By People Staff
December 30, 1991 12:00 PM

Most pop stars are gluttons for publicity. (For great hype, dial 1-555-MAD-ONNA.) By contrast, 22-year-old pop diva Mariah Carey knows all there is to know about the fine art of making herself scarce. This year the singer and her five-octave platinum pipes managed to push the Blonde Ambitious One off her perch atop the pop charts without so much as lifting a finger in the name of self-promotion. . Jot for her any calculatingly superheated videos or armor-piercing bras. As the confirmed don’t-wannabe explained, “I don’t want to put myself in everyone’s face and make them sick of me.”

Not likely. While Carey stood by silently this year, her 1990 debut album, Mariah Carey, sold 6 million copies, spun off third-and fourth-consecutive No. 1 singles and earned her Best New Artist and Best Pop Female Vocalist honors at the Grammy Awards show in February. Carey, of course, passed up celebrating on the premiere-id-party circuit and immediately went into a six-month hibernation. Working nonstop on her follow-up album, Carey says, “was like living in a cave. I’d work every night, until 4 or 5 in the morning. I missed the whole summer.”

And a lot of noise about her very private private life. When she emerged in September to conquer the sophomore jinx with her second album, Emotions (already a million-plus seller), and its same-name No. 1 single, she found a blizzard of unwanted publicity swirling around her cave door. Rumors abounded about a romance with Tommy Mottola, 42, the Sony Music president who discovered her in 1988 and orchestrated the enormous marketing push that helped get her heard. Mottola, who signed a June 1990 separation agreement with wife Lisa after 19 years of marriage, and Carey are now reportedly engaged. Carey, typically, refuses to talk about it. Not to confirm. Not to deny. “There is not much that is sacred in this business,” she says, “but to me, my private life is.”

Carey, who was 3 when her parents separated, is equally close-mouthed when it comes to her father, Alfred Carey, an aeronautical engineer who maintained little to no contact in the ensuing years. But the vocalist does get vocal when it comes to her mother, Patricia, a former New York City Opera mezzo soprano. It is she “who is most responsible for me having the courage to be able to do what I’m doing,” says Carey. “She raised me as a single mom. She made me believe in myself.”

Now, says Carey, she believes she would like “to continue to sing and write music I can be proud of for years to come. I don’t want to use this as a segue into some other career.” What? No truth-or-daring Hollywood tease? “No,” she says, “not even a sitcom.”