In ‘Mariah’s World,’ fans will see Carey resurrect her alter ego, Bianca

Mariah Carey talks about the inside look at her life in the eight-part documentary series "Mariah's World."
Mariah Carey talks about the inside look at her life in the eight-part documentary series “Mariah’s World.”
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It’s dimly lit in here. Dimly lit and quiet.

Inside an unused dressing-room suite on the NBCUniversal lot in Universal City, things are mostly unremarkable until Mariah Carey, dressed in a plunging black jumpsuit, saunters in. Two members of her team sit on a nearby sofa, toiling on their phones. Her 5-year-old twins are in the next room, rolling around on the floor with a bunch of Minions toys. It’s the tail end of a busy day of press, which included an appearance on “Ellen,” and Carey ever so delicately hunkers down in a plush armchair, placing her left foot under her right thigh.

“I just like to be comfortable,” Carey says matter-of-factly.

It’s what some might call one of the more peaceful moments in Mariah’s world. A stark contrast to much of what will be seen come Sunday.

It’s been more than two decades since Carey announced herself with “Vision of Love,” her first in a litany of pop smashes that has placed her only behind the Beatles in terms of hits and has made her one of the best-selling artists of all time. Ever since, the 46-year-old singer-songwriter has remained a pop culture fixture and global superstar whose life has long played out in the spotlight — her romances are tabloid fodder; her supposed rivalries have made for delicious lore; her career-decisions (e.g. a Vegas residency, acting roles, “American Idol,” an HSN line) have been nit-picked; and poor album sales have been scrutinized.


Now, on prime-time television, she’s about to make heads turn once more with the Sunday premiere of “Mariah’s World.” That’s right: Carey will be joining the fishbowl known as the E! network, alongside the Kardashians and the female wrestlers of “Total Divas,” with an eight-part documentary series — because in Carey’s world, it’s not called a reality show.

The series will follow Carey as she preps her global Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour, which wrapped earlier this year, and plans her now-canceled wedding to her then-fiancé, billionaire James Packer.

“I haven’t been on tour in Europe in over 10 years, so it was, like, ‘Let’s just capture it and see,’” Carey said of taking the reality plunge. “I had been toying with the idea of doing this. I was always, like, ‘I really wish people could see this, my life.’ Now we have something.”

While much of the footage related to Packer is now irrelevant since the couple’s split, it will remain in the series. In fact, cameras are still following Carey to capture how she’s moving on since the breakup.

“Her life changed and evolved from when we first started production,” said Farnaz Farjam, executive producer and vice president of current programming at Bunim/Murray Productions, which produces “Mariah’s World,” says in a telephone interview. “We thought it would only be fair to share where she’s at now towards the end. She agreed to share herself and her life with the fans so that we give the audience her side of everything that they’re reading about.”

Carey puts it this way: “It is what it is, as my mom would say.”

Audiences have glimpsed Carey’s eccentric, opulent world before. In 2001, the singer gave a tour of her TriBeCa penthouse on “MTV Cribs,” which spotlighted celebrity homes, in what is one of the show’s most memorable entries. But all the glossy-lacquered walls and love of jewel-encrusted accessories in the shape of butterflies couldn’t rival the theatrics of slinking into her bathtub with a towel or hitting the StairMaster in heels.


And that was just 30 minutes. Each episode of “Mariah’s World,” by contrast, is an hour long.

“Hopefully, viewers will have some type of an idea of me as an artist,” Carey says. “I’m really not sure that we even featured that aspect as much we could have. But I’m happy with it. I hope the average person will watch and go, ‘Oh, this is interesting,’ or ‘I like this because I can see a different side of what goes on in the performer’s world.’”

In the first episode, fans will see Carey resurrect her “Heartbreaker” alter ego, Bianca; they’ll see the singer struggle over whether to postpone her wedding because of her tour; and they’ll see her grow frustrated about not being consulted on creative decisions for the tour. And not to go unnoticed, audiences will also see Carey give in-show interviews dressed in lingerie.

“Lingerie just feels better,” Carey says. “I’m lucky I’m in pants today. I am very into loungewear. I do love a cute sweat ensemble now and again. My kids are so used to seeing me in dramatic ensembles. They’ll be, like, ‘This doesn’t look pretty on you. This is isn’t sparkly.’ They’re already critiquing me.”

Carey’s foray into the unscripted television arena is meaningful. Moves by other notable music artists into the space have been viewed as a sign that one’s career has fallen apart.

Even with the occasional setback, Carey’s career remains glitterfied. Last year, she signed to Epic Records to reunite with Antonio “L.A.” Reid, with whom she last collaborated on her “Emancipation of Mimi” album. Her successful Vegas show “Mariah #1 to Infinity” at the Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace will end its two-year run next year. And the singer, whose “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a staple this time of year, has a string of Christmas concerts in New York this month..

The idea for “Mariah’s World” took shape after Carey’s manager, Stella Bulochnikov, began working for the singer. Bulochnikov had a preexisting relationship with Jeff Olde, E!’s head of original programming.

“We’re quite pleased with the end result,” said Adam Stotsky, president of E! and Esquire networks. “I think the expectations are that she lives this incredible diva-esque life — there’s certainly truths to that. But she is shockingly affable and self-effacing and funny.”

“Mariah’s World” is being promoted as an event series. But network brass is more than open to doing future seasons. The singer, however, is more reserved about the idea.

“If we have an another event-driven way in, maybe,” she said. “It just can’t be, like, ‘OK, I’m getting my nails done today. Wanna come?’ Although I would make that fun.”

Looking down at her nails, she adds: “This would have been a fun nail day to get on camera. This is rose gold” — raising her hands to show off her manicure — “in case you’re wondering.”

When asked how viewers should watch her show, the answer is as extravagant as one might expect. From the woman who can’t travel without her Apple TV (she last binged Netflix’s ‘The Crown” — “It’s very well done”), Carey’s suggestion is this:

“You should have a splash and a morsel. A splash of your favorite drink and a morsel of whatever food you want. And then, maybe, you could also have a comforter, a blanket, and a really nice down pillow behind your head. If possible, somebody should be massaging your feet and/or doing your nails and pedicure at the time so you don’t have to waste time later.”

Oh, to live in Mariah’s World.

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