Mariah Carey On The Best Things: The ’90s & Her BFF, Santa Claus

Photo: Courtesy of MAC.
The designation “icon” shouldn't be used lightly — you really have to earn the title. Beyoncé is getting there, Taylor Swift still has a long way to go. Mariah Carey, on the other hand, has owned her iconic status since she became the best-selling female artist of the 1990s, continued on to sell 200 million records worldwide, and win five Grammys. Not to mention singlehandedly contributing to the uptick in butterfly tattoos appearing on lower backs and ankles over the last decade. Whether you were born in 1975, ’85, ’95, even after 2005 (I was surprised to find out that I was bumped to coolest aunt status after my 8-year-old niece found out I interviewed Miss Mariah), her music has touched your life somehow. Dream lover, come rescue me; 'Cause you'll always be my baby; All I want for Christmas is you. You know the words — and I’ll bet money you’ll hear the latter the next time you hit the grocery store. 'Tis the season. In honor of this most wonderful time of the year (Carey’s personal favorite), the singer/actress/and now director has teamed up with MAC to create the aptly named, shimmery-Champagne "All I Want" lipstick, which will launch December 3. And this is just the start of a new collaboration she's embarking on with the brand — expect more MAC and Mariah makeup to come in 2016. Fun fact: Did you know that before her career took off, Carey actually spent some time in cosmetology school? Needless to say, she was fully involved in this creative process. Last week, I stopped by the Mercer Hotel to meet the star. After I got my nerves in check (and fangirl-ed out about how Emotions was the first album I ever owned), we chatted about Christmas, her kids' curly hair, and her favorite '90s moments.

Why did you decide to do a nude lip for the holidays instead of the more obvious red?
"When we talked about doing a Christmas lipstick, first I said I know most people would want to do a red lip, but I think we should do something that is more of a frost, because I want to wear it and I can’t pull off a red. I hate it. I tell every makeup artist, 'Do not do red on me.' I did it back in the day for my first photo shoot and then I realized how bad it was on me. Some things don’t work on certain people. It doesn’t work on me."
Photo: Courtesy of MAC.
I feel like that with nudes! Do you have any tips for wearing them?
"If you have a little tan and a smoky eye, then you can pull off a nude."

“All I Want for Christmas” has become such a go-to holiday song. Did you think it would last the test of time so well?
"I never thought I should be doing a Christmas album. I thought, I am too young to be doing a Christmas album, why are we doing this so early in my career? [Ed. note: Her first Christmas album came out in 1994, when Carey was 24]. And the first year, it didn’t go to number one. But after that, it caught on. It is really hard to do a Christmas song and have it last. But I just did it from the heart, it’s what I love, I love the holidays so much."

I can’t pull off a red lip. I hate it. I tell every makeup artist, 'Do not do red on me.'

Mariah Carey
Do your kids know it?
"They know it’s my song, they love to play it when it’s not Christmas. They can pretty much recognize my voice, but sometimes they’ll go, ‘Mommy that's you,’ and it won’t be, and I’ll be like ‘Okaaay.’"

What's your holiday tradition?
"I bring my friends — a lot more than should be in one house at the same time — to Aspen and we have a great time. There is snow, we go sledding, we go on a sleigh ride in the middle of the night. It’s beautiful and Santa Claus comes, 'cause of course, I know him. The real reindeer are there, so it’s the best. [Ed. note: Fact-checking this, but still waiting to hear back from the North Pole.]"

The '90s are having a major moment right now. You were such a huge '90s star — how do you feel about all the trends coming back?
"I don’t really care what people do. Trends happen. Then, it is a repeat of a trend."

But I feel like you started some of those trends.
"Oh, really? That would be nice to get some acknowledgement on that."

What was your favorite '90s moment?
"My favorite video that I did back then, which was more like late '90s, was 'Honey.' I was on a jet ski with my hair back. I was on a boat with my hair blowing, and I was tied up in the Dolce & Gabbana dress. I jumped out the window, swam through the water, took off my clothes. It was a big-budget flick."

What's your favorite of your albums?
"That was my favorite album, because I got to really do what I wanted to do. I love the Daydream album, too, because it has 'One Sweet Day,' 'Fantasy,' and 'Always Be My Baby.'"

You wore your hair curly a lot back then. Do you still?
"I do, but my hair is not as naturally curly as I made it. They’re not ringlets, but my babies have perfect ringlets. My daughter has these great curls. And, oh my goodness, my son has wild hair when he wakes up."

How do you take care of it?
"I use a regular conditioner and leave it in, any conditioner, and treat it as a leave-in conditioner. I do the same thing with my kids. So you have to comb through it when it’s wet and leave a good conditioner on it, then either dry it with a diffuser or towel-dry it and let it dry naturally."

What do you see yourself taking on next? Where will you be in five years?
"Five years? I am taking on too much in the next five days — I can’t even think about it."

Do you still set goals for yourself?
"I do. I’m excited that I directed this movie this year [Hallmark's A Christmas Melody], I’m excited to get more into that. We did the best we could with how quickly we were working, but I think it’s going to be a nice holiday movie to sit down and watch with your family."

Since you’ve been through it all, what advice would you give young pop stars today?
"I have been through it all, but there are different shenanigans that go on now that I haven’t been through and that I don’t care to go through. But I would say, focus on your art as much as possible and try not to get stuck and absorbed in your phone — because in the studio, you can't do that. But even when people have had the TV on when I was working, I’d always say, 'Can you turn that off?' because it takes the focus away from the music."

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