Why It Might Be Kind Of Important That Mariah Carey Makes It Clear Who She Doesn't "Know"

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Mariah Carey is known for being one of the shadiest to ever throw shade. Her signature catchphrase, “I don’t know her” (initially directed at J. Lo, and most recently to Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande) has captured the hearts of millions of petty people like myself, always looking for innovative ways to stunt on my opposition. What better way to shut down someone’s ego than to deny any knowledge of their existence? It’s iconic. Honestly, truly. But as much as I love the idea that Mimi is nothing more than a walking palm tree, throwing shade to whoever is willing to catch it, I think that the myth of who Mariah knows and doesn’t know is deeper and slightly misunderstood.

When talking about singers as popular as Demi, Ariana, and J. Lo, “I don’t know her” seems shady because their names are so easily recognizable by us average folk. But we’re not talking about a normal person. Mariah Carey has been in a league of her own for quite some time. She doesn’t have to follow the charts to keep up with what other people are doing. She doesn’t have to “eyeball” the competition. So theoretically speaking, Mimi could very well never have heard of these women. If I’ve never heard a Demi Lovato song (true story), I’m not mad that Mariah hasn’t either. But that’s not the point I’m arguing.

There is a very big difference between “do you know her?” and “have you heard of her?” To “know” someone implies that you can vouch for some part of their character. You can make a judgement call about the kind of person they are. I once said hi to Tia Mowry when she walked past me in the Refinery29 offices. Sure, I know who she is and can even say that we’ve met. But do I know her? No. There’s a guy who lives in my building and always makes sure that my packages are in a safe place. I know him.

One of the things we’ve learned about Mariah on her new show is that she’s been taken advantage of by people in her life before. To actually “know” Mariah Carey is a come up. To be able to consider someone like Mariah Carey a friend is an inevitable perk, even if you’re Ariana Grande. It’s something that people are constantly after, maybe even for the wrong reasons. Our celeb-obsessed culture also loves to stretch the ways our favorite celebrities might interact with each other. (For example: Everyone thinks Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj are BFFs because they've collaborated. But they could very well have a strictly working relationship.) With these assumptions come expectations about how Mariah should act and respond to what other artists do, and I think that Mariah simply isn’t here for it.

It may be that Mariah is invested in protecting her space, and her brand, by creating firm boundaries on who the press is able to associate with her. It’s certainly not a “polite” answer, but it leaves little room for interpretation.
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