There was the contentious run in 2013 that pitted Carey against Nicki Minaj in a weekly ego-off.
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“I was always in a bubble that they put me in, but I was always punching out.
It was a tough line to walk.” Pop diva is the most familiar veneer to Carey’s onlookers.
Carey found that through her hip-hop collaborations she could flex as both the moll and the boss, navigating between the two impulses to do whatever she wanted.
People remember her vamping on roller skates in the “Fantasy” video, but few remember that it was also her directorial debut—she rigged a camera to a roller coaster a decade before Go Pros were invented. Reid first took over at Universal in 2002, he asked Carey for advice on who should fill the president’s seat at subsidiary label Def Jam.
(Twenty years later, she’s still behind the camera: In May, she signed a three-picture deal to direct, executive produce, and star in original movies for the Hallmark Channel.) She’s hammed it up in roles as a gangster’s perennial arm candy (she was a high-maintenance drug courier in and the only girl in the “Roc Boys” video, for instance). Carey suggested her friend Jay Z—who just so happened to be waiting outside Reid’s office.
“A lot of rappers don’t have to go through what I had to go through as a singer,” Carey says.
One could roughly sketch the arc of her career just by describing what she wore at each major point: black bodycon dress (from the artwork for her eponymous debut album), Santa-red snow suit (from “All I Want for Christmas Is You”), Bond girl bikini (from “Honey”), diaphanous gold gown (from ).
But now that Carey’s fully embraced her hard-earned legacy-act phase (she launched a Las Vegas residency, #1 to Infinity, last year), its emblematic moments—the Mimi memes—have not all been flattering.
It’s a cool summer night, but the heat lamps radiate enough warmth that she discards the jacket, revealing, well, a lot—just not much in the way of clothes.