I remember it as if it was yesterday – it all began one summer in the mid-90’s. The sun was blazing and the radio was blaring in my cousin’s car on a fine L.A. morning. We were on our way to get the day’s first fresh batch of glazed donuts from Krispy Kreme, when the first “doo-doo-doo’s” of Always Be My Baby came through. All of us bopped to the song (it was, and still is, a BOP). When the traffic light turned red, my cousin turned to me and asked, “What kind of music do you like? Do you have a favorite singer?” Without so much as blinking, while gesturing to the car radio, I proclaimed, “I like this type of song. This type of singer.” My cousin smiled and said, “Cool. I think Brandy sang this song… not sure!” I knew right then and there that “Brandy” was my favorite singer.
Later that day, my cousins offered to make me some mixtapes from their music collection. I jammed to Real McCoy, TLC, C+C Music Factory, and more on my Walkman. Then, they broke out their Mariah Carey cassettes. They had her entire collection from her debut album to Music Box. They played her tapes on the stereo and, by the first song, I knew my favorite singer and that the singer of ABMB wasn’t Brandy, but MC. It was right then and there that I realized my fondness of her was unparalleled, and my rapidly growing fandom of her would shine forevermore. I knew, without a doubt, I would never feel this way about another artist again.
Sure enough, I rapidly embarked on my journey as a “lamb”, and there was no going back. I studied everything and anything about this incredible being of a human. This extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter-producer with a heart of gold and happens to look like a goddess fascinated me; the way she emoted through her music struck chords within me that I never knew I had.
And so, my fandom kicked off into high gear. In addition to my cassette and CD (plus CD singles) collection, I started scrapbooking excerpts from magazines and even teen fiction (i.e. Bailey Salinger, whom I had a huge crush on, mentioned Mariah in a Party of Five book). If you have ever browsed a record store and see a Mariah CD at the front of every row of the “Pop/Rock” or “R&B” section, I probably visited the store right before you. I would wait by the radio to hit ‘record’ for the “Hi, I’m Mariah Carey and you’re listening to Rick Dees and the Music Top 40!” soundbite. By age 12, I woke up at 4am every morning to use dial-up and built one of the first MC fansites, Mariah’s Lamby, with self-taught HTML.
My motivation behind this site was inspired by something I read in InStyle Magazine – about rose breeders that had grown and named special rose hybrids after Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood legends. I became determined to have a rose named after MC and it actually got to the point where I was having long-distance calls with the same UK-based breeder featured in my magazine and faxing pitches to MC’s team (via an older lamb who had connections). In the end, a rose hybrid named “Mariah” was successfully bred, although to this day, I still don’t know if I have been credited for it.
Unlike some other “diehard” fans, Mariah’s songs did not “save my life” per se, but she certainly helped shape it. I kid you not – a fire is lit in my soul every time I hear one of her songs – and, in my mind, there is undoubtedly an unexplainable “connection” between us. It’s as if we’re soul sisters, meeting on a higher-level, communicating at the same wavelength. Back in the day, as an emphatically sensitive, misunderstood teenager, it truly felt like she was someone that gets me and that I got her. While my friends and classmates were mainly into punk rock and alternative (which I also listened to – my music library had a wide breadth), I boldly championed my unwavering love for MC. ‘Mariah Carey’ become a verb to describe me, and my friends (and boyfriends) would get me gifts with butterflies, lambs, rainbows, and dolphins (although I really do love dolphins) for my birthday. Mariah was my idol, but she also felt like my friend. Present-day, she is family.
Through her songwriting and interviews, I got to know the real Mariah – beyond the angelic voice, beyond the ensembles, beyond the accolades. When I heard the exhaustion and distraught in Mariah’s voice during that 2001 voice message, my heart broke. I remember writing to her, “Stop pushing yourself so hard. Take care of yourself. It’s going to be okay.” But knowing that the message may very well not reach her, I felt utterly helpless. It may sound silly to some of you; I’ve had more than a few handfuls of people ridiculing my MC syndrome – devoting time and energy to someone who was “just pretending to like you just to make more money off you.” I just knew that wasn’t the case, just like I knew that Mariah Carey would still be a music legend no matter how many people (with no musical acumen – in my humble opinion) tried to denounce her as an artist.
Mariah helped push me out of my comfort zone. It was my support for her that pushed a chronically shy me to ask the cinema manager for the ‘Glitter’ poster. It was her tenacity that motivated me to persevere through tough times (and people), not to allow myself to be dismissed or written off. It was her pureness that encouraged me to hone mine as a strength rather than a weakness. It was her undying sincerity towards her fans that proved that successful leaders can be loyal and decent. It was through her melodies and lyrics that I found ways to express myself creatively – both personally and professionally. It was her affinity towards hopeless romanticism that validated mine. It was through Honey B. Fly and its Pepto-Bismal pink boards that I found solace and understanding. It was through our mutual sentiment towards her that I made lifelong friends (and my endearing nickname, Pips). It was through her emancipation that I learned the necessity of staying true to yourself and crafting your own life path.
For a long time, I’ve dreamt of meeting Mariah. Every time I thought about what I would say to her when I get the chance to meet her, my mind goes blank and all I could come up with was, “I love you, M. Take care of yourself.” I was fortunate enough to attend all of Mariah’s concerts in Toronto until I moved overseas in 2007, including a front-row experience at her second TAOM show. After both shows, I got a chance to befriend a few good apples from her entourage while waiting for her tour bus to pull up (shoutouts to DDBB and Page 326 – just sayin’). When I had the chance to meet Mariah in person after a private concert in Macau (thanks to my amazing former PR director for giving me the half-day off during peak time), I had the foresight to know that I would not be able to say anything sensical to her, so I made a point to promise myself I would lock eyes with her (maybe she’ll receive a few decades of messages in that telepathic instance?). Well, M., I wasn’t able to say anything in 2012, so if you’re reading this: Take care of yourself. Happy anniversary! Appreciate, enjoy, and LYM always, Pips.