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There are celebrities and then there's Mariah Carey — and that's what set apart her famous episode of Cribs from all the others.
The MTV series, now in its 19th season, is back with new episodes on Nov. 15 — with stars including Vivica A. Fox, Rumer Willis and Dita Von Teese giving house tours — but the most-watched and replayed episode is that of the Grammy-winning songstress which originally aired in January 2002. She opened the golden doors to her 11,000-square-foot Tribeca penthouse in NYC, making six outfit changes, exercising in stilettos and taking a bath along the way.
Memorable moments in Mimi's diva den
The jaw-dropping 3 bedroom, 5 1/2 bathroom triplex with views of the Empire State Building was Carey's first apartment, having bitterly divorced music exec Tommy Mottola a couple years earlier, and she put her stamp — in the form of her monogram or butterflies — on everything. It was decorated in an art deco design by the late Mario Buatta (dubbed "Prince of Chintz") with "glazed" walls — requiring eight coats of paint — made to look like candy. However, it was all done in neutral colors because, according to the "Vision of Love" singer in the episode, "I have enough jarring things that happen to me on a daily basis. We don't need that at home."
Every room in the luxury palace — which boasted fainting couches in practically every room, including the kitchen — she proclaimed to be her favorite. The true fave seemed to be her 38-foot-long, chandelier adorned, candlelit "ladies lounge" (aka bathroom), where she stripped to a bodysuit and took a bath. She explained she used the shower only once, deciding it had "too many knobs."
— MTV (@MTV) March 27, 2020
Her closets were like mini department stores with gold leaf designs on the floor — one for lingerie (which she tried on for the cameras), clothes (including her "Heartbreaker" jeans) and shoes (like the "Loverboy" boots). An assistant was literally dressing her, and strapping stilettos to her feet.
"There was a time in my life where I only had one pair of shoes," said Carey, who didn't grow up with money. "The girl who had one shoe now has many."
While Carey wouldn't show her bedroom or a close-up of Marilyn Monroe's piano (privacy, please!), here were other highlights:
Her rarely used gym, where she famously used the stair-climber in stilettos and a black minidress.
Her laundry room, where she pulled her lapdog out of the dryer.
Her full-service salon — with a "Be Nice or Leave" sign on the door — where she said she spent most of her time getting diva-ed up.
The "Mermaid Room," a screening room with full kitchen decorated in an underwater motif with aqua walls, a sand-colored couch and saltwater fish tanks. The fish were "changed to be nocturnal" to match her lifestyle, she quipped.
Her Moroccan room — prior to giving her son that name — which she called "like a fairy-tale." It opened to her private terrace with sweeping Manhattan skyline views.
Her country kitchen, with butterfly designed marble on the center island alongside said chaise, where a different dog proceeded to attack her cat.
Her only guest room, decorated with butterflies, which she said was to limit "fools" (aka houseguests) overstaying their welcome. In it, she had albums with fan letters, which she said helped during mental health struggles the year before.
Her trophy cases with an eye-popping number of awards.
Her living room with a bound copy of her 2001 Architectural Digest home photo shoot.
"When I was little, I always wanted a penthouse apartment in New York City with a view like this," Carey said looking out on the twinkling lights of the city.
Twenty-plus years of Cribs
Cribs, which debuted in 2000, was the brainchild of Nina L. Diaz. She told the Washington Post in 2020 that she grew up watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and wanted a show that followed celebrities home, peaking into their bedrooms and cabinets, looking at the photos on their walls, giving an "unfiltered, raw, real, let-your-hair-down version of these artists and celebrities."
The show — which launched pre-reality TV and social media — was a quick hit. However, Carey's episode — which was filmed in one day, between 9 a.m. to midnight, according to the Cribs book, and took up the entire half-hour episode — put the series on the map. In 2005, the network ran an hour-long bonus edition in which Carey corrected the record on some things — like that she wasn't nude in the tub ("I didn't really take a bath. Like, hello. I had on a bodysuit.") — and she was trying to be funny at other points (see: dog in dryer and exercising in heels). Her friends Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri gave humorous commentary, as did Sharon Osbourne, by then one of MTV's biggest stars thanks to The Osbournes. There were also added scenes, Carey guiding viewers through unfinished rooms, including a recording studio and a butterfly bathroom, and making several more outfit changes. ("Hurry up, Blair," she famously said to a woman dressing her. "The clock is ticking!")
Through the years there was some Cribs backlash when it was revealed that some of the celebs didn't live in the homes they showed off. The show, which went into syndication for a period and had multiple spin-offs (country stars! teens!), slowed its roll around 2010. Instead of fresh episodes, old episodes — of which there were 100-plus — were repackaged with some new ones tossed in.
Snapchat briefly brought back Cribs in 2017, but that didn't last and the network seized the opportunity to give it a second life. The first part of Season 19 kicked off last year with Kristin Cavallari, the late Leslie Jordan, Whitney Cummings and Macy Gray among those to show off their homes.
Mariah's remains the queen of her Tribeca penthouse
In the last 20 years, a lot has happened in Carey's life — she remarried, had twins, got divorced again, bought and sold a ton of other real estate, called off an engagement and became the Queen of Christmas — but her Franklin Tower penthouse has remained her home base.
Year purchased: 1999
Purchase price: $5.5 million for the penthouse and $3.5 million for the apartment below which she combined. Needless to say, it's worth a lot more 24 years later.
Purchased after: Carey was rejected by co-op boards in other buildings prior to buying her dream penthouse. In her 2020 book, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, she wrote that she came close to buying Barbra Streisand's "exquisite palatial Central Park West penthouse" but "the conservative co-op board" rejected her because they were "afraid there would be too many rappers and their entourages, aka big Black men, milling about."
Decor of her dreams: Carey walked away from the Westchester estate she shared with Mottola with "little more than my wardrobe and personal photos," she wrote in her book. So she had Buatta give her triplex top to bottom treatment. He told Architectural Digest in 2013 that he put butterflies "wherever we could," on the handles of cabinets in the bedroom, on the tiles in the kitchen and even on the soap. "There are so many butterflies in this apartment, you don’t even notice them. But Mariah does."
Other glimpses of Chez Carey: Since Cribs, Carey has opened her home to give a closet tour to Vogue in 2017.
She also showed off her family room to British Vogue in 2020. In Carey's memoir, she called it the "most personal room" in her home, housing "family photographs and other precious things of mine." At the center of the room is a white wooden mantle, with a butterfly carved into it, which came from the home she shared with Mottola. Carey wrote that the next owner of the house put the mantle into storage, which saved it from ruin because the house burned to the ground. The owner later reached out to Carey to see if she wanted it, thinking it must have been sentimental considering she made an entire album called "Butterfly," and Carey was reunited with it.
Meanwhile, last year, the "All I Want For Christmas Is You" singer let two people, via a Booking.com contest, have a cocktail hour and a Christmas card photo shoot in her Moroccan room, all decorated for the holidays, and private terrace.
Carey has also shared many pix from inside her famed fortress to social media, including TikToks with her kids, Moroccan and Monroe, in her salon and family room. There are are loads of Instagrams from her kitchen (including on the lounger) and on her deck (including in the jacuzzi). It remains as fabulous as ever — as if we would expect less.
Cribs premieres its new episodes on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 p.m. You can watch it, as well as past seasons, on MTV, Paramount+, the MTV app and the official series page.