Skip to content

Mariah Carey Said She Had "No Freedom" in First Marriage: "Like Being a Prisoner"

The singer wed the CEO of her record label at age 23.

At the same time Mariah Carey's career in music was taking off, she was experiencing one of the most difficult periods in her personal life. And the two were tightly intertwined—Carey was married to Tommy Mottola, the head of Sony Music, who had signed her to Columbia Records when she was 18 years old. The couple divorced after five years, and the "Fantasy" singer would later express that she felt controlled by her first husband. In one interview, she even said that she felt like "a prisoner" in that relationship.

Read on to find out more about Carey's first marriage, the aftermath, and what she's had to say about Mottola since.

READ THIS NEXT: Nick Cannon Just Revealed the Truth About His Marriage to Mariah Carey.

Carey and Mottola married in 1993.

Tommy Mottola, Mariah Carey, and others in New York City in 1991
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Carey and Mottola tied the knot in 1993, three years after the release of her debut album, Mariah Carey. The rising star was 23 years old, while the record executive, who had a 19-year marriage three years prior, was 45. Their lavish wedding was said to have cost $500,000, which would be around $1 million today.

Carey said she had "no freedom" in their relationship.

Mariah Carey at the 1998 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In a 2019 interview with Cosmopolitan, Carey said of her marriage to Mottola, "You might want to picture a child bride. 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."

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

She also said he tried to isolate her.

Tommy Mottola and Mariah Carey at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2005
Theo Wargo/WireImage via Getty Images

In her 2020 autobiography The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Carey claimed that Mottola was the decision maker behind everything she did.

"It felt like he was cutting off my circulation, keeping me from my friends and what little 'family' I had," Carey wrote (via Us Weekly). "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." She added, "Many reasonable people questioned why I married Tommy. But none of them questioned the decision more than I did."

Carey also believes that Mottola attempted to sabotage the release of her 2001 movie Glitter. "There was no way he would allow me to have a huge success after leaving him and Sony. He was not going to let me or Glitter shine," she said in the book (via The Mirror).

Mottola apologized for how he treated her.

Tommy Mottola at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

According to People, Mottola later called his relationship with Carey "absolutely wrong and inappropriate" in his 2013 book Hitmaker: The Man and His Music

He also wrote (via Page Six), "If it seemed like I was controlling, let me apologize again. Was I obsessive? Yes. But that was also part of the reason for her success …  The problem was that I was the chairman of Sony and her husband at the same time."

Asked about his ex-wife's memoir, Mottola told Page Six, "I am deeply gratified to have played that role in Mariah's well-deserved and remarkable success, and continue to wish her and her family only the very best."

They split up after four years.

Mariah Carey at the 1999 Essence Awards
Diane Freed / Stringer via Getty Image

Carey and Mottola separated in 1997 and divorced in 1998. Her affair with baseball player Derek Jeter is what led to the singer ending her unhappy relationship.

Carey wrote in her book that falling for the sports star made her realize that she "could have something beautiful on the other side of the hell that was [her] marriage." She added that he was "the catalyst [she] needed to get out from under Tommy's crippling control."

She went on to marry actor Nick Cannon in 2008; they broke up in 2016. And Mottola has been married to his third wife, singer Thalía, since 2000.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under