Mariah Carey turns 47 today, not that a pedestrian concept like age factors into the singer’s habit of celebrating what she prefers to refer to as “anniversaries” instead of birthdays. In fact, discard all assumptions of what it takes to glam squad Mimi into the diva that has ruled the Billboard 100 for three decades with rippling waves, flesh-toned makeup—and no signs of slowing down. Here, the singer’s best beauty advice on why less makeup is always more, high-intensity exercise is overrated, and mascara belongs on the banned list.
1. The Right Lighting Is Everything
The discomfort of corseted bodysuits and hot stage lights may be par for the pop star course, but unflattering lighting in any area of life is unacceptable. “In my apartment in New York, it’s all recessed lighting, chandeliers, candles. [Overhead] lighting is abusive,” says Carey, whose backstage rider goes well beyond beverages (Cristal and Cabernet Sauvignon), fresh flowers (two dozen white roses), and aromatherapy candles (vanilla): A “lamp or clip light” is essential so that “harsh lighting may be turned off.”
2. Curls Make the Woman
Carey may have helped set the bar for diffused waves and tone-on-tone nude makeup in the ’90s, but her signature look still posed its own set of struggles when she started out. “I said I wanted to be a singer; I wanted to be an actress. And they were all like, ‘Ha-ha,’ ” recalls Carey. “Because, of course, at that point, I still didn’t really have conditioner or know how to comb through textured hair.” Although sleek blowouts factor heavily into the singer’s beauty repertoire these days, when left to her own devices, Carey prefers free-flowing ringlets. “If I have to do my hair from scratch, I’ll keep it natural.”
3. Aging Is for Amateurs
Bypassing tired 40-is-the-new-30 adages in favor of blissfully ignoring the concept of aging altogether, Carey doesn’t “count years, but I definitely rebuke them—I have anniversaries, not birthdays, because I celebrate life, darling,” the singer has said. At other times, she’s been more candid: “I think I have to remain eternally oblivious to age. Honestly, when you put a number on it yourself, it’s just like, Why? Why do that?”
4. When It Comes to Makeup, Less Is Always More (Really)
Carey may seem like an unlikely poster child for the natural look, but that’s a relative concept when carefully contoured features and wind machines are part of the job description. “I hate mascara. I never wear it,” she has said. “Whenever a makeup artist tries to put it on me, I throw a fit.” A clear penchant for faux lashes notwithstanding, this means that “if you’re not wearing a lot of makeup, you don’t have to take a lot of it off. So, my goal is to wear the least amount of makeup possible so I don’t have to steam my face and take it all off.”
5. Ban Carbs, Embrace Light Cardio
Let it never be said that Carey lacks the kind of self-aware humor that’s unthinkable among her hair-tossing peers—even when it comes to the unglamorous business of banishing bread. “You would hate my diet,” she has said. “All you eat is Norwegian salmon and capers. That’s it. I try to stick with the proteins. It’s the worst.” Not that her nutritional tips are necessarily rooted in science. “Don’t eat salad if you’re about to do, like, a photo shoot, because it bloats you,” warns Carey. “Never eat the water.” While the singer, who lost 30 pounds after giving birth to her twins, Moroccan and Monroe, says that “90 percent of losing weight is my diet,” she’s not above heading to the StairMaster dressed in—what else?—fishnets and heels on Instagram. Still, she takes a surprisingly moderate approach to fitness. “Today, my workout routine is more about getting and staying toned,” she has said. “And for me, that means either taking hour-long walks a few times a week or jumping in the pool three or four days a week to do 45 minutes of aquatic exercises.”
6. A Cigarette-Free Existence Is the Path to Transcendence
Carey attributes the lower range of her voice, which spans over five octaves, to her smoking habit, but admits that it left her with a constant cold and sore throat. “One day I promised God if he’d give me my voice back, I’d never smoke again,” she said in an interview. “And I got three octaves back after quitting.” Because nobody does a comeback story quite like a true pop diva.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.
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