In 1994 I was eight years old and obsessed with Mariah Carey, her music, her image, all of it. My parents brought me to the record store so I could buy her newest album Music Box on tape and I listened to it nonstop. I was studying piano at the time and learning to play some of her hit songs too, like Hero and Vision of Love.

I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and my father, Mark Lovewell is a reporter and photographer for the Vineyard Gazette, who often let me tag along on his assignments when I was little. That summer, President Bill Clinton was vacationing again on Martha’s Vineyard and the word came down that Princess Diana was going to visit the Island too. My dad got the assignment to get a photo of her, and when he and his colleague at the time Jason Gay asked if I wanted to join them, I was ecstatic. I loved these kinds of assignments. It was late, the stars were out, and there was a certain kind of energy, a buzz on the streets of Oak Bluffs as we looked for Princess Diana.

At one point we were standing outside the Oyster Bar (a former restaurant on Circuit avenue), in search of the Princess and the President when a woman ran out and said, “Mariah Carey is eating dinner in there!”

Mark Lovewell gets the coveted photo of Princess Diana. — Mark Alan Lovewell

My heart dropped. I remember looking at my dad wide-eyed. He read my mind and handed me his notebook. Jason handed me his red felt pen. Then they pushed me inside the restaurant and told me to go meet her.

I stepped inside the Oyster Bar alone, a nervous child, walking through this dark and loud restaurant, wearing glasses and a red flannel button down shirt. I searched for their table, and found Mariah sitting with her husband. Her curly hair was unmistakable and she wore a navy sailor’s dress with white lined detail on the trim. She was stunning — a beautiful queen in my mind.

I stood in front of the table, holding the pen and paper and said nothing. Mariah smiled at me, then she and her husband asked, “Are you our waitress for tonight?”

I smiled back, my face as red as my shirt and the pen. I handed over the paper and pen and Mariah signed her name. To this day I am not sure I ever said anything at all to her but I will never forget that moment.

We didn’t see Princess Diana that night, but the story does not end there. Later that week my dad and Jason received a tip that she was out on the historic boat, Miss Asia, in the Edgartown harbor. My dad is a sailor and so he and Jason borrowed a friend’s boat and went looking for the Princess. It didn’t take long to spot her. My dad snapped a black and white photo on his film camera and at that moment he became the first person to take a photo of Princess Diana on that trip to the United States. The photo appeared on the front page of the Vineyard Gazette and made headlines around the world.

When I remember meeting Mariah Carey, I can’t help thinking simultaneously of Princess Diana. I wouldn’t have met my childhood idol if my father wasn’t searching for her. It was the summer of 1994, the year my dad and I met royalty.

Emma Lovewell is a fitness instructor in New York city for Peloton.