Mariah Carey is preparing a 25th anniversary package of her iconic holiday album Merry Christmas, which was released in October of 1994.
She is also marking 25 years of Camp Mariah, her summer camp for middle schoolers in Fishkill, New York. Kids attend Camp Mariah for free as part of the Fresh Air Fund, where Mariah serves as a board member. In addition to regular activities like swimming, Camp Mariah offers “career-awareness,” allowing kids to explore their interest in fields like film, photography, fashion, international relations and more.
Mariah visited the camp last week to participate in a Q&A with the kids and her visit was highlighted on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I thought about having a camp because kids should be able to go to a camp where they feel safe and they feel like they can learn something,” she said. “And there’s a lotta kids who have never even left their own block where they’re growing up.”
Carey explained to the campers that she had a “difficult” childhood and frequently moved around. She said got involved with the camp because of her own summer camp experience. “I went to one camp that I hated. I really did not have a good experience,” recalled the singer. “I try to make the best of whatever situation I’m in, and sometimes I had a lot of fun, sometimes I didn’t.”
“I had kind of a tough time growing up with my family and stuff like that, so music was my sole inspiration really,” she said when a camper asked who inspired her. “So I kind of didn’t have that one person that I said, ‘That’s who I want to be.’ I had to figure it out on my own. So I started working very young, I worked, I did background vocals … learned about the studio, really put the time in.”
Carey’s music also inspired ballerina Misty Copeland, who visited the campers the same day to talk about her experiences and throw an impromptu dance party.
“It’s just amazing to be able to give back to them what she gave to me,” Copeland said. “Hearing Mariah Carey’s music for the first time at 7 years old changed my life. I wouldn’t be a ballerina if it wasn’t for her. Hearing her music motivated me to start choreographing.”