Mariah Carey and television have not always gotten along. Her 2001 ice-cream-cart-pushing appearance on Total Request Live was the career nadir she’s been climbing back from in 6-inch heels ever since, second only to her 2002 Cribs episode, where we see her working a StairMaster in stilettos. Yet the Cribs episode stands today as a pleasingly intimate glimpse into Mariah’s enormous New York penthouse, mermaid room and all. That luxuriousness is one of her most enduringly lovable qualities: You don’t make millions of dollars not to spend them on Marilyn Monroe’s white baby grand piano. Mariah’s well-formatted inaccessibility is part of her appeal; the gulf between her and real life is what has kept and established her as a consummate pop star. We are not on her level, and will never be.
This year, Mariah is returning to us via Mariah’s World, an eight-part E “docuseries.” (It just sounds so much classier than “reality show,” right? Almost makes you forget it’s on E!) The show will follow Mariah as she plans her wedding to Australian billionaire James Packer while embarking on her Sweet Sweet Fantasy world tour.
Never doubt Mariah Carey’s work ethic. It takes more than a whistle register and a pretty face to mint a star, as Ariana Grande’s latest round of promo fumbles has shown. What separates the true divas from the would-bes is tenacity — the ability to make it through the rain that eventually always falls on any star with a decades-long career. Mariah has been with us for over a quarter-century, through peaks and valleys. But it was always unlikely that Mariah would ever be pushed off the pop-star cliff when she hit a certain age, because her fated destiny was always to be a soul singer, playing the Kennedy Center Honors in her eighties like Aretha Franklin. Carey is more of a peer with singers like Aretha and Anita Baker than with Selena Gomez. There’s no shame in exiting Top 40 for Quiet Storm, one of the few realms where older women rule.
Judging entirely by the Mariah’s World trailer, the series doesn’t feel like anything but a gift for loyal fans. The teaser begins with Mariah yelling, “I am not Cinderella! My life has not been a fairy tale!” before a supercut in which she extinguishes candles on a birthday cake by dumping champagne on them. She exits her private jet and is backlit in a way that makes it look like her hair is on FIRE as she continues “Forget the image! Forget the rumors! I owe this to the fans!” Someone describes Mariah as “misunderstood,” and Mariah insists, “I’m like anybody else” as she descends a majestic staircase in a black lace gown.
And, yet, no matter how many furs she lays on to be interviewed under the world’s most flattering light, Mariah is still one of us under those diamonds. Her broad, beautiful Long Island accent is a direct reminder that she came from nothing and built all these ice cream castles herself. Her forever-a-little-girl tendencies give some of her eccentricities a delightful Whatever Happened to Baby Mimi? quality. But what always keeps Mariah from falling into sheer ridiculousness is that she is funny. The moment when she says she won’t be photographed in fluorescent light without sunglasses on, explaining self-deprecatingly that it’s “so ’90s” of her, is adorable. Will Mariah’s World be a sanitized infomercial for Mariah the brand, or a corns-and-all look inside a legend still working hard for the money and top billing even when she’s lounging? This trailer gives us hope that it will be more of the latter. We’ll bet our charm bracelet on it.