The singer who snatched a Christmas crown for Mariah Carey explains why she did it

Although Mariah Carey’s beloved 1994 song “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is widely accepted as the most popular original Christmas single, Carey herself is unacceptable as the single dominant Christmas musician — at least not canonically. . After the singer famously raised her name as the “Queen of Christmas” in March 2021, holiday queens like Darlene Love have voiced their disapproval.

The most energetic of them all, Elizabeth Chan, a former media executive turned singer who styles herself the only full-time musician of the Christmas music genre, filed to oppose Carey’s trademark attempts earlier this year. On November 15, the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board sided with Chan, formally dismissing Carey’s attempt to hold court individually during the holidays.

Slate spoke with Chan as the holiday season has turned into the past few weeks, to fully understand what this win means not only for the Christmas music genre but also for our expression of holiday love in general. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nadira Jovi: When did you first start using the phrase? Christmas Queen?

Elizabeth Chan: Growing up, my grandmother was definitely the Queen of Christmas. When you’re the most prolific artist in a certain genre, you’re either the Queen of Soul, the Queen of Jazz — and for me, I started being called the Queen of Christmas in 2013-14, after my second song on Radio. Anytime I would walk into a room, the radio directors would be like, “Oh, this is Elizabeth. She’s the Christmas Queen! She just plays Christmas music.” I mean, I have emails from my entire career [of] They know me as the Queen of Christmas, because even if it’s March, even if it’s April, I’m still playing Christmas music. Do you know what I mean? It just doesn’t turn off. No, this has been my lifelong commitment for 12 years now. I literally gave up on everything, and anyone who works with me knows I’m a very committed person to the type of music I’m into. As a Christmas musician, there are very few places that I can… I won’t be like any American Music Awards. I will never get the same kind of awards that other artists might get.

What made you decide to go against Mariah Carey’s trademark? Christmas Queen? How was this process for you?

I never wanted to be in the situation I’ve been forced into this year.

And what position was that in?

I am not a litigating person. All we have is time when it comes to pursuing our dream. And when I found out that Mariah Carey had filed for the trademark, what that meant was that all of my time, all of the accolades we had from others, would have been erased. Many people thought it was a I’m opposite Maria thing, but it wasn’t. It is not about that at all. She was Maria vs. Everyone Thing. Because what she was taking away was your right to call me the Christmas Queen, or your right to call everyone else the Christmas Queen.

The Christmas Queen is a generation thing. Even before me, there was Brenda Lee, there was Darlene Love, and then there will be someone. Nobody is a forever queen, not even Queen Elizabeth. Someone was trying to own a term in the public domain that many people have used for many reasons and has the right to call whoever they want to call the Christmas Queen. What she wanted was to stop it.

She would stop time. Nobody after her. I mean, it’s not fair.

what did you do Queen you mean?

For me to be the Queen of Christmas doesn’t mean you wear a crown on your head. This does not mean that you are the richest and most famous person in the world. Being a queen means that you serve people and bring people together during the holiday season. That’s what it means to me. Not how much you have. The amount you give makes you recognized as a queen.

So how difficult is it to stop this attempt to trademark the term?

I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no idea about the process at all. I’ve literally called dozens and dozens of attorneys and they’ve told me, “Well, this is going to be a two- to three-year process and trial, and it’s going to cost you at least $200,000 to $250,000, minimum.” That’s for one sign. There were four I disagreed with: Christmas QueenAnd the Christmas princessAnd the QOCAnd the Christmas princess. That’s a million dollars.

But do you know how general these terms are? My daughter was known as the Christmas Princess because she was born into my world. [Chan’s daughter, aptly named Noelle, is self-credited as the “youngest Christmas songwriter ever to get one of her songs played on the radio” and inspired an upcoming book by Chan, titled The Princess of Christmas.] I literally had an Excel spreadsheet where I would collect the names of lawyers and call them and I would cross them off the list, until the last call was my friend, who was a professor at Boston University. And I called him up and said, “Hey, do you think your students can help me make a proposal just to buy some time? I should do something called a trademark opposition.” And what he did is he asked his law firm if he could represent me pro bono.

He knew that [Carey winning] It would be detrimental not only to my career, but also to the future of Christmas and birthday culture. word trademarks birthday Tricky in terms of the way I applied for so many seasons and so many products. It’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things that she’s been signing up for. Hundreds, not dozens. So, it is reasonable, if someone wants to make a dog collar [with QOC or any of the marks on it] And she decides, “Well, I don’t know — I don’t think you should do that,” she can take you to court for two years. Any trademark owner can take you to court to litigate it. Most small businesses will lose because they can’t afford the kind of lawsuits they can. [In addition to dog collars, the filings also included oddball items such as various milks (including dairy-free versions), massage oils, and eyeglasses/sunglasses.]

You mentioned your identity as an Asian woman, and I couldn’t help but notice that Christmas music is a small field. How does your identity influence your place in Christmas music and your decision to fight the brand?

Completely. I mean, I’m half Filipino and half Chinese but I’m an all American girl [who grew up in the States]. And it wasn’t until I went to the Philippines [that I] I realized that since we are Filipinos, it is okay to listen to Christmas music from September to January. It is culturally acceptable to do so, right? Also, being a Filipino, having this tremendous faith and belief in better days is just part of our culture. I mean, it’s indoctrinated in our culture to always be helpful to others, help others, and treat others with kindness. It’s just part of our identity.

My godparents were Italian and Greek. I went to a Quaker school. I grew up partying at many bar and bat parties. For me, the festive season and Christmas are not just about your religion, caste or faith. They are for everyone. Christmas belongs to everyone who believes in the festive spirit. And so I think it’s had a tremendous impact on why someone like me is committed to Christmas music in a way that other people don’t. This is something I want, is to be able to remind people during the most beautiful time of the year to remember what matters most: love, family, home, and togetherness. I don’t think there are enough messages about that. And Christmas music is really the kind of music that allows us to put down our walls and celebrate these things. Everyone is willing to open up to hear the message during this time. While there are 330 days in a year, we are not.

What’s the one thing that frustrates you about your “fight” against Mariah Carey?

One of the most frustrating things is that everyone thinks I’m trying to compete against someone I’ve never been in competition with. What I’ve been trying to do is protect Christmas. You know, it’s not about competition. It’s about protecting Christmas.

And if it was someone else, I probably would have done the same. You know what I mean? Because it has nothing to do with it. I guess what I really want to make clear is that it’s not about me versus anyone. It’s about me for birthday.


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