Mariah Carey vs. Whitney Houston
In the pre-Bodyguard Nineties, Whitney Houston seemed in danger of losing the octave-scaling R&B diva mantle to a young upstart named Mariah Carey. Barely in her twenties, Carey's self-titled 1990 debut had sold 15 million copies worldwide, 5 million more than Houston's (still absurdly high-selling) I'm Your Baby Tonight. Tabloids were quick to pit the pair against one another, but their feud was largely all smoke and no fire until Houston was asked about her supposed rivalry during a 1990 television interview – delivering the immortal: "What do I think of her? I don't think of her." The studio audience got the hint and hooted with Jerry Springer–level abandon. Houston's halfhearted backpedaling ("Musically, I think she's a good singer.") did little to calm the crowd.
Houston served up an equally chilly response in 1995, when her own "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" got booted from the top of the charts by "One Sweet Day," Carey's ballad with Boyz II Men. When MTV dared to put the "What do you think of Mimi" question to her again, she answered with the delightfully obtuse, "Maybe it's not what I think; it's what she thinks. It's more important."
Producers of the 1998 animated biblical epic The Prince of Egypt booked Carey and Houston to duet on "When You Believe" for the soundtrack, leading to a string of public goodwill gestures between the two. They put in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show to deny that any beef existed between them, dismissing it all as "dramatics."
They even poked fun at their rocky past while presenting Best Male Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, strutting to the podium in identical, but supposedly "one of a kind" dresses. The staged fashion faux pas provoked a comical catfight, until they stripped down to reveal different dresses and embraced in a warm hug.
Following Houston's death in February 2012, Carey was among the mourners at the star-studded service held in the late icon's hometown of Newark, New Jersey. "I'm almost incapable to be talking about this still," she said during an appearance on Good Morning America in the days that followed. "I don't think people could ever really understand our relationship. There was always this supposed rivalry in the beginning and then we did the duet and became friends ... I loved her."