Mariah Carey has been known for decades a hitmaker who’s crossed several genres. Though despite her origins in the music industry, the Grammy-winning singer has appeared in several films and TV shows over the years and displayed some serious acting chops. Along the way, she built a close relationship with famed director Lee Daniels.
Mariah Carey’s various acting roles
Carey made her acting debut in the 1999 romcom The Bachelor alongside Renée Zellweger and Chris O’Donnell. By that point, she was a multiplatinum selling artist with several Grammy Awards under her belt, effectively becoming the leader of a new generation of R&B artists.
Carey’s 2001 movie Glitter received tepid reviews at the time and is regarded as a commercial failure. It continued to be a stain on Carey’s acting career and her career in general for several years.
Mariah Carey and Lee Daniels’ working relationship
Carey’s trajectory as an actor changed when she met Lee Daniels on the set of his movie Tennessee; in the years after that, Carey appeared in productions of his including Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, Empire, and The Butler. She reflected on their friendship in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey.
“I first worked with Lee Daniels on Tennessee, a film I did in 2008,” she recalled. “He was the producer, but he basically ended up directing me, and he totally got me. I was thrilled when I learned he had acquired the rights to Push, though not at all thinking I would be involved.”
“The entire process of filming [Precious] was renegade and brilliant,” she continued. “Lee believed in me, and I believed in him. I believed in the remarkable cast, and of course I believed in the brilliance that was on the page.”
Mariah Carey and Lee Daniels have nicknames for each other
Carey lauded Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe for their standout performances in the film. As the social worker Ms. Weiss, Carey earned a few awards herself.
“I won the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where Lee and I were extra festive, using our pet names onstage (me, “Kitten,” and him, “Cotton”), laughing, and whispering to each other. And, okay, maybe we were a little tipsy too, but it was one of those bottles-on-all-the-tables award shows!” she remembered. She referenced their unique nicknames for each other years later in a 2016 Instagram photo together chronicling “The adventures of Kitten and Cotton.”
“Mostly we were totally thrilled. I was thrilled,” she concluded of her experience. “Not only did Precious give me public validation for my acting after Glitter, but because Lee believed in me, I was able to believe in myself again as an actress.”
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