Here's one unexpected perk of becoming a superstar - when you split with your billionaire fiancé, you can create an entire reality show that spins the break-up in your favour.
Sure, Mariah Carey's E! doco-series Mariah's World was initially billed in August as a behind-the-scenes look at the pop icon as she embarked on a world tour and planned her wedding to Australian billionaire James Packer.
Then a few months later, Carey split with Packer. At first, tabloids reported that Packer broke it off, because he hated the reality show and had suspicions about Carey and one of her back-up dancers. That same day, Carey sources fired back, calling Packer "unstable."
By the time the series debuted in December, Mariah's World had a new premise. Carey was still planning her wedding, but now she had many doubts about Packer - and it may or may not have influenced by a budding romance with her adoring, chiseled back-up dancer, Bryan Tanaka.
But as the show tries to tell viewers, it wasn't that scandalous. Really! Explained over eight mostly-excruciating episodes, Carey and Tanaka were long time friends who just organically blossomed into something more, especially as Packer was too busy to ever make time for a proper relationship. Who could blame them?
If you have never seen a reality show, you might take that as face value. But frequent viewers can recognise the signs of a manipulated storyline: The "casual" conversations that no actual human would ever have in real life, let alone surrounded by cameras.
The all-too-coincidental situations that push people together. The on-camera confessionals that could have been filmed at any place and anytime, and are randomly sprinkled throughout the series. The Carey and Tanaka plot uses all of these elements, and as a result and comes off as one of the most blatantly scripted reality storylines of all time.
It helps that Carey is an executive producer on Mariah's World, along with her manager, Stella Bulochnikov. They can present their version of Carey's life however they want. The two certainly use the series to shoot back at rumours that Bulochnikov is a "Russian dictator" who is running Carey's empire into the ground.
Bulochnikov, who took over as Carey's manager in 2015, accuses the haters of being sexist and uses the show to prop her and Carey up as two single moms, united against the world. Bulochnikov is portrayed as a hero; a fearless, tough-but-fair leader who only has Carey's best interests at heart, even as she warns Carey about Tanaka, who clearly has a crush.
"The goal behind Mariah's World was that she gets to really tell her own story. When we get to move the news and the news doesn't move us," Bulochnikov told Billboard last year.
In Sunday's first season finale, the Carey and Tanaka plot all culminates in a romantic scene in a gazebo (the preferred setting for cathartic romantic moments), which has already been the subject of much mockery. Here's how their totally natural romance - still happening in real life - played out:
1. Establish that Tanaka and Carey have known each other for a long time.
Tanaka is introduced as one of the six back-up dancers on the "Sweet Sweet Fantasy" European tour. He lets everyone know that he and Carey have known each other for a decade. "I was this green rookie when I first worked with her. Like, so many things have happened. I grew up. I turned into a man. And she's gone through so much," he says, hinting at her marriage and divorce to Nick Cannon, along with the birth of her twins.
2. Establish that all is not perfect with Carey and her fiancé.
In the first episode, Carey gushes about how Packer gifted a yacht - and his yacht is right next to hers. So romantic! However, even as Carey gets fitted for her wedding dress, she admits their relationship has its challenges. "My fiancé, James, has so many responsibilities," Carey explained. "And I'm a night person. I work better at night ... it's not easy for us to spend every day together. But when we do things, we have great moments."
3. Establish that Tanaka is a catch as they start to ramp up the flirting.
... and what better way to do that than tons of shots of his glistening six-pack abs? The third episode sees Tanaka getting mobbed by groupies. Tanaka sheepishly confesses that he's single and just having fun right now. But when he meets the right person (hmmm, who could that be?) he'll be 100 percent committed.
At a birthday party for Mariah, she is thrilled when Tanaka emerges, "Magic Mike"-style, from the cake. She gets into his performance, pouring champagne over his bare abs. "Why are we making such a big deal about it, like nobody ever got champagne poured on themselves before?" Carey laughs, before telling the cameraman, "Don't you be naughty-naughty and use this."
4. Establish that other people start noticing something is going on.
After Carey and Tanaka "catch up" at the party, the crew starts noticing the flirting. "I see everyone witnessing Tanaka over there, all over Mariah. I'm like dude, you're walking on dangerous ground here," vents Anthony, the tour's creative director. "The woman is engaged, about to get married."
In Episode 5, Tanaka confesses he has a huge crush on Carey. He bares his soul in a totally casual conversation with another back-up dancer, G. Madison. "I can't even believe I'm saying this right now. I'm catching some hard feelings, bro," he tells Madison.
5. Establish that Carey might have "caught feelings" too.
Around this point, the show ramps up scenes of Carey and Tanaka flirting - she even insists on keeping him on the payroll when he injures his knee and can't dance. Finally, Bulochnikov has to bring it up with the boss. "I think Tanaka has a very big crush on you," she tells Carey. "And I think you know this. ... he's been so lovey dovey." Carey rolls her eyes and blushes and insists it is not a big deal. There's nothing to worry about!
6. Establish the love triangle.
Packer finally shows up in Paris, and Bulochnikov makes sure to separate him and Tanaka at all times. This throws Tanaka for a loop as he continues to bare his soul to the cameras.
Tanaka goes back to Madison for another conversation. "Remember how I was telling you I was feeling a certain way about the Queen? I feel like there was something kind of there," Tanaka says hopefully. "Then James came into town and he's never around - like, I never really seen them together really ... seeing them interact together, it looks like she's really happy." Sad music plays.
7. Establish more trouble in paradise.
Carey hints that all is not well with her relationship. Packer took off after only spending a short time with her in Paris, and if their respective schedules are really that demanding, she's not sure how she's going to plan a wedding. "Everybody has their own thing, and I mean, he's busy and it's just like, I just wish I had more time to give him, more quality time to be with him - but I really don't have that right now," she says, sadly.
Meanwhile, Tanaka is extremely depressed about his injury, and Carey decides to surprise him, bringing him up on stage and giving him a lap dance during one of her shows.
8. Establish that Carey and Packer are over.
During the finale, everything has gone from "our schedules are very demanding" to "there's no way this wedding can happen." Bulochnikov rages that the prenup agreements have been dragging on for months, and Packer's team is throwing out very unrealistic wedding dates. "So what am I supposed to do?" Carey asks, staring off into the distance.
Here's a great idea: Have a romantic gazebo date with Tanaka. The two go for a stroll in the garden, laughing as Tanaka twirls Carey around. Music plays softly in the background. "Are you really gonna marry this guy?" Tanaka asks softly. They dance around the subject as Carey hems and haws about being happy and what that means. Tanaka kisses her hand. "You make me smile," Carey says.
9. Establish that Carey is the victim and the hero.
Next thing we know, Carey takes off her engagement ring in the studio as Bulochnikov says Packer "put her through hell." She starts to blame Packer for rejecting the first potential wedding date and looks like she's ready to spill more dirt, but Carey quickly cuts in with "I don't think it's fair or right to talk about those issues." She adds, "In life it's just like you gotta see what's meant to be. And if it's meant to be, it's meant to be."
Clearly, this relationship is not meant to be. On screen, viewers see dramatic headlines about Carey and Packer's split.
A few months later, cut to the beach in Hawaii at sunset - and Carey and Tanaka are frolicking and making out in the ocean. We learn Tanaka has been officially promoted to assistant creative director on the tour and has recovered from his injury.
"I'm really happy to still be here for Mariah and support her in any way I can. I haven't been this happy in a long time," he grins.
The music swells. "I'm really happy," Carey tells the camera. "I'm not sure if anybody else can understand that, but it is what it is."