Mariah Carey was born on March 27, 1970 in Huntington, Long Island, New York. She is the third and youngest child of Patricia Hickey, a former opera singer and vocal coach of Irish American descent, and Alfred Roy Carey, an aeronautical engineer of African American and Venezuelan descent.
She grew up in a Roman Catholic family. As a multiethnic family, the Careys endured racial slurs, hostility, and sometimes violence, causing the family to frequently relocate throughout the New York area. The strain on the family led to the divorce of Carey's parents when she was three years old.
She began singing at around the age of three, and her mother, Patricia, began teaching her after Carey imitated her practicing Verdi's opera Rigoletto in Italian.
Mariah Carey performed for the first time in public during elementary school and was writing her own songs by junior high.
She graduated from Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York although she was frequently absent because of her popularity as a demo singer for local recording studios; her classmates consequently gave her the nickname "Mirage".
In 1988, Carey met Columbia Records executive Tommy Mottola at a party, where Starr gave him Carey's demo tape.
Mottola played the tape when leaving the party and was very impressed with what he heard. He returned to find Carey, but she had left. Nevertheless, Mottola tracked her down and signed her to a recording contract.
This Cinderella-like story became part of the standard publicity surrounding Carey's entrance into the industry.