What Is Mariah Carey’s Real Age? We Investigate on Her 48th (or 47th?) Birthday

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Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
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Is Mariah Carey turning 47 or 48 today? We try to get to the bottom of it. (GIF: Getty Images/Yahoo Celebrity)
Is Mariah Carey turning 47 or 48 today? We try to get to the bottom of it. (GIF: Getty Images/Yahoo Celebrity)

Champagne wishes to Mariah Carey on her birthday — only she doesn’t celebrate. “I don’t have a birthday,” she said in an interview last year. “I was just dropped here. It was a fairyland experience.” The star, who has described herself as “eternally 12 years old,” previously explained that her plan is to remain “oblivious to age. Honestly, when you put a number on it yourself, it’s just like, Why? Why do that?”

The diva’s elusiveness about her big day only adds to the mystery surrounding it. Yes, mystery. One of the Internet’s most enduring burning questions is: Was Mariah Carey was born on March 27, 1969 or 1970? And people have opinions on the matter, which you can read in revision notes on Mariah’s Wikipedia page and in fan forums. As we started digging into it, we found info to support both years, making it easy to understand why the Lambily — Mariah’s fans — have been debating it so intensely.

Not even Mariah Carey’s Wikipedia page has the answer. (Screenshot: Wikipedia)
Not even Mariah Carey’s Wikipedia page has the answer. (Screenshot: Wikipedia)

From what we can decipher, when the “Elusive Chanteuse” — who graduated from Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, N.Y., in 1987 — launched her career (her self-entitled album came out in June 1990), press material must have indicated she was born in 1970, because that is what the New York Times — and other outlets — noted at the time. In an interview on Video Soul soon after her record came out, she said as much. Mariah told Donnie Simpson she was 20 when the record came out, and 19 when she recorded it. (The fact that she stumbled during her response, seen here at the 2:37 mark, only fuels conspiracy theories.)

However, by January 1991, other reputable outlets — such as People magazine and the Los Angeles Times — were going with a 1969 birth year. (The latter used it in a headline: “Mariah Carey Doing OK at 21,” so they were pretty confident they were correct.) Even her hometown paper, Newsday, referred to her as 21 in an article that ran on March 19 of that year, and they had obtained a copy of her senior yearbook and interviewed the vice principal at her school. (Fun fact: Some of Mariah’s likes in 1987 included Corvettes and “guidos.”)

Here’s Mariah as a freshman at Harborfields High School in 1984. (Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library)
Here’s Mariah as a freshman at Harborfields High School in 1984. (Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library)

Mariah has fueled the debate herself by avoiding dropping a specific number. At a 2005 party celebrating the release of the Emancipation of Mimi — and her 35th (or 36th) birthday — she didn’t give her actual age, instead telling reporters, “It’s the anniversary of my 12th birthday.” And at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, someone asked her how she was feeling about turning 40 earlier that year (going with the 1969 birth year). She implied the reporter was incorrect, saying, “Read my bio again. We can’t allow these lies to spread! Don’t say the f-word around me. It’s just a number, but I don’t see why women should have to conform to what is expected of a 40-year-old — whatever that is.”

If you really dig into Mariah Birthday-gate (and we went down that rabbit hole), there is a statement purportedly from a People magazine spokesperson floating around the Internet “verifying” that the star is a 1969 baby, made in response to fans inquiries about the conflicting information. “We have a copy of Ms. Carey’s driver’s license, which lists her birthday as March 27, 1969. Furthermore, we spoke with the administrators at the high school she attended who confirmed that Ms. Carey’s birthday is March 27, 1969, as did her management when we made our initial interview,” a magazine publicist supposedly said, according to NNDB.com. We were unable to find such a statement on People‘s website — not that it didn’t exist (it could have been in print, because they didn’t have website in the early ’90s) — and the publicity team for the magazine tells Yahoo “it doesn’t sound familiar at all.” (Despite this, the magazine has steadily reported that she was born in 1969 through the years — from here to here.)

There were other things supporting the 1969 theory. One is as simple as her high school graduation date. At the end of the 1987 school year, she’d have just turned 17 if she was born in 1970, and she has never said she skipped a grade. In fact, in her 1999 Homecoming special, during which she returned to her alma mater for a concert, made it clear she wasn’t a great student — and her teachers and superintendent verified that. It seems unlikely she would have graduated a year early.

Mariah — in her senior year at Harborfields in 1987 — did not look young for her grade. However, if she had been born in 1970, she would have turned 17 two months before graduation. (Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library)
Mariah — in her senior year at Harborfields in 1987 — did not look young for her grade. However, if she had been born in 1970, she would have turned 17 two months before graduation. (Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library)

Then there is the matter of the Library of Congress’s Copyright Catalog. If Mariah wasn’t born in 1969, why do records for her early songs, including “Vision of Love”, which was on her eponymous album, say “Carey, Mariah, 1969-“?

Screenshot: Library of Congress’s Copyright Catalog
Screenshot: Library of Congress’s Copyright Catalog

Also, Mariah and her director pal, Brett Ratner, have said that they are “born a day apart” — it’s one of the things that makes their bond so strong. His birthday? March 28, 1969. (See 2:25 mark.)

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Not convincing? This photo of Mariah’s “passport” is all over the web. While it lists her birthday as March 27, 1969, there is nothing we found that leads us to think it’s real. (We haven’t seen it on any reputable sites.)

But there are things that point to Mariah making her grand entrance into the world in 1970 as well. For one, and a good one at that, her mom said — clear as day during a 1999 “Oprah” interview — that Mariah was born in 1970. (See 2:25 mark.)

Let’s talk about the copies of birth certificates for her 5-year-old twins, Monroe and Moroccan. If they are real — and we guess they are, because TMZ’s site TooFab posted them — her birthday was in 1970. Would Mariah go so far as to falsify legal documents?

And the big bios out there on the superstar — including Mariah Carey Revisited: The Unauthorized Biography by Chris Nickson — list her birth year as 1970. Could they all be wrong?

A page from “Mariah Carey Revisited: The Unauthorized Biography” by Chris Nickson. (Screenshot: Google Books)
A page from “Mariah Carey Revisited: The Unauthorized Biography” by Chris Nickson. (Screenshot: Google Books)

We have to admit, our own search to verify her actual birth was frustratingly fruitless — and we can only imagine that Mariah is smiling about it.

  • We reached out to Mimi’s publicist, who, after our second message, replied to say she was “not sure offhand, sorry!”

  • We called her high school to try to get her records. That information is “archived,” and even if it wasn’t, they’d be “unable” to give it out, according to the principal’s assistant.

  • We contacted her former principal, the one who happily appeared in “Homecoming” — and is still a school administrator — but he apparently didn’t want to talk about her this time around — he didn’t get back to us.

  • We reached out to some of her biographers, who didn’t have anything to add beyond what they wrote in the books years ago.

  • We requested our own copies of Mariah’s twins’ birth certificates from the Los Angeles County Registrar — as several fans speculated that the ones on the Internet are fake. Requests take “several weeks” to process, so we are waiting for those.

  • We tried to obtain Mariah’s birth certificate from the Huntington, N.Y., town clerk, but were shot down: “According to NYS Public Health Law, birth certificates can only be given to the party named on the certificate, the party’s parents or documents providing the proper documentation fulfilled by court order,” we were told.

  • We reached out to the New York State DMV to get a copy of her driving record (including her birthdate), but getting the information for a story “is not a federally-permissible purpose to access personal information held within DMV records.”

  • We even tweeted her — and used butterflies to get her attention. Nada.

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We weren’t exaggerating about going down a rabbit hole. The biggest question we have though is why would she lie about her age to begin with? Especially because in 1988 — one year out of high school — she began a relationship with Tommy Mottola, a married record executive 20 years her senior, who launched her career (and became her first husband). You would think they’d want to pad her age — instead of erase a year from it — as she was still a teenager. Now that she’s in her late 40s, it could make sense to shave off a year (so she’s not that much older than her beau, Bryan Tanaka), but why do it at 19 or 20?

But let’s be honest: Mariah doesn’t always make sense. This is a woman who wears evening gowns — and shoes — in the bathtub. She works out wearing this. She grocery shops in this. She meets the head of the United Nations in this. She attends bar mitzvahs in this. Sometimes her thought process seems to be … offline.

GIF: Youtube
GIF: Youtube

It seems likely the explanation is “Mariah Math.” In 2014, she was asked by Out magazine about “Vision of Love” turning 25 years old, and she said, “First of all, don’t round up. If you’re going to round, round down!” She added, “I don’t count years, but I definitely rebuke them — I have anniversaries, not birthdays, because I celebrate life, darling.”

So whether she’s 47 or 48, you can bet Mariah is somewhere celebrating life today. And she should be. However old she is, she still fabulous, dahling.

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