At this point, the blurred line between where Mariah Carey’s over the top persona ends and her true self begins is no longer discernible, which is why there’s no better time for her to have an E! reality show called Mariah’s World. Though, according to Mariah, “I refuse to call it a reality show.” Docu-series, then?–à la Lindsay, back when Lohan was still semi-trying to rebuild her film career. Or, as Mariah prefers to call in in the first episode, “For Love of the Tour,” a documentary. But Truth or Dare it is not.
Whatever viewers choose to deem it, one thing is for certain: Carey is happily playing into the caricature she firmly established around the time of her “Loverboy”-drenched breakdown. Or maybe the episode of MTV Cribs she was in back in 2002 (where, during the bonus features version, Pauly Shore, of all people, remarked, “It’s your world, baby”–perhaps inspiring the title of this reality show). Playing into that sense of theater, Mariah’s World opens with an introduction from Mariah’s “alter ego/arch nemesis,” Bianca Storm, who you may remember from the “Heartbreaker” video. Still calling her “Maria,” Bianca snarkily notes, “I can’t introduce Maria because I think she’s done well enough on her own.” We then get a montage of all the record-breaking stats Mariah has achieved followed by another cut to Bianca assuring, “The world doesn’t know how awful she really is.”
And while, yes, Mariah knows how to play up her diva-rific side via trips to Capri with then fiancé James Packer, tripping on some stairs and insisting, “That’s what I do when I’m about to fall, I just scream and do a high note” or iterating the fact that she’s on a yacht, there’s something less powerful about it when it’s concentrated in a forty-three minute block. The controlled presentation of how she wants us to see her poke fun at herself doesn’t always come off, and can often occur at the expense of others one actually ends up pitying–including the team of people enlisted to put on her shoes and, most particularly, the girl hired to be her personal assistant, Molly Gainey. Interviewed for the position by Mariah’s equally demanding manager, Stella Bulochnikov (who Mariah points out was introduced to her by longtime music video and film director Brett Ratner–he did “Heartbreaker,” incidentally), Molly is very much the quivering in her boots type that makes her rife for the “B character” to be toyed with on a reality show. Stella admits during her talking head segment, “I’m not sold on Molly, but if she can pack a fuckin’ suitcase, she can come along,” further adding to the debasement of the “ninny” archetype attributed to being a diva’s assistant.
With regard to Mariah’s sense of business acumen, Mariah’s World doesn’t do much to make her look like she’s in the driver’s seat for anything other than the jewels and clothes she might wear as she says to Stella, “I don’t care about any of this” while the latter tries to figure out the logistics of her Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour. Even her choreography is something she leaves up to her creative director, Anthony, who admits “two weeks is not enough” time to prepare for a tour.
Planning her wedding in the midst of all this does very much feel like an after thought, even though she gets briefly excited about wearing “just a little tiara” to accompany her wedding dress and veil. But then, if she hadn’t been engaged at this time, where would the drama of postponing her wedding have been for that reality show fodder? After Stella does convince her that it would be the best thing to do, we’re not given any sort of reaction from Packer, who appears largely disconnected and disinterested in this entire endeavor.
When all else fails on upholding her diva reputation, Mariah’s comments on lighting are her go-to, ranging from, “Oh, the abusive lighting situations” to “Oh! Overhead lighting” to, most elaborate of all, “I’m wearing these glasses because we’re in fluorescent lighting. And I have a rule which states that I will not be seen in fluorescent lighting without sunglasses. I know it’s very 90s, I don’t give a fuck.”
But unlike most reality TV stars, Mariah isn’t willing to surrender to the concept of looking “too real.” There are no scenes without makeup, no real moments of tension other than when Molly has a nervous breakdown trying to set up her boss’ Apple TV. For someone with the parody-worthy persona she’s cultivated, there are very few dramatic moments on Mariah’s World, so much as everyone acting how they think dramatic people should be acting.
And, perhaps most bittersweet of all, Mariah states, “If I don’t document this now, I don’t know when I’m gonna do it again. And I think that it’s gonna be something that I’m really gonna treasure ultimately.” This may not be the case now that things between her and Packer have gone sour–especially if she doesn’t get that inconvenience fee. But, if nothing else, at least she got together with younger and more attractive backup dancer Bryan Tanaka after all this, who accompanied her to the viewing party of the premiere. Just another charm on the elusive chanteuse’s bracelet, really.