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I’m kind of jazzed to be tapped to write about The Diva (you should always spell it that way, with Capital Emphasis). I have two reasons … one is that I come from a musical background, and so I know that the term “diva” originally meant an extremely gifted star, usually operatic. It was related to “prima donna” — another term that just meant “First Lady” (of the opera). And of course, opera stars became known for their temper tantrums, but darn it, they were WORTH IT. They did it with STYLE.
That’s probably because opera has always been a tough gig — fragile egos need not apply. No matter how amazing the opera singer, opera audiences were merciless critics throughout history. Check it: one of the greatest divas of all time, Maria Callas, got pelted with bouquets of radishes by her non-adoring fans. And didn’t even flinch as she finished the show. That’s ATTITUDE.
Possibly the great legend of the diva stems from a pair of opera prima donnas — Faustina Bordoni and Francesa Cuzzoni — whose offstage rivalry heated up in 1727. A noted tabloid reporter of the time (yes, they had them then, too) published an account of the stage scandal with a screaming headline: “THE DEVIL TO PAY AT ST. JAMES: or, a full and true account of a most horrid and bloody battle between Madam Faustina and Madam Cuzzoni.” Apparently, there was dress-tearing, hair-pulling, curse-shrieking, and throwing of vegetables from the audience. Quite a show. And by the way, opera still is a rough sport … recently a singer got booed off the stage at La Scala in tears. Yup. It happens. It takes a major attitude to take the stage knowing that could await you.
So today’s Divas have a lot to live up to, obviously. They’re no longer required to have the talent … only the ‘tude. And they take self-confidence to insane levels. A true Diva thinks of no one but herself — or who can do something for her. There’s no ally she won’t betray, no minion she won’t throw under the bus to get ahead, no back in which she won’t find a home for her dagger. Divas typically have a posse, and a talent for causing a scene when you least want it.
In short, The Diva is seriously entertaining … if you’re watching from the sidelines (or the cheap seats). Facing off against her is no treat, especially since The Diva usually has a nasty temper and a long memory.
So how does The Diva help in a story? She’s a great villain. She’s also a great reluctant ally … having the meanest of the Mean Girls on your side can be an amazing advantage. (Just be sure never to turn your back on her. Or borrow her best shirt.)
So remember: Divas are fabulous. Divas are blindingly confident. Divas are WORTH IT.
Go on. Be a Diva … just for a day.
Here, have a tiara.
– Rachel Caine