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Photos: Mariah Carey Through the Years

January 1, 1990

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Mariah Carey burst onto the pop charts at just 20 years old with her multi-platinum self-titled debut album in 1990. While her voice got most of the attention—she has an impressive 5-octave vocal range—her gorgeous body got almost as many headlines.

June 5, 1993

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In June 1993 Carey married Tommy Mottola, the head of Columbia Records and the man who first made her a star. While the stress of a tumultuous marriage and busy career may have caused some weight gain, she remained sanguine, saying, "I’ve never been on the scale, that’s the funny thing. A lot of people are like 'let me get on the scale, I gained 2.5 pounds I can’t believe it.' Our bodies go through so much water weight gain and back and forth, and it’s like you know, the scale is something to not be a slave to."


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As her musical star continued to rise—her 1994 holiday album is the all-time best-seller in its category—her personal life was filled with turmoil. Her song "One Sweet Day," written for her sister Allison who died of AIDS in 1995, became the longest running number-one song in U.S. history. In spite of these struggles, she maintained a polished public persona.

May 8, 1997

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Carey's public divorce from Mottola in 1997 only brought more scrutiny of her private life and stress in her career (her contract with Columbia Records hadn't yet expired). But in 1998 she cemented her stardom when she sang alongside Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Gloria Estefan, and Carole King in the VH1 Divas benefit concert.

July 1, 2001

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Thanks to mounting pressure, relationship woes, and a failed movie and album project, Carey suffered a very public "physical and emotional breakdown" and was hospitalized for "extreme exhaustion."

She explained her weight gain at the time saying, "I've [always] been a very athletic person. I thought I could get away with it. Plus, I’m 'ethnic' so some people forget that, but some people give me a pass for that because we're allowed to be a little thicker."

October 16, 2006

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After a lengthy recovery that gave her time to rethink her music career, Carey found redemption in 2005 with 10 Grammy Award nominations. However, her weight gain was getting more attention than ever before, and some even speculated her once-famous abs were now airbrushed on with makeup.

Looking back Carey says, "Well, I’ve been on diets before, like my weight has fluctuated 15 to 20 pounds [over] certain years."

November 9, 2008

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Finding success both in her career and in love, the singer married actor/comedian/rapper Nick Cannon on April 30, 2008. While she may have weighed more than her 20-year-old self (who doesn't?), Carey loved her new muscles.

"When I married Nick in 2008… It was during the "Touch My Body" era. The album was out; It was the follow up of the “Emancipation of Mimi.” I was definitely bigger than I am now, but I was more toned. Not that I was more toned than I was now, but I was toned to be that weight.

December 12, 2010

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Fulfilling her dream of motherhood, Carey became pregnant with twins in 2010. The pregnancy was difficult and she suffered severe edema (swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body's tissues), causing her to be put on bed rest and gain more than 70 pounds.

"Everything was on hold because my body was going through complete… I don't even know how to phrase it," she recalls. "Because of how debilitating the pregnancy was, I went to the last minute until it was very dangerous for me. I don't think there can be any greater challenge."

October 21, 2011

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Carey gave birth to twins Moroccan and Monroe April 30, 2011. While she says she lost 40 pounds of water weight the first week after giving birth, she still had 30 pregnancy pounds to shed. After undergoing a c-section and a difficult pregnancy and birth, Carey decided to first focus on her diet rather than exercise.

"[In the past] I would always go on a very exercise driven diet, but after you have babies, you really have to take diet into consideration because it is, even to me, ninety percent of it."

November 9, 2011

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Just six months after giving birth to twins, Carey had lost the last 30 pounds and became a spokeswoman for Jenny (formerly known as Jenny Craig). How did she do it? In addition to her Jenny meal plan, she was able to get back to the gym.

"I'm really focused on toning right now. I never had to focus as much on toning because I was always very toned, but you can't put your body through what my body went through and [not] work out. You’ve got to get the gym," Carey says of her new program.

March 1, 2012

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Mimi's back! Although life will never be the same as it was before, Carey seems to have found a happy balance between work, marriage, and motherhood—even more important now that husband Nick is battling his own health crisis (The 31-year-old was hospitalized for kidney failure in January and later diagnosed with lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys).

For more on how Mariah Carey got her groove back, pick up a copy of the May issue of SHAPE! The pop diva opens up about weight loss, wellness, Whitney, and more.