Mariah Carey’s Sister Burned Her As a Child

Mariah Carey is known for many things, not the least of which is being a Grammy-winning singer with countless number-one singles under her belt. But even though she appears to have the perfect life on the surface, Carey has had to deal with deep emotional trauma from her family over the past decades.

Mariah Carey is honored with Hand and Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 1, 2017 in Hollywood, California | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Mariah Carey is honored with Hand and Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 1, 2017 in Hollywood, California | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Mariah Carey’s bad relationship with her family

Carey opened up about her contentious relationship with her family in her 2020 memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey. In it, Carey described how her sister Alison, her mother Pat, and her brother Morgan each affected and took advantage of her in different ways as she grew up and became the superstar that she is today.

Carey’s mother, for example, was a retired opera singer who often resented her daughter’s vocal abilities. Since her youth, Carey has been able to forgive her mother for many of the things she’s done, but has had a hard time making amends with her family as a whole. This includes her sister Alison.

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Mariah Carey at the 2019 BBMAs at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada | Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Mariah Carey’s sister, Alison Carey, burned her

In her memoir, Carey described one incident with her sister that changed her entire perception of her family forever. She was on the phone with their father, Alfred Roy Carey, and her sister kept motioning to her to not let him know that they were together because she didn’t want to talk to him. When Mariah playfully told their father that they were together and asked if he wanted to talk to her, Alison was not having it.

“She was looking down at her mug of still-steaming tea in her hand, and when she lifted her face, her eyes were rabid, without a trace of their former playfulness. Before I realized what was happening, she yelled ‘No!’ and, in a flash, threw the boiling-hot tea on me,” the legendary singer recalled.

“The next thing I remember I was stripped down to my waist, and a doctor was removing the remaining bits of my white-and-turquoise diagonal-striped top, which was embedded into the flesh of my shoulder, with large tweezers,” she remembered. “The doctor had had to slice off my shirt with an instrument, as some of the fibers had begun to fuse with my skin.”

“My back was splattered with third-degree burns,” she continued. “I couldn’t recognize it as mine, as it turned different shades of maroon from the violent scalding I received at the hands of my sister. The horrific physical sensation had been so intense that I blacked out. Afterward, my back was numb and couldn’t be touched without causing me excruciating pain.”

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey attends Variety’s 2019 Power of Women: Los Angeles presented by Lifetime at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on October 11, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California | Amy Sussman/FilmMagic

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Alison Carey’s long-term effect on Mariah Carey

The hot tea incident changed Carey’s relationship with her sister, as well as her ability to interact with and trust people in general. “It took years before I could accept a simple pat on the back, as most of my skin had to completely renew and repair itself,” she recalled.

But the cuts went much deeper than just her skin.

“The deepest injury, though, was from the emotional trauma,” she said honestly. “Feelings are not like skin; there are no fresh new cells coming to replace ruined ones. Those scars go unseen, unacknowledged, and unhealed. The truly irreversible damage to me came from the burn of my big sister, not the tea. Her arson was deliberate — she burned my back and my trust. Any faint hope I’d held up to that point of having a big sister became scorched earth.”