While Mariah Carey never quite managed to finish her sentence that began, "Please forgive me because I am a little bit … ," others who witnessed her rambling, seven-minute acceptance speech Tuesday night at California's Palm Springs International Film Festival offered plenty of suggestions.
Maybe just nervous. Festival organizers claimed that the Grammy winning diva, whose glammed-down performance as a social worker in Precious won her Palm Springs's breakthrough performance award, was slightly spaced-out because she was not used to speaking in front of such eminent peers as Sean Penn, Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood and Dame Helen Mirren.
Yet Carey – who attended the gala event without husband Nick Cannon – was happy to be part of the film community. "I have always wanted to be doing independent films, but people were always like, 'You will take us out of the movie [by overshadowing her character],' " Carey, 40, told PEOPLE.
"I don't think so. I think I will be able to go into the character, but it takes a real genius to understand that," she said, giving credit to Precious director Lee Daniels, who presented Carey with her award.
Talking about the challenges of de-glamorizing one of music's flashiest divas – who showed up in Palm Springs wearing a Valentino shrug, a sparkling, skin-tight, floor-length Legere gown and Chanel shoes – Daniels said, "Mariah Carey was born with stiletto heels on her feet. During the first day of work, I had to teach her how to walk with regular shoes."
Still, it wasn't only her Precious role that caused comment. After she left the stage with her award, Sean Penn said of Carey, "Think anything is going to make YouTube tonight?"
Also quipped Up in the Air director of the year winner Jason Reitman: "Right now I am as happy as Mariah Carey seems."