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Mariah Carey spoke about career sexism, racism and motherhood at Variety‘s Power of Women luncheon presented by Lifetime.

“I was 18 years old when I got my first record deal,” she said. “A lot of very powerful men controlled my career — what I wore, who I worked with, and every aspect of my overall image. Believe me, that can be very intimidating and confining to a young girl just getting started, trying to express herself artistically. It took a lot of hard work, inner strength and believing in myself, but slowly I gained the courage to emerge from that stifling control by a group of men. We love men, but you know, they could never understand or embrace the essence of who I truly am.”

The singer was honored for her philanthropy with the Fresh Air Fund’s Camp Mariah.