I told my mom I interviewed Mariah Carey and she cried. “I know how much this means to you,” she said, verklempt.
She knows Mariah saved my life. I was 10 and confused and gay when I first heard her voice. It was one of those meant-to-be moments: A friend eagerly, and thankfully, played me the cassette single of “Emotions.” That voice, all seven octaves, captivated me, changed me. Years later, when I heard the curly-haired, hand-wavey songstress singing pick-me-ups like “Hero,” “Make It Happen” and “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme),” I was lifted beyond those signature high notes.
In 1997, I was 15 and still confused, on the brink of self-discovery, without a role model. The parallel wasn’t lost on me – Mariah was coming into her authentic self, channeling the artist she never could be on the triumphant confessional “Butterfly,” a metaphorical nod to the newfound freedom she was feeling after years of professional and personal captivity. The album, which turns 20 next year, ended on a deeply intimate note with “Outside,” where she referenced the inferior feelings she harbored as a biracial child.