Mariah Carey Opens Up About Abusive First Marriage — 9 Dark Details About Her Relationship With Tommy Mottola

She felt trapped in her marriage.

Mariah Carey, Tommy Mottola Featureflash Photo Agency | Shutterstock | Twitter

In a recent interview with Meghan Markle on her podcast "Archetypes," Mariah Carey opened up about her first marriage to former Sony music executive Tommy Mottola.

Carey was 18 years old when she'd first met Mottola, a man who was 20 years her senior and had been the head of Columbia Records at the time, while at a party.

After meeting Carey, Mottola wrote in his memoir, "Hitmaker: The Man and His Music," that the two of them were "flirtatious from the moment [he] set eyes on her."


It had been a controversial revelation, not just because of their age difference, but also because Mottola was married and had two children.

In 1990, Mottola signed Carey to a music contract and announced his divorce from his then-wife of 19 years, Lisa Clark. Three years later, Carey and Mottola married. She was 24, he was 44. 

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While speaking to Markle, according to E! News, Carey said that she had felt "locked away" in her marriage to Mottola and that it was "extremely difficult" for her to eventually divorce him in 1998.


"My first marriage, I was very much what's the word? I was kind of locked away, and I was sort of, you know, given the rules and had to stick with them," she told Markle.

Carey also reflected on her album, 'Butterfly,' which had been created around the time that her marriage was ending.

"The album ‘Butterfly’… you know, writing and producing and living in the studio and leaving the past life that I had with my first ex-husband behind was extremely difficult."

Here are 9 dark details about Mariah Carey's first marriage to Tommy Mottola.

1. Mottola "monitored" Carey's "every move."

In Carey's 2020 memoir, "The Meaning of Mariah Carey," the singer wrote that she felt Mottola was too overbearing, according to US Weekly.


She described him as “like humidity — inescapable,” adding, “It felt like he was cutting off my circulation, keeping me from my friends and what little ‘family’ I had. I couldn’t talk to anyone that wasn’t under Tommy’s control. I couldn’t go out or do anything with anybody. I couldn’t move freely in my own house.”

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She continued, writing that she kept a “to go” bag filled with essentials under her bed in case she ever needed to escape from Mottola, who allegedly “monitored [her] — minute by minute, day after day, year after year.” 

2. Carey regretted marrying Mottola, and often "questioned" her decision to be with him.

In her memoir, Carey wrote that while she had "a lot of respect" for Mottola since he "protected" her from her "dysfunctional family," she wasn't 100% invested in marrying him.


“Many reasonable people questioned why I married Tommy. But none of them questioned the decision more than I did,” she wrote. She also recalls their wedding day, sharing that she “saw no way out” and “never dreamed of getting married” at such a young age.

3. Carey revealed that she had cried while on her honeymoon.

While speaking to Cosmopolitan in 2019, Carey reflected on her wedding and the accompanying honeymoon.

"You might want to picture a child bride," Carey said. “There was a conscious effort to keep me as this all-American, whatever that means, girl. It was very ­controlled. There was no ­freedom for me as a human being. It was almost like being a prisoner.”

In a 2005 interview with American Magazine, Carey shared what the public never saw of her personal life.


"No one saw me on the honeymoon, running down the beach, miserable, crying, and alone."

4. Carey had an affair with Derek Jeter while still married to Mottola.

In her memoir, Carey wrote about meeting former baseball player Derek Jeter during the mid-90s at a dinner. The two exchanged numbers and began sneaking around with their relationship.

Carey thought Jeter was her “soulmate” at the time because he was proof that she “could have something beautiful on the other side of the hell that was [her] marriage.”

While their relationship was brief, the singer thanked Jeter in her book for being the reason she was able to escape her marriage to Mottola, according to an interview on the Apple TV+ series, "The Oprah Conversation."


"[Jeter] was a catalyst that helped me get out of that relationship because I believed there was somebody else," Carey told Winfrey, according to Entertainment Tonight. "...He was also doing his dream job and living his dream job, and I believe we connected in that way."

5. Carey and Mottola's home was equipped with armed guards and security cameras.

According to The Daily Beast, in Carey's memoir, the singer detailed that their home had been staffed with armed guards who she accused of being spies for Mottola. 


Carey also revealed that their home had motion-sensitive cameras inside and out and described an incident where she hid in her shoe closet to have a private conversation.

She described having to sneak downstairs “for a snack or to sit at the table and write down some lyrics. But every time, right as I would start to settle into the calm of the quiet dark and begin to find my breath—Beep! Beep! The intercom would go off. I’d jump up, and the words ‘Whatcha doin’?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

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“Every move I made, everywhere I went, I was monitored—minute by minute, day after day, year after year… I was living my dream but couldn’t leave my house. Lonely and trapped, I was held captive in that relationship. Captivity and control come in many forms, but the goal is always the same—to break down the captive’s will, to kill any notion of self-worth and erase the person’s memory of their own soul.”


6. Carey accused Mottola of being racist toward her.

In her book, Carey wrote about several incidents where she noticed Mottola's racism toward her and other people.

“From the moment Tommy signed me, he tried to wash the ‘urban’ (translation: Black) off of me… Just as he did with my appearance, Tommy smoothed out the songs for Sony, trying to make them more general, more ‘universal,’ more ambiguous. I always felt like he wanted to convert me into what he understood—a ‘mainstream’ (meaning white) artist," she wrote, according to The Daily Beast.

At another point in her book, Carey recalled a moment when Mottola became enraged when Carey spoke highly of Sean "Diddy" Combs.

“Puffy will be shining my shoes in two years.” Carey wrote that it was “one of the very few times I stood up to Tommy, telling him that what he had said was blatantly racist."


7. Mottola allegedly threatened Carey with a knife at the end of their marriage.

Once Carey realized she wanted a divorce from Tommy, it had been when he'd threatened her with a butter knife, an incident the singer wrote about in her book. 

“Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek. Every muscle in my face clenched. My entire body locked in place; my lungs stiffened. Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn’t say a word," she wrote, according to The Daily Beast.

"After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face. I was searing with rage from the excruciating humiliation of his terrifying, cowardly performance in my kitchen, in front of my ‘colleagues.’ That was his last show with me as the captive audience."


8. Carey felt as if Mottola tried to derail her career following their divorce.

Years after Carey and Mottola's divorce, the 'It's Like That,' singer felt as if her ex-husband was still trying to control her career.

In 2001, Mottola allegedly instructed hip-hop producer Irv Gotti to make a song for Jennifer Lopez that was similar to one on Carey's record for the semi-autobiographical film "Glitter," according to Fox News. 

In her 2020 memoir, according to Too Fab, Carey felt that much of the hate "Glitter' received had been Mottola's fault. 

"Much of what went wrong with Glitter led back to Tommy," Carey wrote. "He was angry about the divorce and my departure from Sony, and he used all his power and connections to punish me."


9. Mottola eventually expressed regret over his marriage to Carey.

In his 2013 memoir, according to Billboard, Mottola called his relationship with Carey unhealthy, writing that it was "absolutely wrong and inappropriate."

In the same vein, Mottola called Carey's allegations of abuse "untrue" and "lots of cr-p." The former music executive also admitted to being "truly sorry for any discomfort or pain that all of my good intentions inevitably caused [Carey], and most of all for the scars it left on my two oldest children."

Despite that, Mottola credited himself for Carey's massive success.

"If it seemed like I was controlling, I apologize. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success."


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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.