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Mariah Carey on Her Precious Make-Under: "I Felt Completely Rancid!"

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Moviegoers may be taken aback by Mariah Carey’s decidedly glammed-down turn in the film Precious as a dowdy social worker, and the singer herself had an even stronger reaction the first time she looked in the mirror. “I felt completely rancid!” Carey told PEOPLE at the film’s premiere at the AFI Audi Film Festival. But because the novel that the movie is based on “changed my life,” she gave herself over to director Lee Daniels’ vision for the character’s un-made-up look. “He said ‘We have a part and we really need someone, and I know you can do it,’” the singer explained. ‘”But you’re going to need to let me make you under and over and over again, and that’s what we’re gonna do.’ So I’m a big fan of Sapphire and the book Push which inspired this movie, and a huge fan of Lee Daniels so I let him do what he wanted to do.” Although it took time to adjust to the lack of grooming, Carey said the look helped her achieve a performance that’s now garnering glowing reviews. “I didn’t have to feel compelled to be always glamorous. With the music industry, it’s very like ‘Oh, she’s got a hair out of place! Go fix it!’ You know what I mean? And so this was such a liberating experience and yet humiliated me. But I needed that. We all need that. We all need to understand how to be humble, and it’s a difficult business to do that in.” And now that she’s back to her usual high-glam self, Carey’s moved past the trauma of the first glimpse in the mirror. “I’ve gotten over it,” she laughed, before turning to her husband Nick Cannon for some reassurance. “Have I gotten over it? “A little bit,” he grinned, telling reporters he had no problem with his wife’s makeunder. “I love her in every look — always!” –Scott Huver