Forty-seven-year-old Mariah Carey is casually splayed out on her kitchen counter wearing only a boob-strangling negligé in a particularly entertaining scene from her new TV show Mariah's World. The E! reality series premiered last December and follows her antics during her Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour. In the scene, as in the rest of the show, and apparently at all times, Mimi is not shy. Her persona is larger than life. She is fully and beautifully without shame. She's entirely too busy to care about what you think of her and what she's doing. She lets it all hang out — or revealingly sucks it all in — while still standing at the top.
Carey has been a pop-music fixture for nearly three decades, and recently her personality and occasional missteps have earned her as much attention as her musical prowess. Her quirks — the glitter, the skimpy clothes, the meme-able "I don't know her" moments — make her relatable, while her wins make her an inspiration to the rest of us irregular folks. That unabashed individuality is reminiscent of another fabulous and ridiculous heroine: Elle Woods, the fictional, flawed, and flamboyant outcast in pink who is the protagonist of Legally Blonde. In so many ways, Carey is the Elle Woods of music. And frankly, the world could use a blond makeover.
Legally Blonde, for those who were too snobby to watch it when it debuted in 2001, is a brilliant flick starring Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, an extremely girly sorority girl who's absurd, totally herself, and a complete success at everything she tries. She's bold. She's focused. She's in her own bubble. She gets shit done — and she doesn't give up her frilly style or try to assimilate into conventional notions of respectability to do it. Elle Woods showed a generation of cynics who grew up in plaid flannel that you could succeed even if you preferred a tutu. She reminded the world that feminism can be shimmery and pink too. No matter what you wore or how much you stood out from the crowd, you could find your own kind of enviable success.
Carey is doing that and more in the real world. She has endured a range of embarrassing moments throughout her career, which somehow serve to make her all the more lovable. This past New Year's Eve, she stumbled around the Times Square stage, forgetting the words to her song while looking incredible in a bodysuit in front of the entire world — and just did not give AF. Her hater shades are on, fully blocking out the shamers, letting her essential Mariahness shine through. That's the relatable part. Getting a reality show at almost 50? That's the sweet, sweet fantasy, baby.
Mimi might not be able to ace the LSAT — although who knows, has she even tried? — but she's won five Grammys and scored 34 nominations. That's nothing but success any way you look at it. And her career has taken some unexpected turns that always seem to leave her on top. Remember when she teamed up with Ol' Dirty Bastard in 1995's "Fantasy," which transformed her image from sweet-faced singer who could pull off a pitch-perfect, five-octave vocal range to a sexy woman who could, well, apparently hang with ODB? The collaboration could've been an awkward embarrassment, but instead it turned Mariah into a sex symbol.
And don't forget when she went without makeup for her role as welfare case worker in Precious, even though it was her "nightmare" according to a Rolling Stone article. She didn't go down without a fight, director Lee Daniels recalled. "I'm looking at Mariah and I'm directing. I'm talking and I'm doing whatever, and I look in my peripheral vision and I see her putting on blush," he said. "Forget about continuity. I said, 'Bitch, what is this?' She says, 'Nothing.' She says, 'Precious has makeup on.'" For any other woman, this would read as unforgivable vanity. For Carey, it's just Mariah being Mariah.
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Perhaps her most Legally Blonde moment was when she introduced her 11,000-square-foot Tribeca penthouse to MTV Cribs in 2002 and changed ensembles for each room she presented, wrapping it up with a dip in her hot tub. In Legally Blonde, Woods wears a bikini in a pool for her admissions video, and it doesn't hurt her chances of getting into Harvard Law. Like Carey, she uses what she's got to its full potential. Just try to slut-shame a bitch. It's not gonna happen.
It's easy to wish the real world were a bit more like Mariah's World. The show is filled with gems that will have you hooting in solidarity while simultaneously blushing for the damsel on the screen. There's the scene where Mimi casually leaves her 34-carat diamond engagement ring from her ex-fiancé, billionaire James Packer, in the recording studio and quietly walks away. There's her obvious budding romance with one of her dancers, Bryan Tanaka. She bemoans waking up early to take her twins, Monroe and Moroccan, on safari — but, come on, they're on a safari.
One of her former classmates at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York, recalled to New Times a party Carey once hosted that charged $5 at the door to raise money for her prom dress. If that isn't an Elle Woods move, what is? We can't always be perfectly flawed. But Mimi does it just right almost every time.