What really went down with Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey?

Already iconic for slaying the whistle register and being the undisputed Queen of Christmas, Mariah Carey became the Queen of Shade when she was asked about Jennifer Lopez in an early 2000s German television interview. After complimenting fellow divas like Beyoncé in the same Q&A, she responded to the J.Lo query with a smile and a seemingly innocent remark: "I don't know her."

The clip became a GIF and viral meme sensation that would go on for a full decade and counting, while other stars began to use the conversational pivot in their own feuds, including Lil' Kim's own feud with fellow Carey nemesis Nicki Minaj. The crux of the alleged insult is simple: The deeper meaning behind this apparently innocuous comment is that the target is so insignificant that — in this case, despite being another A-list star — they're neither on Carey's radar nor level. In an industry where celebrity currency is partly simple relevance, that stings. When TMZ asked Carey about the popularity of "I don't know her" in 2016, she replied with a laugh, "I still don't know her!" 

Okay, but why? It turns out, there's a lot of juice in this alleged beef. Here's what really went down between Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey.

Jennifer Lopez was accused of ripping off Mariah Carey

Jennifer Lopez was once accused of lifting ideas from not one, but two potential hits from Mariah Carey's Glitter soundtrack in 2001. Carey reportedly cleared a sample of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Firecracker" for her lead single, "Loverboy," and enlisted rapper Ja Rule for a duet on "If We." However, before the songstress could release the tracks, Lopez dropped "I'm Real" — which sampled "Firecracker" — and her "I'm Real" remix, which featured Ja Rule in a back-and-forth style that was allegedly eerily similar to "If We." According to XXL (via Fox News), the music publisher for "Firecracker" said Carey cleared the sample first, while Lopez reached out to use the track within a month of Carey's original request.

In a 2009 radio interview, Carey hinted that a record label may have played a role in this highly-publicized so-called feud, but still maintained her own ignorance. "I don't know the woman," she said. "There were things in the past that are from the past, and I think that was more confusion courtesy of a record company issue."

Mariah Carey's ex-husband may have been behind it

Mariah Carey had a contentious split from ex-husband Tommy Mottola, who was the head of Sony Music — which boasted Jennifer Lopez on its roster alongside Carey in the early 2000s. 

Producer Irv Gotti alleged to XXL (via Fox News) that Lopez's use of both "Firecracker" and Ja Rule on her J.Lo album wasn't coincidental. "I get a call from Tommy Mottola, who I have a great relationship with, and he's like, 'I need you to do me a favor. I want you to do this remix for Jennifer Lopez. I want you to put Ja on the record,'" Gotti recalled. "Immediately I knew what he was doing because we just finished the Mariah record." Some sources claimed that Carey scrambled to revamp "Loverboy" before its release, replacing the "Firecracker" sample with one from Cameo's hit "Candy," while others alleged she was so paranoid about being monitored that they used a different singer on "Loverboy" demos. However, a rep for Sony scoffed at the sabotage allegations. 

"Mariah and her lawyer, Don Passman, went to Tommy and told him that if they didn't let her go," another source told Fox News, "she'd let the higher-ups at Sony know what he'd done to her — and to a Sony project." Carey was then released from her contract and signed with Virgin/EMI, but it's important to note that it's unknown whether Lopez knew any of this was happening at the time.

Did Mariah Carey shade Jennifer Lopez's musical ability?

Mariah Carey made it clear during a December 2002 interview with Larry King on CNN that she believed there were very few similarities between her and Jennifer Lopez. When King asked Carey if the reports of a rivalry with the "Jenny from the Block" singer bothered her, she appeared to respond with her signature shade, telling the host, "There are rivalries, but I don't think she has anything to do with me. I mean, my whole thing is singing, writing songs."

King replied that Lopez was an actress, a claim with which Carey enthusiastically concurred. "Yes. And you know, I've been doing this, you know, my whole life," she said. "Singing is first and foremost, a God-given talent that I'm grateful for. Her thing is something different."

When King asked Carey about her own acting career, her answer was a pointed one. Calling her 2002 film WiseGirls "a great learning experience for me," she said, "It taught me that, you know, you go and do things that are going to be creatively challenging. Not get caught up in the world that you don't know much about."

Was there an American Idol rivalry?

Jennifer Lopez originally appeared on American Idol as a lead judge in 2011 and stayed until when Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj signed on to the show two seasons later. Carey reportedly took home $18 million for a single season of American Idol, compared to Lopez's estimated $20 million per season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Alleged pay disparity aside, cue in the supposed behind-the-scenes drama. Insiders cited by Deadline claimed that producers considered replacing Carey with Lopez during Season 12's live shows in 2013. While floating this swap idea around allegedly hindered morale among the judges panel at the time, Lopez allegedly appeared "very interested" in the move. However, it seems as though producers ultimately shied away from the notion after fearing it would hurt the already tainted American Idol brand amid its drop in ratings.

Carey, who famously feuded with Minaj during her time on the show, later called American Idol "the worst experience of [her] life," adding that much of the commentary from panel was "boring and fake." Lopez, meanwhile, returned to the judging panel for Season 13, later telling Variety that the show was a "turning point" in her career. "You can't hide on reality TV," she explained. "And [audiences] got to see I was a real, caring person who was actually nice." Lopez added, "I don't think I had been taken as seriously up until then for what I knew about music."

Jennifer Lopez agreed that Mariah Carey doesn't know her

Jennifer Lopez has been relatively diplomatic about her feud with Mariah Carey, to the point of denying the existence of any beef at all — at least on her part. When host Andy Cohen asked Lopez about the alleged feud in a 2014 episode of Watch What Happens Live, she replied: "I don't have a feud against her at all. I know from back in the day, I've read things that she's said about me that were not the greatest, but we have never met. Like, we don't know each other. I think it's from kind of from word of mouth, of things that have happened in the past that I'm not really aware of. But I don't know."

See? Carey really doesn't know her. Still, Lopez said she'd like that to change and wanted to befriend the "Butterfly" belter. "I think she's incredibly talented and I've always been a fan of hers. 'My All' is one of my favorite songs of all time … I just love her," she gushed. "It saddens me to hear anything that's negative because I'm a fan of hers."

But she may not be as a big a Mimi fan as she says

You'd think that a fan of Mariah Carey would be on the edge of her seat while she performs, but that wasn't the case for Jennifer Lopez during Carey's performance at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. Cameras apparently caught J.Lo — who was seated in the front row of the ceremony — scrolling through her phone while Carey sang "Infinity." While stars like Taylor Swift and then-beau Calvin Harris applauded one of Carey's signature high notes, Lopez was reportedly seen talking to her own then-boyfriend, Casper Smart. However, she did join in on the applause break at the conclusion of the song when the lights came on in the room.

During a 2016 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, the Bravo host asked J.Lo about the supposed shade. "That was not fair, them with the texting thing, because I watched a lot of it," Lopez said. "It was a long performance, OK? I watched most of it. I may have looked down for one second and people were like, 'Look at her!'" Lopez also said the only reason she didn't attend any of Carey's Las Vegas residency performances was due to scheduling issues, not any beef.

Apparently, Mariah Carey is 'forgetful'

Remember when Jennifer Lopez said she and Mariah Carey never met? Well, she changed her story about two years later, saying that they did, in fact, meet several times, but that Carey perhaps just didn't recall. "She's forgetful, I guess," Lopez said of Carey on The Wendy Williams Show in 2016. "We've met many times … I don't know her that well."

Carey caught wind of the comment and wasn't thrilled. A couple months later, Andy Cohen — constantly stirring the pot between the divas — asked about her apparent memory loss in regard to the infamous "I don't know her" remark and Lopez's response. "Apparently, I'm forgetful," Carey quipped, adding that they may have been briefly introduced but never genuinely interacted beyond "hi" and "bye." When Cohen asked if J.Lo seems cool, a seemingly exasperated Carey reiterated, "I don't know her! What am I supposed to say? I'm not going to put on a thing like, 'Oh, we're all Hollywood and let's just all pretend we're best friends.'" She added, "It wasn't like I don't know who she is — of course I do. That's not the question."

Demi Lovato and Nick Cannon appeared to take sides

Other stars even dipped their toes into Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez's alleged beef — including Carey's own ex-husband, Nick Cannon. While filling in on The Wendy Williams Show in February 2019, Cannon revealed his three top celebrity crushes: Carey (with whom he still has a close, amicable co-parenting relationship) was at No. 1, followed by Halle Berry and Naomi Campbell. When a producer asked how he felt about Lopez, Cannon quipped, "I don't know her," adding, "That was a joke for the Lambs! Shout out to the Lambs!" ("Lambs" are Carey's nickname for her rabid fans.)

Meanwhile, Demi Lovato appeared to come for Carey seemingly unprovoked. In 2016, Lovato commented on a meme comparing Carey favorably to Ariana Grande. "You got it the wrong way around honey," she wrote (via Page Six), adding, "Mariah is a legend and so talented but constantly disses people. It's nasty the way she treats Jennifer [Lopez]." She went on to claim that Carey "is mean for no reason" but also "unnecessarily rude."

When Andy Cohen asked Carey about Lovato's remark on Watch What Happens Live that December, Carey said, "I don't know her either and so I wouldn't say anything to her. She should come up, introduce herself to me, say, 'Here's my opinion, what do you think about it?' That's how you handle s**t, OK?"

Did Mariah Carey double down on her alleged J.Lo shade?

In 2018, Mariah Carey attempted to explain her original "I don't know her" comment about Jennifer Lopez once again to Pitchfork … but her explanation was almost shadier than the original remark. "I really was trying to say something nice or say nothing at all," Carey said. "I really was." While she admitted to seeing some of the viral memes and GIFs of her and trying to "embrace it," the music star added that she never reads Internet comments: "I try to stay away from it because you can't drown in that. I don't know how people read comments all the time and then survive."

Carey also hinted that the theories surrounding the alleged Glitter sabotage may hold at least a kernel of truth. When asked about the #JusticeForGlitter campaign, she replied that she avoided listening to the record for years, "because it represented a time in [her] life when they almost killed [her]." Carey explained, "I was leaving Sony, I was fighting every day with my ex-husband [Tommy Mottola] who still ran the label, and then I was on a new label. We released Glitter on September 11, 2001, and it was a really bad time. We've had ups and downs." 

Despite the setbacks and sabotage rumors, Carey pointed out that "Loverboy" was actually the best-selling single of 2001, because, well, she's Mimi. She's the Queen.