Mariah & Me: 3 People Share How Mariah Carey Changed Their Lives

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Stories by: Tofik Dibi, Louise Chantál & Carlos Cornejo

Mariah Collage by Breana Quintero for Our House

When we developed the theme of Pleasure for this months issue, our very first themed issue, we brainstormed on the things that truly bring joy to the masses. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" was the first thing that popped into one of our co-founders mind. A dedicated Mimi fan herself, she knew immediately that we must go to the people for stories of Mariah.


Naturally, we found three incredibly dedicated Mariah stans. These are their stories. Share yours in the comments and we'll post on social. Happy Mariah Holidays!

Legendariah, My Savior

By: Tofik Dibi


As a queer Muslim kid growing up in Amsterdam during the nineties, there wasn’t a lot of space for me to just be.


There wasn’t any space, actually.


So, I spent my days mimicking the cool straight boys, all while trying not to stare at them too hard. I was sure someday I would find a girl who’s allure would make me fall head over heels for her. Little did I know, I would never find that savior girl–at least not in the way I expected.


During a school trip, I stumbled on a cassette in the guest house we were staying in. It had songs by different artists, one of whom was Mariah Carey. One song in particular that stayed with me was “Vanishing” from her debut album. After just a few seconds of listening to the song, I was shook. I never could come to terms with my father dying years earlier, but the lyrics to her song expressed everything I was feeling and couldn’t verbalize.


Reaching out into the distance

Searching for spirits of the past

Just a trace of your existence to grasp

And if somehow I could recapture

All of the memories

And bring them to life

Lord knows I would

-“Vanishing,” Mariah Carey


The vocals were hers, but they felt like they came from inside me. From that day forward, I inspected every lyric and devoured every song of her that I could find. I found a girl and fell in love. Her music set me on a journey, because it created a space for me to express my bottled up emotions and queer fantasy.


I envisioned full-on weddings with imaginary and random boys, as I sat in the back of the bus, listening to Mariah’s love songs on my headphones. I fell in love and broke my heart in a grocery store, in the park, on vacations. I got cheated on and became the cheater. I experienced romantic dates on the beach and kissed on rooftop terraces underneath the stars. In reality, I was a lonely boy sitting in his room, but in Mariah’s songs, I was the starring lead in a Hollywood love story.


Even though all of these adventures only played out in my head, the daydreaming helped me cope until I could muster up the strength to stop hiding. I would wait for my mom and brothers to leave the house, so I could really cut loose. I would belt along to “Can’t let go” and “I am Free” at the top of my lungs until the neighbors started banging on the ceiling. It was as if I was belting out the shame I felt for being queer. It was musical therapy.


Once I was a prisoner

Lost inside myself

With the world surrounding me

Wandering through the misery

But now I am free

-“I Am Free,” Mariah Carey


At first I didn’t tell a lot of people about my adoration for Mariah, because being into diva’s is kind of a dead giveaway for queerness. Yet, when Butterfly came out, I threw caution to the wind. Listening to “Outside” felt just like listening to “Vanishing” for the first time; it gave words to everything I was feeling. It made me realize I never saw myself reflected in my family or friends, in movies, books, or television–not completely anyway. In that song, I felt represented.


But in your heart

Uncertainty forever lies

And you'll always be

Somewhere on the

Outside

-“Outside,” Mariah Carey


Those poor neighbors.


Now that Mariah’s memoirs are out, I understand why my connection to her was always so deep. Like me, she also grew up with no real space to just be. Music was the space she used to be seen, heard, and loved. Her music is where misfits like myself felt exactly that. Even the ultimate festive Christmas bop, “All I want for Christmas Is You,” came out of a necessity to feel joy and happiness when she didn’t have that space in her childhood. Her festiveness is a refusal to give in to trauma–and that’s why the song became a modern classic.


Thank you, Queen, for accompanying me with your music on a long and windy road. If you read this, I hope you are sitting next to your fabulous Christmas tree, one of many I presume, sipping on top tier eggnog. I want you to have a moment, dahling and take in the impact you, till this day, have on the lives of people across the globe. People, like me, who found comfort and hope in your music.


Bless your heart, Legendriah.


About the Author:

Tofik Dibi resides in The Netherlands and is a former member of Dutch parliament, currently a writer. He has a book book coming out in January, Dijinn.


You can connect with him here and here.






My Fairy Godmother, My Madrina

By Carlos Cornejo


Mariah Carey (MC) is a Fairy Godmother. For me, MC has always reminded me of my mom’s youngest sibling, who is also my Madrina, godmother. The samples Mariah employs throughout her music career, her own original music, dulcet tones; they were a meeting place where different generations came together to bond over these now-iconic songs. On one hand, there was my Tia who was a teen when she emigrated from El Salvador to San Jose, California. On the other, there was my generation, the children of first generation immigrants to be born in the U.S. But then, Mariah’s covers–specifically those from the ’90s, like Without You, and I’ll Be There”–captivated my Grandma’s ear, another generation. She was hypnotized by the splendor that is Mariah’s elastic melisma. “¿Que linda como canta, verdad?” she’d ask me. I’d nod profusely to assure her that I wholeheartedly agree.


Growing up in a multi-generational household, each room would echo its own unique sound, melting genres muffled by popcorn ceilings. To be able to play your own music around the house, much less around Christmas time, was rare. I used to sneak 1994’s Merry Christmas just to get my festive Lambily moment in. Before Mariah, Christmas music to me was comprised of the cumbias and merengue jams I’d hear at our holiday parties; the likes of Wilfrido Vargas, Aniceto Molina, La Sonora Dinamita, Los Hermanos Flores, and countless others would blare from our speakers until the sun would rise. As the years went by, everyone moved out, got their own homes, and for a while there it was just the Cornejo’s and Los Abuelos.


There’s something about MC’s voice that can still bring me to tears and the genius of All I Want For Christmas Is You manages to do it every time it plays for the first time during the holiday season. This song reminds me of an era where my family and I had what felt like a real home–one all to ourselves. It was a taste of that bitter-sweet American dream. On Christmas day, after hosting our massive Noche Buena with the extended family, it was just the Cornejo’s and mis abuelos left. But what made the day special was my Mama Marina, my grandma, the family matriarch. I always wanted that Christmas day bliss, where you’d wake up from your non-shared room and get everyone up to open gifts. That’s all I ever wanted for Christmas.


I will never take for granted the space we have now, especially during this pandemic. I am blessed, but also aware that someone reading this is in the same situation we were in. One thing about our people is that somos luchadores, we’re fighters and like the saying goes no hay mal que por bien no venga, vendran mejores dias. There’s no rainbow without a storm, there will be better days–a saying I constantly refer back to. Especially when we are presented with those low vibrational days. For some, Christmas isn’t always all about being merry and cheer.


And MC knows this. Although Mariah Carey is often celebrated for the vast Lisa Frank-ness of her music, there’s a deep underbelly of sorrow and sadness to every Mariah Carey album and Merry Christmas is no exception. In 2015, I lost my Mama Marina. That Christmas, when I listened to Miss You Most (At Christmas Time), the album took on a new meaning for me. It was my first Christmas without her. The void my Grandma left was painstakingly felt. Like most Mariah Carey songs that certainly weather and grow with the seasons, Miss You Most... was no different. Suddenly, these familiar words and melodies were like a cloak of comfort that no other entity could provide at the time. My pain, grief, sorrow, and the overwhelming void I felt were perfectly described in 4 minutes and 32 seconds.


The first week of 2020’s holiday season, my nieces, 5 and 6, were watching Mariah Carey’s Christmas Special on Apple+TV, when one of them paused to ask my sister, “Is Mariah Carey real?!” To which my sister replied, “Yes, she very much is, ask Tio Cuie!” The girls were born the year Mama Marina died, so I get to tell them stories about how ‘very real’ both her and Mariah Carey are. Their figures became equally fantastical, their memory that much more magical, with every story I passed down. Mariah Carey always had a room in Mama Marina and I’s house, she always had a seat at the Christmas dinner table, and now, even though Christmas looks so different since then, she continues to be a part of the family. I listen to MC and I don’t shroud myself in false cheer, I see the ever-evolving dance between light and dark at play. The real reason why Mariah Carey is the Queen of Christmas is that she truly captures the lightness and darkness of the holiday season and spirit. Mariah Carey’s cocoon has, fittingly, metamorphosed into a Christmas tradition, becoming my family’s Santa Claus. Or, to my nieces, the Fairy Godmother of Christmas.


About the Author:

Carlos is an artist based in Los Angeles, with a penchant for all things '90s r&b, writing, fonts, and graphic design. A true Pisces at heart, hailing from Silicon Valley's San Jose.


Connect with him here.







What Mariah Carey Taught Me About Making My Own Magic

By Louise Chantál


My love for Mariah Carey began at age five with a pink karaoke machine gifted to me by my father, and a song called ‘Always Be My Baby’ on my mother’s copy of the Daydream album. Not many non-gospel vocalists were praised in my household, but Mariah Carey made the cut.


As a young girl, my aunt carefully taught me that Mariah was an artist that belonged in a category of legends, nestled alongside Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. She made it clear that these were people who were masters of their craft, and were true artists that performed at a level of excellence only few could ever achieve. I decided from a young age that I wanted to dedicate my life to pursuing the same path. I knew I was nowhere near as a gifted, and I didn’t have an outstanding natural singing ability, but there was a passion I felt and a light Mariah had that I felt deeply connected to. I wanted to learn how to illuminate my own light, harness my talent, and share my gifts with the world in the same way.


Nearly twenty years later, on September 29th, 2020, my idol, Mariah Carey, released her memoir during one of the most turbulent times in history. With no delay, I rushed to press play on the audio version of The Meaning of Mariah Carey. I listened from start to finish, tears continuously streamed down my face. As a songstress living in Los Angeles, her life experiences resonated with me deeply. The heart of Mariah’s story is universal. It’s one built from perseverance, self-discovery, faith, and God–themes all fitting given the trials and tribulations that became of the global pandemic and politically uncertain time.


To my surprise, while reading the memoir, I learned that Christmas was a holiday Mariah dreaded as a child. Growing up in a poverty stricken household, anything involving grand gestures of financial splurging was out of the question, and the never-ending cycle of verbal and physical abuse made it almost impossible for her mother, father, and siblings to be civil within the same room. Yet, throughout all of her trauma, Mariah kept dreaming and held onto the vision of love she believed Christmas should be, producing the current No. 1 song in the world, and one of the greatest holiday songs of all time, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”


Mariah took her pain, used her imagination, and took the gifts God gave her to make a positive contribution to the holiday season in a way that will forever live on. As a child, Santa was never a symbol of hope or a larger than life figure to me, but Mariah Carey was. She represented a both real life and fantasy fairy godmother in a way only a celebrity can.


Through her Christmas albums, Mariah created the magic that she so desperately yearned to feel during the holidays as a child and sprinkled it across the globe. She came completely full circle, from a child haunted by the holidays to a hailed Queen of Christmas. Her story is one of redemption, of forging the love you know you deserve, and finally getting your magical ending.


Mariah Carey reminds me that as long as you are the author of your life, your story is never set in stone. The odds may be stacked against you, but you can always make tables turn. This Christmas, you might not have a tree, presents, a loving family, or a roof over your head, but if you can just have a little bit of faith and enough strength to keep on going, you can make it happen.


About the Author:

Louise Chantál is a singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Born in southwest London to British and Guyanese parents, Chantál moved to the United States as a child, and later studied at New York University’s prestigious Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. With an unmistakably powerful voice, Louise Chantál is one of R&B’s newest artists to watch. Described as a “vocal force” by Solange Knowles’ Saint Heron Agency, Chantál has crooned her way into the hearts of thousands of fans with her melodic songs, and ethereal vocals.


Last year, she gained attention across the internet by releasing by effortlessly weaving together current hits with R&B classics. To date, her music medleys have reached over 4.5 million views.


Chantál’s music has been featured by The FADER, Time, Revolt TV, and Mass Appeal, among others. Her catalog features nostalgic R&B songs with relatable lyrics to provocative anthems focused on celebrating and empowering women. In 2020, Chantál released her swoon-worthy love song and self-directed music video, ‘Put It On U.’ Her latest single ‘Pull Up’ is available on all streaming platforms. Louise Chantál is currently working on her upcoming EP, scheduled to be released in 2021.


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