Carey was named after the song "They Call the Wind Mariah."
Her high school classmates gave Mariah the nickname "Mirage" because she was frequently absent because of her work as a demo singer for local recording studios.
Mariah possesses a five-octave vocal range, and was ranked first in a 2003 MTV and Blender magazine countdown of the 22 Greatest Voices in Music, as voted by fans and readers in an online poll.
"I have nodules on my vocal cords," said Carey in 1998 interviews with Vibe Magazine and ShowBiz Spy. "My mother says I've had them since I was a kid. That's why I have the high register and the belting register and I can still be husky. My doctors showed me my vocal cords and why I can hit those high notes. It's a certain part of the cord that not many people use—the very top. My natural voice is low."
In a career spanning over two decades, Carey has sold more than 200 million albums, singles and videos worldwide, making her one of the world's best-selling music artists.
Carey was cited as the world’s best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the 1998 World Music Awards and was also named the best-selling female artist of the millennium by the same organization in 2000.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), she is the third-best-selling female artist, with shipments of 63 million albums. In 2008, Carey earned her eighteenth number one single on the Hot 100, the most by any solo artist. She has earned five Grammy Awards and is known for her five-octave vocal range, power and versatile and unique style.
Mariah Carey was born in Huntington, Long Island, New York. Her mother is a former opera singer and vocal coach. Her paternal grandfather, Roberto Nuñez, changed his surname to Carey after moving to the U.S. from Venezuela.
After her parents' divorce, her mother worked several jobs to support the family and Mariah spent much of her time at home alone, and turned to music to occupy herself. She began to sing at around the age of three, when her mother began to teach her, after Carey imitated her mother practicing Verdi's opera Rigoletto in Italian.
Her work in the Long Island music scene provided opportunities to work with many professional musicians, who helped her co-write songs for her demo tape. After moving to New York City, she worked part-time jobs and completed 500 hours of beauty school. Eventually, she became a backup singer for Puerto Rican freestyle singer Brenda K. Starr.
In 1988, Carey met Columbia Records executive (and her first husband) Tommy Mottola at a party. After giving him her demo tape, Mottola played it after leaving the party and liked it Mottola tracked her down and signed her to a recording contract.
Carey co-wrote the tracks on her 1990 debut album Mariah Carey and she has co-written most of her material ever since. Critics were mostly positive and the album reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, where it remained for several weeks. It yielded four number-one singles and made Carey a star in the U. S.
Carey won Grammys for Best New Artist, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her debut single, "Vision of Love." Mariah Carey was also the best selling album of 1991 in the U.S.
Emotions, Carey's second album, was released soon after her debut album but was neither as critically or commercially successful. However, the title track "Emotions" made Carey into the only recording act whose first five singles have reached number one on the U.S. Hot 100 chart. (The album's follow-up singles failed to extend the streak.) Carey co-produced most of her material.
Although Carey performed live occasionally, stage fright prevented her from embarking on a major tour. Her first widely seen appearance was featured on the television show MTV Unplugged in 1992. Afterwards she remarked that her performance that night proved her vocal abilities were not, as some had previously speculated, simulated with studio equipment.
In 1997, she introduced elements of hip hop into her album work. After initial success, her popularity was in decline when she left Columbia, in 2001. She signed a record $80 million deal with Virgin Records, only to be dropped from the label and bought out of her contract in the following year.
The career downturn was largely due to the highly publicized physical and emotional breakdown, as well as the poor reception that was given to Glitter, her film and soundtrack project.
The album earned a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album and the single "We Belong Together" won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. "We Belong Together" held the Hot 100's number-one position for fourteen weeks, her longest run at the top as a solo lead artist.
The single from the album, "Shake It Off," reached number two for a week, which made Carey the first female lead vocalist to have simultaneously held the Hot 100's top two positions.
In spring 2007, she had begun to work on her eleventh studio album, E=MC². Two weeks before the album's release, in April 2008, "Touch My Body," her first single from the album, became Carey's eighteenth number-one single on the Hot 100, pushing her past Elvis Presley into second place ( behind only The Beatles) for the most number-one singles among all artists in the rock era.
Carey's singles have collectively topped the charts for seventy-nine weeks, making her the artist with the most weeks atop the Hot 100. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked her at number six on the "Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists," making Carey the second most successful female artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Mariah has also acted in films. In 2009, she appeared as a drab social worker in Precious. In January 2010, Carey won the Breakthrough Actress Performance award for her role in Precious at the Palm Springs International Film Festival
Carey and husband, actor/comedian/rapper Nick Cannon are expecting twins in the spring of 2011.