold. “Jealousy comes with the territory when you are famous. But when it comes from your own mother, it is very painful.” Mariah said in her memoir, recalling how Patricia once said to her, “You should only hope that you could be half the singer that I am.”
In addition to the competitive comments, Mariah also opened up about the neglect she felt as a child when she was young which impacted her later in life. “I’ll always take care of her,” she has said. “There’s been a huge role reversal in our relationship since the beginning, since I first started [singing] I’ve been the go-to, that matriarch person, even as the youngest child in the family. Not everybody gets it. That’s a lot of pressure because also with that, with the expectations come resentment as well, or envy. It’s really a tough place to be.” Even with their challenges, Mariah shared that she has “reserved some room in my heart” to hold space for her mom, “but with boundaries.”
“Ours is a story of betrayal and beauty. Of love and abandonment. Of sacrifice and survival,” Mariah stated in the book. “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.”