All the times Mariah Carey should have won an Oscar (yes, an OSCAR)

We said what we said.
Published March 27, 2020 8:30 a.m. EST
Last Updated March 30, 2020 6:33 p.m. EST
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It’s no secret that Mariah Carey is one of the most talented singers of any generation. Ever since she burst onto the scene in 1990 with her first single "Someday," we’ve been hooked by the gorgeous glamazon who can hit a five vocal octave range (Remember her high note on "Emotions?" It’s wild). What’s less celebrated when it comes Mimi is that she’s quite the thespian—she’s got more acting credits to her name than most people realize. Sure, she gets a lot of flack for the 2001 clunker Glitter (though it too has its vocal supporters) but as far as we’re concerned, every film featuring her is an Oscar-worthy turn, dahhhling. Since March 27 is her 50th birthday (though she famously prefers the word anniversary) we thought it was the perfect time for a reminder of all the times Mimi set the silver screen on FIYAH.

The Bachelor (1999)

Before there was ever The Bachelor reality TV show (long may it reign), there was a 1999 rom-com starring Batman & Robin man du jour Chris O’Donnell who must get married within 24 hours to receive his inheritance. Enter Mimi, stage right, playing Illana the opera singer, who once had a dalliance with said bachelor. When he asks her for a marriage of convenience in order to get his money, she claps back in a way only Ms. Carey can: “All I even remember about you is we screwed a couple times, and I recall thinking you look nice with your shirt off, but then again, so do I.” Name a more iconic duo than Mariah Carey and sass. Go on, we’ll wait.

Ally McBeal (2002)

Back in the day, the quirky legal comedy Ally McBeal was the hit runaway show no one saw coming, so of course Mimi had to share some of that spotlight. Literally. Playing a prosecution witness who testified she felt she’d been swindled by a matchmaker, Mariah’s character turned out to be a limelight hog by insisting on bringing her own—wait for it—spotlight and operating technician to the courtroom. Honestly, even if she wasn’t playing a character, we’d give her a pass for it. Mariah is as Mariah does.

Empire (2015)

Mariah playing a music star named Kitty is probably too cute for words, but that’s what Mimi did in this episode where she invites Jamal (who is working through PTSD) on her South American tour with her. Kitty is glamourous, vivacious and generous (sound like anyone you know?), and the fact that anyone would say no to her boggles the mind, including the great Taraji P. Henson. (Side note: we just love seeing these two together in this scene and frankly they need to start a bad-cop-good-cop show together, STAT.)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

As the saying goes, “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.” So when Mariah popped up in the mock-rockumentary Popstar playing a parody of herself, of course she had to utter the line, “I'm probably the most humble person that I know.” She then proceeds to get into an altercation with awards show co-presenter Hunter, played by Chris Redd, and cusses up a storm on live television. The real Mariah would never stoop like this (but we secretly would live for it if she did).

Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013)

Sure Mariah loves to have a laugh, but she’s been cast in some serious period dramas where her performance hasn’t left a dry eye in the house. Case in point: her turn as Hattie Pearl in Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Her character works in a Jim Crow Era cotton field in the early half of the 20th century and very early in the film, there is a harrowing scene where Hattie’s son watches her led away by the plantation owner and then raped in a shed. The course of Hattie’s life, and her son’s, is forever altered by that event, and Mariah performed the role with stoicism, stillness, and a quiet pride like we’ve never seen. She was totally robbed of an Oscar nod here and we are waiting for her redemption.[caption id="attachment_4878692" align="alignleft" width="960"]Mariah Carey in 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' Lee Daniels Entertainment[/caption]

“Heartbreaker” Music Video (1999)

You didn’t think we could get this far down the list without mentioning at least one Oscar-worthy performance in her iconic music videos, did you? Mimi was a pioneer of the glossy, fun, narrative-driven music videos with dialogue and additional scenes. Her “Heartbreaker” music video is an excellent example. It starts off with a scene where Mariah and her friends pull up to the cinema to confront her cheatin’, lyin’ boyfriend (played by Jerry O’Connell). Cut to her coming face-to-face with the other woman, played by none other than—you guessed it—Mariah Carey. They have a highly choreographed fight that plays out like a 1970s episode of Charlie’s Angels or Wonder Woman, and the whole music video ends with a triumphant OG Mariah raising her eyebrow at the camera, having schemed her way to revenge. Did we mention the tune feat. Jay-Z is super catchy, even 20+ years later?

Precious (2009)

Of course we couldn't forget about Precious. The film is probably more famous for launching the career of Gabourey Sidibe, and solidifying the acting chops of Mo'Nique, Lenny Kravitz and, yes, Mariah. Her scene as a social worker turned heads and raised brows not only because she wasn’t all dolled up in her usual glam makeup performing a sassy, fun on-brand diva role. She was legit acting, as Mrs. Weiss, a hardworking social worker who doesn’t give a toss what her hair looks like or if her lashes look full. All she cares about is helping Precious and others like her who come from abusive homes and need intervention ASAP.Her performance sent shockwaves through Hollywood because it was understated, sombre, and loaded with meaning. No one had ever seen Mariah shine so brightly in a film so dark and sad. Her line to Precious’s mother about her father, “You shut up and allowed him to abuse your daughter. You allowed him to hurt her!” is still haunting to this day, and the movie itself warrants a rewatch, if only to witness Mariah at a career high.

You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (2008)

Sometimes Mimi shines when she’s tackling a character nothing like herself, and something she shines playing a satirical version of herself. You Don’t Mess With the Zohan is the latter. In this Adam Sandler comedy where Sandler plays an Israeli spy hell-bent on quitting his job to become a hairdresser, Mariah plays her funniest Mariah-parody as a diva-tastic singer who performs the most sultry version of the American national anthem we’ve ever heard.

A Christmas Melody (2015)

Every once in a while, when we think Mariah is laying low and avoiding the limelight, she suddenly pops up in a Hallmark Christmas rom-com TV movie, and all is right with the Holiday season again. Mariah plays Mrs. Atkinson, a micromanaging music fanatic parent who wants her child to be the star of the school Christmas pageant, missing the bigger picture that the school’s music program is being defunded. As if that wasn’t enough, Mariah also directs this joint. Yes, where is her Best Director Oscar, we ask you? Where?

American Dad (2005)

We were gonna say, “Blink and you’ll miss her” about her American Dad cameos, but considering it’s an animated show, we guess, “Mute your TV for a second and you’ll miss her” is more appropriate. Believe it or not, Mariah has had a sneaky little ongoing side gig voicing one-line, one-scene American Dad characters for years. Why is no one is talking about this?? She’s played an exhausted waitress, a prairie-dog wrangler with a southern drawl, and a football fan who loves a good tailgate with extra propane. We had no idea she was so talented with accents, but that’s Mimi for you: full of hidden depths.
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