Book notes: The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey book summary review and key ideas.

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The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey


“It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams—that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a 10-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me.

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival, and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side.

Writing this memoir was incredibly hard, humbling and healing. My sincere hope is that you are moved to a new understanding, not only about me, but also about the resilience of the human spirit.

Mariah” – Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but I am a fan of Mariah Carey, or at least my mom is a huge fan. Mariah is one of the most well-known and talented pop singers of my generation. I also saw that this book got really good reviews so I was excited to pick it up for this month.

Key notes:

  • She lives towards moments and celebrations, she doesn’t keep track of time
    • This allows her to keep her own wonder and inner child
    • It’s a waste of time to be fixated on time

Part One: Wayward Child

an intention

  • This book is a testimony to the resilience of silence of little boys and girls everywhere
    • To insist that we believe them
    • To honor their experiences and tell their stories
    • To set them free


Close My Eyes

  • She grew up in a troubled household living with a mixed family while also having to deal with her brother’s violence

There Can Be Miracles

  • One night, her brother assaulted her mother and left her unconscious on the floor
    • When help finally arrived, one of the cops commented that if Maria gets through this, she’ll be a miracle

when Christmas comes

  • Her gay uncles’ household was very nurturing to her creativity and imagination

the father and the son

  • Her father slowly started to become more aloof and didn’t support her music career
    • His perfectionism also rubbed off on her in an unhealthy way

Coloring Outside the Lines

  • At a young age, she started to slowly encounter racism


Light of My Life

  • Almost nothing can heal the wound of maternal rejection
  • Nothing and no one is ever all bad

Dandelion Tea

  • Her relationship with her sister was confusing because her sister was constantly manipulating her and making her think she was just trying to be nice
  • Her big sister pimped her out to a guy named John, but she managed to avoid him
    • From then, she had an aversion to men
  • She suffered physical and emotional trauma when her sister violently refused to talk to their father on the phone by throwing hot tea all over her back

Detangled and Swept Away

A Girl’s Best Friend

  • She hated her name growing up because it was so unique and nobody else had that name
    • She first encountered someone else named Mariah after she turned 18
    • A few years later, people would start naming their kids Mariah after her
  • Marilyn Monroe was her idol because she resonated with her story of coming from a troubled background and making it
  • She was invited over by a bunch of pretty white girls just to be ambushed and called the N-word over and over while she was alone and isolated with nobody else or any grown-up to protect her or step in

Part Two: Sing. Sing.

A Prelude to Sing Sing

Alone in Love

Make It Happen

  • She met Will Smith and they became good platonic friends
    • He was always super fun but also very ambitious and laser-focused
    • Like her, he was so young

Cherchez La Femme

Princess. Prisoner.

  • Tommy, one of the music executives, told her she was the most talented person he had ever met and tried to protect her and help make her a superstar

A Family

  • The trade-off of Tommy controlling her entire life was that while she was mostly oblivious to the effect her music was having on the outside world
    • She was also free to focus on the artistry of making music without distractions from people and family
  • She saw her adorning fans as family, those who wanted to shower her with love because they connected with her music

My big Fat Sony Wedding (and little skinny honeymoon)

  • Her and Tommy were equally yoked in business, but the power dynamic between them was never equal
    • He really wanted to get married and she hoped this would quell his need for control

Thanksgiving Is Cancelled!

  • Tommy hated anything he couldn’t control in her life


One Summer Night, We Ran Away for a While

  • She had an adventure producing and filming Dreamlover remix with Da Brat and JD

Side Effects

  • Tommy had so much control and restriction over her that it caused emotional stress on her

The Man from Kalamazoo

Shook Ones

  • She snuck away to have a romantic hangout with Derek Jeeter

The Last Show at Sing Sing

Just Like Honey

  • She created the song “My All” to capture her feelings about those moments
  • Her new freedom from her marriage allowed her to have more creatively free energy
  • There was always music executive pushback for her new sounds being to “urban” which was code for black, but she didn’t care and didn’t look back
  • Her love affair with DJ was short but they realized they weren’t meant for the long run
    • The idea of him was magnetic
    • She thinks that they didn’t work because they couldn’t compete with the fantasies of each other, which is impossible
  • The hard way is the way she has learned the most
  • She flew to Japan and had a meeting with Sony’s CEO to ask for help on an exit strategy
  • Making records is kind of a spiritual science compared to a live vocal performance
    • She’s at her best when she can take her time and really live with the record

Part 3: All That Glitters


Resting in Pieces

  • She had a reputation in the industry for being a beast when it came to productivity
    • She went hard in the studio and equally hard promoting and marketing
    • She was an all-in artist and everyone she worked with knew it
  • At the time during all of this change, she didn’t know how to demand rest in to her schedule
    • When you are working like a machine, there has to be human care built into the process
    • Nutritious food, bodywork, vocal rest
    • But most importantly sleep
  • The music execs were going crazy that her new song was only number two and not number one
    • The only other artist she’s ever seen under so much pressure to perform above and beyond their own phenomenal success was Michael Jackson
    • Like him, she was only used to having unquestionable smashes
  • Her therapy was connecting and communicating with her fans
  • The media hunted and ridiculed her for the TRL event she tried to plan as a publicity stunt but it went awry and she received a lot of backlash

Calamity and Dog Hair

  • She tried to get some sleep at her mother’s house that she bought after hardly sleeping for six days
    • Her exhaustion and rage at the moment caused her to lash out at her mother, who woke her up from her sleep
  • Her mother called the cops on her and had her taken away for lashing out at her in Mariah’s own home

Broken Down

  • Because of the 911 terrorist attacks, they let her out of the rehab care facility
  • Her therapist recommended that she rename and re-categorize the role her family played in her life after what they did trying to sabotage and control her
  • Returning to God was the only way she made it out of all her trips to hell

Part Four: Emancipation

My Cousin Vinny

The Latin Elvis

  • She had a three-year relationship with Luis
  • Ultimately didn’t work out because of differences and he wasn’t the one
    • But she has fond memories together

The Emancipation of Me

  • Her album The Emancipation of Mimi meant a lot to her and allowed her to be creatively free and express herself more authentically
  • To her, the album and the Grammys and accolades she received from it were a triumph over the people who have tried to harm her
    • It was also a triumph over her own trauma and fear
  • Don’t ever write anyone off
    • You don’t ever know where strength will come from
    • Her main source of strength is her faith in God
    • Her other source of strength is love from her fans and all the people who didn’t give up on their faith in her
  • In today’s age, artists have direct, unfiltered access to their fans through social media and they can come to the defense of their artists against the tabloids and the media who try to tear them down

The Father and the Sunset

Reader’s note: I will say that aside from gaining a new appreciation for Mariah because of the challenges she went through, it’s also giving me an appreciation for her artistry because she’s such a talented singer and songwriter. In between these anecdotes, she gives these poem-like verses and they’re so beautiful. She is also such a talented writer as she uses illustrative language to describe these different stories and experiences.

  • When she found out her father was terminally ill, they reconciled and talked through everything
    • She found out that her father had been following her career from afar with newspaper clippings and written notes in the margin
    • He was so proud of her and this gave her more validation than any of the accolades she’s ever received
  • Book Reference: Push by Sapphire
  • She was proud to be involved with the movie Precious
  • The definition of a diva is a distinguished and celebrated singer
    • A woman of outstanding town in the form of opera and theater, cinema, and popular music
  • She was humbled by her experience singing for her idol and legendary singer Aretha Franklin
    • Aretha later commented that Mariah is one of the only divas out there who have manners

A Little Bit About a Few Good Men

  • She recounts her precious memories of meeting and interacting with Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali
  • To her, Stevie Wonder is the diamond standard for musicians and one of her greatest idols
  • She mentions how Prince was there for her during some of her biggest challenges and will always appreciate it

Dem Babies

  • Her album The Emancipation of Mimi and specifically the song “We Belong Together” shattered so many records and received so many accolades
  • At first, she wanted to take it slow with Nick, but they aligned on so many levels and they both wanted to have children
    • This changed her initial commitment to not get into a serious relationship or marriage again
  • She and Nick couldn’t make it work as a couple, probably because of too much ego
    • But they make it work for their kids
  • She’s so grateful that her kids don’t have to experience the hardships that she did growing up

Snow Globe of Joy

  • In 2019 after 25 years, all I want for Christmas became her 19th number one hit as all of her friends made it the most streamed song in a day ever
  • During Christmas, she got the news that she became the first artist in the billboard top 100 a number one artist in four different decades


  • If she has learned anything in this life worth sharing it is to protect your dreams
    • Even in the face of disadvantages and dysfunction, you can’t let anybody define, control, or take away your vision of your life
  • In the end and in the beginning, it is all about faith for her
    • She can’t define it but it has defined her

Closing thoughts:

Another fantastic book to add to my favorite memoirs/autobiographies. I was already a fan of Mariah, mostly because my mom has been a huge fan for a long time. And I grew up with her music, so she’s always been one of the most famous pop icons of my time. However, this book really made me appreciate her beyond just her artistry and mainstream persona. I didn’t really know all of these aspects of her, especially her upbringing and how much her mixed ethnicity and personal life have caused her so much struggle.

But I think all that adversity resulted in her being even more resilient. Her story is so inspirational in that she shows what can happen in the relentless pursuit of your dreams, and having to deal with the pressures of mega-stardom and relationships on her dreams. I think that makes me appreciate even more how far she’s come and all of the achievements she’s had.

Overall, highly recommend this book for Mariah fans and non-fans alike. Not only because it’s an insightful look into an iconic celebrity, but because her story is so inspirational.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

My biggest takeaway from this book is one of the last ideas she gave in the book, but it really encompasses most of her entire journey:

  • Protect your dreams

It seems like if there’s one lesson that Mariah would give to herself or anyone else based on her own journey, it would be to relentlessly protect and pursue your dreams. I think this is the hallmark of what made her stand out compared to many others who have had the same dream. She is a laser-focused artist and hard worker. She had so many obstacles and reasons to quit, but she knew her dreams were more important than anything else.


Mariah Carey shares the struggles and challenges she went through on her journey to become a mega-diva and music icon.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.


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