Mariah Carey Book: Tommy Mottola Threatened Me With a Knife When It Was Clear I Was Leaving Him

Tom Sykes
·6-min read
Jamie McCarthy/Getty
Jamie McCarthy/Getty

If Tommy Mottola, the powerful American music executive whose net worth is estimated at some $450 million, thought that by preemptively being diplomatic about his ex-wife Mariah Carey, in advance of the publication of her memoir, he could neutralize its impact, he is in a for a rude awakening.

For Mottola emerges as the No. 1 bad guy in Carey’s bombshell just-published autobiography, in which she devotes hundreds of pages to recounting, in granular detail, how Mottola, 21 years her senior, held her “captive” and exerted mind-boggling control over every aspect of her life.

Mottola, who has previously admitted to having been a controlling husband, appeared to be attempting to get out ahead of the story when he told Page Six, ahead of the launch of The Meaning of Mariah Carey: “I am deeply gratified to have played that role in Mariah’s well-deserved and remarkable success, and continue to wish her and her family only the very best.”

Those careful well wishes, however, are likely to be swept aside by the devastating picture Carey paints in her new book of the multiple torments Mottola, the then-boss of Sony whom she met when she was 18 and he was 39, allegedly inflicted on her.

While Carey does concede that he was a brilliant businessman and executive, and credits him with encouraging her to record a Christmas album, resulting in the multimillion-selling All I Want for Christmas Is You—the few plaudits are more than wiped away by a ceaseless tide of accusations against Mottola.

Among the most disturbing are allegations that he monitored her every move inside her own home with security cameras, wouldn’t let her leave the home without his explicit permission, recruited staff to spy on her, and menacingly ran a butter knife along her cheek and down her throat, in the company of two of his friends, when he realized the marriage was over.

She also comes close to accusing Mottola of racism at several moments in the book, writing, for example: “From the moment Tommy signed me, he tried to wash the ‘urban’ (translation: Black) off of me… Just as he did with my appearance, Tommy smoothed out the songs for Sony, trying to make them more general, more ‘universal,’ more ambiguous. I always felt like he wanted to convert me into what he understood—a ‘mainstream’ (meaning white) artist.”

In another episode recounted in the book, Mottola, who is white, flies into a rage when Carey praises Sean Combs. Mottola says, “Puffy will be shining my shoes in two years.” Carey says this was “one of the very few times I stood up to Tommy, telling him that what he had said was blatantly racist.”

Mottola is then said to have gone into what Carey terms a “Tommy tantrum” and “vibrating with rage, slamming his fist on the table and announced, “I just want everybody to know that THANKSGIVING IS CANCELLED!’”

She also says, “Tommy never wanted to talk about my biracial identity; if he wasn’t ashamed of it, he certainly didn’t want to promote it.”

Describing how the couple’s $32 million home was fully staffed with armed guards who she accuses of being spies for Mottola, she writes, “I understood that security was necessary, but why was it necessary for them all to be white, with blue eyes and black guns?”

She says the house was equipped with motion-sensitive cameras inside and out and describes hiding in her shoe closet to have a private conversation.

She refers to the house as “Sing Sing” after the maximum-security prison in upstate New York. “It was fully staffed with armed guards, security cameras were installed in most rooms, and Tommy was in control,” she writes.

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In one section, she writes of the relationship with Mottola, “It’s not that there are no words, it’s just that they still get stuck moving up from my gut, or they disappear into the thickness of my anxiety… He rolled over me like a fog… In the beginning of our time together I was walking on eggshells. Then it became a bed of nails, and then a minefield. I never knew when or what would make him blow, and the anxiety was relentless.”

Carey says she wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone “that wasn’t under Tommy’s control.”

She describes having to sneak downstairs “for a snack, or to sit at the table and write down some lyrics. But every time, right as I would start to settle into the calm of the quiet dark and begin to find my breath—Beep! Beep! The intercom would go off. I’d jump up, and the words ‘Whatcha doin’?’ would crackle through the speaker.”

Carey writes that, “Every move I made, everywhere I went, I was monitored—minute by minute, day after day, year after year… I was living my dream but couldn’t leave my house. Lonely and trapped, I was held captive in that relationship. Captivity and control come in many forms, but the goal is always the same—to break down the captive’s will, to kill any notion of self-worth and erase the person’s memory of their own soul.”

Carey writes that she initially saw Mottola’s strength and power as a way of protecting her from her own dysfunctional family of origin and says that in the early days of their relationship he would tell her, “You’re the most talented person I’ve ever met,” or “You can be as big as Michael Jackson.”

Carey says she realized she had to leave Mottola when he flew into a rage after she went to Burger King with a female rapper without permission.

In another jaw-dropping revelation, she says that she recruited her acting coach (ironically hand-picked by Mottola) to help her carve out a safe space, secretly renting an apartment under a false name in a building connected by a private passageway to the coach’s building.

However, perhaps the most disturbing moment comes at the end of the marriage: “Tommy walked over and picked up the butter knife from the place setting in front of me. He pressed the flat side of it against my right cheek. Every muscle in my face clenched. My entire body locked in place; my lungs stiffened. Tommy held the knife there. His boys watched and didn’t say a word. After what seemed like forever, he slowly dragged the thin, cool strip of metal down my burning face. I was searing with rage from the excruciating humiliation of his terrifying, cowardly performance in my kitchen, in front of my ‘colleagues.’ That was his last show with me as the captive audience at Sing Sing.”

Carey cites a 1996 Vanity Fair story that “reported on just some of his antics, but it totally helped justify my claims of his maniacal control and surveillance.”

Mottola, in his 2013 memoir, admitted being “obsessive” but said she had given “harsh” and “untrue” descriptions of their relationship.

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