Mariah Carey Was Told ‘Precious’ Was a Bad Career Move

The 2009 film Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire is a touching and gripping story about resilience and perseverance. The movie, directed by Lee Daniels, featured many highly lauded performances, not the least of which was by none other than Grammy-winning singer Mariah Carey.

Mo'Nique
Mo’Nique poses in the press room at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

‘Precious’ was an indie film that had standout roles

Precious told the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones, a 16-year-old girl in Harlem who faced physical, verbal, and sexual abuse at home while struggling to get her life on track as a teen mom. Gabourey Sidibe played the titular character in what was her acting debut, while Mo’Nique played her abusive mother Mary Lee Johnston.

Mo’Nique famously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious despite not spending time courting Oscar voters. She emphasized in her acceptance speech that her win was “about the performance and not the politics” and paid homage to Hattie McDaniel, the trailblazing actor who became the first Black person to win an Academy Award eight decades ago.

Mo'Nique, Lee Daniels, and Mariah Carey
Mo’Nique, Lee Daniels, and Mariah Carey attend the “Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire” Luncheon at Coca-Cola’s Taste of Film Festival at Stein Eriksen Lodge on January 16, 2009 in Park City, Utah | John Shearer/WireImage

Mariah Carey was the social worker Ms. Weiss in ‘Precious’

In Precious, Carey played Ms. Weiss, a straight-talking social worker who helped Precious put the pieces of her life together. In addition to working with Precious, she confronted Mary Lee in what is now an iconic scene that featured a compelling monologue by Mo’Nique.

Carey reflected on the experience in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey. She had a previous working relationship with Lee Daniels, and the veteran director asked Carey to join the movie with almost no heads-up.

“One day, out of nowhere, with one days’ notice, Lee asked me to play the social worker character, Ms. Weiss (a role originally intended for the phenomenal Helen Mirren),” she recounted. “I was over the moon, but a little freaked out too. I had a little more than one day to prepare.”

Mariah Carey
Singer Mariah Carey appears on set during filming for her music video “Obsessed” at The Plaza Hotel, June 29, 2009 in New York City | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

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Mariah Carey was told she shouldn’t be in ‘Precious’

The experience was thrilling for Carey. “The entire process of filming was renegade and brilliant,” she said. “Lee believed in me, and I believed in him. I believed in the remarkable cast, and of course I believed in the brilliance that was on the page.”

As much as her role in the movie is beloved, it almost didn’t come to be. “I loved working on the film,” Carey continued. “My management at the time discouraged me from doing it, because it was last minute and low budget, but I knew it was a rare and exquisitely human story.”

“It was also a creative stretch, which was artistically enriching for me,” she added. “I was so proud to be involved. “