It’s raining in New York and Mariah Carey is in the bathtub.
“Today was stormy weather,” says the elusive chanteuse in kicking off a telephone interview about a new collaboration with luxury jeweler Chopard. Because the topic du jour is diamonds, it’s an obvious question to ask if she’s wearing any at this particular moment because while she is dripping wet, this is Mariah Carey, after all. Answer: Of course she is, darling.
“I’m wearing a diamond bracelet and another bracelet that my daughter Monroe made for me,” she says of a pink and lavender beaded creation from her 11-year-old with Nick Cannon. “It says Lambily on it — that’s for the lambily. We layer with all different things.”
There’s a lot of layers to the conversation that follows. Carey’s Chopard partnership — Happy Butterfly x Mariah Carey Collection — debuted Sept. 16, a date that marks the 25th anniversary of her career-shifting 1997 album Butterfly. The diamond-heavy collection features the titular insect on everything from necklaces and bracelets to rings and earrings, and it was all Carey’s idea.
In detailing the backstory, Carey opens up about the creative renaissance she entered with the album after divorcing former Sony boss Tommy Mottola (and fleeing their shared mansion she calls “Sing-Sing”), why she reached out to Chopard president Caroline Scheufele to suggest they team up, and when she first discovered a love for diamonds (thanks to Marilyn Monroe).
It feels special to speak to you at this moment as we approach the 25th anniversary of Butterfly as that symbol has been such an iconic part of your career really since that time. What does the symbol means to you today and how has its meaning changed over the years?
I was never that one that was like into butterflies from childhood, it didn’t seem that was really me. I don’t know how many people will know what I’m referencing but as I was leaving “Sing-Sing,” aka the mansion that I had in Bedford that I paid for half of myself, as I was walking out, I was writing the song “Butterfly” — the spread your wings and prepare to fly section. In my mind, at that moment, it was going to be an uptempo David Morales moment, kind of like a remix vibe. I was just trying to get out of there. There are certain things that happened and I won’t go into it too long but I will say that as I was leaving, I did see a butterfly. From then on, I kept seeing butterflies everywhere.
It stayed with me and it wasn’t a one-time thing because I wrote a song and an album called Butterfly. It really does, for me, represent freedom and also emancipation. I know that’s a different era, different album, but there are many different interpretations of the symbol of a butterfly. It’s all about going through something and coming out on the other side freer, that’s what it really represents to me.
I read that you suggested the collaboration with Caroline Scheufele at Chopard. I know that they have been very good to you over the years but what inspired you to reach out and say, “We should do something together.”
OK, naturally Christmas doesn’t end on December 25 for me. So, it was like a month after Christmas and I was still there with my tree and everything. It had been awhile since everybody had opened all their gifts. I let everybody open theirs first because it’s more fun for me to give than receive. I was by myself in the living room looking at the tree and I realized there was still a package on the table. It was from Chopard and Caroline sent me a beautiful silk scarf and a letter. I was like, this is so auspicious because “All I Want for Christmas is You” was going diamond and I was thinking about doing some sort of collaboration.
I reached out because I had a feeling and because she had written me this beautiful note and sent this beautiful gift. We started talking and she was literally sketching the butterfly necklace, the major piece, as we were speaking about the whole concept of working together. I am still kind of in a state of disbelief about it because it’s such a dream come true. It’s such an amazing association to be able to say that I’m collaborating with Chopard on this collection. I don’t even know how to explain it. I have no words. I’m just ready to share the Happy Butterfly Collection with the world.
I love that. Going back to the sketches, I know you’re really hands on and you have a great eye for craftsmanship and design. What was the collaboration process like?
Because of [the time] when we started talking, I thought maybe it would be a snowflake or something Christmas-related. But Caroline and Daphne, who works closely with her, were very much into the butterfly concept. I totally agreed and it just so happens to be happy timing for Happy Butterfly for me because we are celebrating 25 days of Butterfly the album of being in existence.
I know that you’ve worn Chopard many times over the years and I read in Harper’s Bazaar that you said Chopard was generous to you at a time when many others were not. What did that mean to you at the time?
That was at a certain time when they gave me a beautiful piece of jewelry; actually, it was a watch and you know I don’t acknowledge time but it was pink and I still have it — it’s so sweet. They’re very special in that way and ethical practices really matter to them, using ethical gold and gemstones. I’ve just always felt that they’re a great company beyond, you know, the greatest diamond company in all the land. So when this collaboration started, it really felt like a Cinderella moment.
One of the photos I came across was the time you wore 121 carats of Chopard diamonds for an event in Cannes. Is that the most amount of diamonds you’ve worn at one time?
Most likely. That is more than I can put on right now. I could go into my case and try but that was major. Taking them off that night was very difficult I remember.
When we started talking you sang a little Marilyn Monroe for me, someone I know is very important to you. It made me think of her signing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Do you remember when you first fell in love with diamonds?
I wrote about this in the book, when I was a little 6-year-old girl, they were having an anniversary of Marilyn’s life as she had already passed away years earlier. My mom was watching it on TV with her boyfriend and they showed the number, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” I watched it and it really had an impact on me because they were also talking about how difficult a childhood she had. And yet, there I was having a difficult childhood myself, watching this show about a person who became a major figure for the entire world singing about diamonds and being fabulous.
So that was a very aspiration kind of moment. [In the beginning of my career], I chose to wear very little jewelry early on because I didn’t want to buy stuff for myself. Later, I met this incredible woman who shall remain nameless for this article and she was known for wearing a lot of diamonds. She used to have an incredible Oscar party every year and if anybody figures it out, they’re a genius. Anyway, for some reason, she took a liking ot me and she invited me even though I’ve never won an Oscar. Whitney [Houston] and I sang an Oscar-winning song but since they didn’t ask me to write it, technically we didn’t win it but whatever, we did like it. So, you know, this woman said, “Darling, I think you should buy yourself more diamonds. What are you doing?” So, I started getting more into it.
Now we have this [collection] which I will have forever. And it all feels like a dream. I don’t know if I should say this but of course I can because it’s a quote from one of my songs called “Emotions.” I will say that all of this has me feeling emotions.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.