Mariah Carey addresses ‘struggle with identity’ as many people are still unaware of her black heritage

Mariah Carey addresses ‘struggle with identity’ as many people are still unaware of her black heritage
Mariah Carey addresses ‘struggle with identity’ as many people are still unaware of her black heritage
Mariah Carey opens up on ‘struggle with identity’ as she addresses black heritage (Picture: Rex/Instagram)

Mariah Carey has opened up about struggling with her identity, as she discussed her black heritage and how many people in the music industry were unaware of her ethnicity.

The 50-year-old singer’s father is African-American and Venezuelan, while her mother is white Irish.

But, she says that being signed by a record label as a teenage girl hadn’t been ‘easy for her’, especially because of people’s perceptions and lack of understanding when it came to her background.

Mariah, who first signed with Columbia Records in 1988, released her debut album just two years later and became a sure fire hit, thanks to her five-octave singing range.

When she first hit the music biz, articles described her as a ‘white soul singer’ or a ‘white girl who can sing’, with Mariah revealing it played into insecurities she was already trying to deal with when it came to her identity.

Speaking about her experience with Trevor Nelson on his BBC Radio Two show Rhythm Nation, Mariah said: ‘It’s never been easy for me… this journey, this whole struggle with my identity started when I was like three or four years old.

Mariah says many people are still unaware of her black heritage(Picture: Rex)
Mariah’s father is African-American and Venezuelan (Picture: Instagram)
Her mother is white Irish (Picture: Instagram)

‘That’s when I first started to recognise, “Oh, I’m not like everybody else,” I don’t necessarily have a specific, quote, “tribe” to back me up during these situations, because, you know, I was never enough of one thing or another for most people.’

Mariah says she found people struggled to understand her when she dropped her first album, Mariah Carey, in 1990.

‘Specifically when I released my first album, I’m like, “Well what did they expect me to do,”‘ she said. ‘Like, unless I had a sticker that said “I’m black” on my forehead on the album cover, people did not know how to perceive [it].’

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Mariah explained that there are still people that are unaware of her heritage, no matter how many times she has publicly discussed it.

The Heartbreaker hit-maker continued: ‘It’s interesting, I was talking to Oprah [Winfrey] the other day, and she was like, “a lot of people didn’t even know you were black,” and I’m like, “How many times can I say it? How many times could I discuss it?”

Mariah said the music industry didn’t know how to perceive her first album (Picture: Getty via The LIFE Picture Collection)

‘We got into this as well, the one drop rule is a real thing that happened with slavery and from the time of slavery – that was the way that people were kept. Black people were kept captive, pretty much, by having this rule of, if you have one drop of black blood – and this is a very American thing – then you are considered black.’

Mariah continued: ‘So, when me saying my father’s black, my mother’s Irish, to me that’s just explaining because they are confused by the ambiguity of how I look and have always looked. To me, that was already saying I’m black, because I said my father’s black – that makes you black.

‘But, to be black and mixed and ambiguous looking is a very interesting road, particularly when you’re in this industry.’

Mariah says she is using her own experiences of identity and race to educate her kids (Picture: Instagram)

Mariah has openly discussed her family’s background in the past and writes about feeling like she didn’t fit in while growing up in her memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, published last month and in which race is a recurring theme.

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Speaking to The Guardian previously, Mariah touched on the confusion she felt as a child growing up in a biracial family.

‘There’s a whole other side of me that makes me who I am and makes people uncomfortable. My father identified as a black man. No one asked him because he was clearly black. But people always ask me,’ she told the publication.

‘If we were together, people would look at us in a really strange way. As a little girl, I had blonde hair and they’d look at me, look at him, and be disgusted.’

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‘I understand people want to hold on to their roots. But for me, I was a complete nonentity because of it,’ Mariah claimed. ‘Maybe that was part of my drive to succeed. I’ll become accepted.’

Now, she is hoping her own experiences of struggling with her identity and experiencing racism will help her to educate her kids on how to deal with similar situations that they may encounter themselves.

Mariah shares twins Moroccan and Monroe, nine, who she shares with ex Nick Cannon.

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