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Mariah Carey Q&A: ‘I Don’t Know What People Think Of Me’

Variety logo Variety 12/9/2016 Elizabeth Wagmeister
© Provided by Variety

“I just wake up this way, natural — I swear,” jokes Mariah Carey as she was in hair-and-makeup prep for her upcoming E! series “Mariah’s World.” The Grammy-winner says she was ready to put out her own show because, “I’m not sure that people really know me at all.”

Here, Variety chats with Carey about “Mariah’s World,” “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “American Idol” and more…

Why was now the right time for you to have your own docuseries?

Really because I was getting ready to go on tour and there’s so much that goes into it, and I was like, let’s just document it and go behind the scenes. It’s going to be hilarious. I didn’t get talked into it — I just wanted to do it because I thought it would be a lot of fun.

Did E! come to you or was it your idea to have your own series?

It was our idea on my end of things, because we knew that my tour was coming up.

Had you ever thought about doing a show like this before throughout your career?

I had in the past, but it just seemed like the right time because of what we were doing creatively with the live performances and everything like that.

I would imagine you’ve had many networks and producers pitch ideas like this to you before. Have you had other offers?

I definitely have, but this was different because it was on my terms. This was me doing me. Somebody else can have a perception of how they think you should be filmed and what it should be like, but when it’s my own thing that I’m doing, it’s different.

What else will we see on the show, besides your tour?

There are so many behind the scenes moments that you have to see. It’s worth tuning into just in case you miss something.

How much will we see of your professional life with the tour versus your personal life with your relationships and kids?

It’s a good balance. I think you see a little bit of everything.

When the show was announced, it was described as following your tour and upcoming wedding. Have there been any re-shoots given the changes in your personal life?

I’m not sure, but I think we may be filming some of those re-shoots today [Laughs]. It’s hard because I can’t speak for anybody else that’s involved in my personal life. We want everybody to be happy, but that’s not the way it always is.

Is it nerve-wracking to put your entire life out there for viewers to see?

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s my entire life [Laughs]. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but again, it was my choice so that’s the way it is.

You’ve been in the spotlight for decades, and the world has been following your every more. Is this show a way for you to say: there have been so many untruthful things written about me, but this is really who I am?

I think so, but a lot of it, I’m kind of joking around. If people have a good sense of humor, they’ll just be like, Oh, we kind of get her. She’s campy, she’s this, she’s that, she’s not always serious. I don’t know what people think of me. I had this conversation with Ellen [DeGeneres] and I was like, “I don’t know what the biggest misconception about me is because I don’t know what people think.” I don’t know.

When people tune into this show, what do you want them to learn about you?

I really play it up with the diamonds and the hair and the makeup and the this-and-the-that and the shoes and the whole ensemble, but honestly, is that me? I don’t really know. Yeah, part of it is me. I mean, would I be mad if someone gave me a new diamond bracelet? No. But that doesn’t mean that’s all I care about. Actually, I know what it feels like to be extremely poor, living on my own in New York — or actually live with like five girls all on mattresses on the floor. This has not been given to me. But that’s the part that people won’t really see, and I wish I had maybe made a little bit more of a point of it. But also, it’s not me to be like, “Look at my life. Look how much I’ve suffered.” That’s not who I am.

What do you think is one thing that nobody knows about you?

I would hope there’s more than one thing because that would be very sad if everybody knew all but one thing about me. I’m not sure that people really know me at all. I think it’s about people watching and tuning and to get a glimpse of my personality and see who I am.

I know that you’re calling your show a docuseries — not a reality show — but are you a fan of other reality TV?

No, I’m not! I think I’ve only watched one in my life, and that’s why I said I wouldn’t do it, unless it was a documentary. If people want to call it that because it makes them happy, then that’s on them, but for me, it’s stylistically so different.

Also on E! is obviously the Kardashians. Have you ever watched their show?

Maybe once or twice. But that’s because I don’t watch TV. When I watch TV, I’d rather watch a series that I really like.

You’ve had some work in the unscripted space before “Mariah’s World” — your infamous episode of MTV’s “Cribs” and “American Idol.”

Which is the worst.

Would you ever do another singing competition show?

I would have to really know who I was working with. At that point, they set me with someone that I really didn’t know and I know the chemistry was awful, and basically, being that it’s over now, I’m very happy. I would do it again with someone like a Simon Cowell, maybe. But the random person of the week that we’re going to put you with? No, thanks.

Obviously at the time you were on “American Idol,” there were tons of reports about you and Nicki Minaj. Did you feel those reports were accurate?

About Nick Cannon?

No, no, no — Nicki Minaj.

Ohhh, from the show. Well, how do I say this? I said nothing during the show so I’ll continue to say nothing. It’s not worth this much breath to go back to that horrible moment that my lawyers lured me into and made me sign my deal because they wanted to get that commission. But other than that, it was f—ing perfect! [Laughs]

Have you thought of doing more episodes of “Mariah’s World” past the first eight episodes?

I have. If people like it then I will think about it. It depends on what I end up doing — if it’s touring or if I’m in the studio. If I’m the studio, I don’t really like people to be around me that much. I prefer to be alone or with my engineer. So we’ll see. That’s why I’m saying it’s a docuseries. It works because it captioned a moment in my life and that’s what was important to me.

You’ve done so much in your career, but what are some of your goals in the future?

Oh my gosh, I have so many! I have a lot of different things that I’m actually working on right now, but I’m not sure how many things I can actually get into right now because we don’t want to ruin the opportunity, but I’m really excited to talk to you about them when I can.

I saw you on “Empire,” which was so fun.

Oh thank you. I love Jussie [Smollett]. He’s a really good friend. And, of course, Lee Daniels.

Are there any other shows that you would like to guest star on?

Not really. I’m happy to be doing my own show. And there’s another show that we’re talking about that’s more of a scripted series, but I’ll tell you that when I can.

So you’re in talks to join something else?

Yeah, it’s very exciting.

Going forward, do you want to continue to focus on both acting and music?

Honestly, I love both, but I’ll always love being in the studio and writing and working. But I do love doing movies and that’s why I keep telling Lee Daniels, “You better get back and do a freakin’ movie! Hurry up!” I love him as a director, and other directors as well, but the performance on “Precious” that Lee helped me get to, the moment was very exciting…I only had one day of prep on that movie so it was very exciting.

Is there anyone you are dying to collaborate in the studio?

Oh yes, but I’m not telling! [Laughs] There are a few and we’re working on it now.

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