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Mariah Carey shares how her ‘messed up’ childhood led her to find joy in Christmas




Mariah Carey closed out the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday with a show-stopping performance of “All I Want For Christmas.”

In a new interview for the cover of W magazine’s December issue, the 52-year-old shared the origin story of the holiday classic.

“The idea of me doing a Christmas album at all came from the record company,” she said.

“It was very early in my career, and I thought it was a little early for me to be doing that, but I was like, ‘Well, I love Christmas.’ I had some very sad Christmases as a child, but I always try to find the bright light there.” 


Mariah Carey

The five-time Grammy winner told the outlet she wrote the 1994 hit when she was up late one night playing with a keyboard and walking around the home she once shared with ex-husband Tommy Mottola.

“I didn’t want it to feel specific to any era, so we didn’t use sounds that were happening at that time,” she explained. “That way, it would feel classic and timeless. 

“But I could never have imagined that it would become such a major part of my life.”

“All I Want For Christmas” was featured on Carey’s fourth studio album, “Merry Christmas.” The song became an instant classic and has entered the Billboard Top 100 chart every holiday season since its release. 

It is the superstar’s biggest international hit and holds the record as the best-selling Christmas single by a female artist with an estimated 16 million copies sold.

Carey’s Thanksgiving Day performance also featured surprise cameo appearances by her 11-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan, whom she shares with her ex-husband Nick Cannon.

In her interview with W, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Christmas” was asked if her children knew that she was “more iconic than Santa Claus.”

The singer closed out the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with a show-stopping rendition of the holiday hit.

The singer closed out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a show-stopping rendition of the holiday hit.
(Cara Howe/NBC via Getty Images)

“Darling, look, I know a lot of the time people are like, ‘Oh, yay! Look at her! She’s, like, so festive and such a Christmas girl’ or whatever,” Carey replied.

“But, really, Christmas makes me happy. People think I had this princess-style life or whatever, a kind of fairy-tale existence where I just emerged, like, ‘Here I am!’ And that is not what it is.

“When you grow up with a messed-up life and then you’re able to have this transformation where you can make your life what you want it to be? That is joy for me.


“That’s why I want my kids to have everything they can have. I want them to be able to understand that they can be anything they want to be.”

The singer opened up about her difficult upbringing for the first time in her 2020 memoir, “The Meaning of Mariah Carey.”

“It was an extremely dysfunctional childhood, to the point where it’s shocking that I made it out of that at all,” she told W.

In her memoir, Carey recalled shocking stories of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her siblings as well as allegations of drug use and racism.

Carey’s father Alfred was a Black aeronautical engineer and her mother Patricia was a White opera singer. She told W she felt “othered” as a biracial girl growing up in a predominantly White Long Island neighborhood.”

Carey's 11-year-old twins made surprise cameo appearances during her performance Thursday.

Carey’s 11-year-old twins made surprise cameo appearances during her performance Thursday.
(Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Netflix)

“There were no role models for people who were clearly mixed or, you know, light-skinned or whatever we were categorizing it as then. So, I didn’t know who to look up to when I was growing up,” she explained. “It was difficult.”

Carey also said that her “diva” persona largely stems from her mother’s influence on her.

“There are things people are not aware of because this whole quote-unquote ‘diva’ thing is always what people see first,” the star explained.”Yes, I play into it. And yes, part of that is real. 


“I can’t help it. Like, what do you do if you grew up with an opera singer for a mother, who went to Juilliard and made her debut at Lincoln Center? There’s just a certain amount that is going to emerge. So, yes, it’s just an affectation, and sometimes it’s purposely done, and sometimes it’s just, like, you know, a response.” 

Carey and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lee Daniels are working on a TV series adaptation of her memoir. 

“My life in general is actually much more layered than what people know or what is even in the book,” she told W.  “People who have been friends with me for years were like, ‘How come you never told me all of this happened to you?’ At this point in my life, it’s about doing things that I really want to do.”