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Is Diana Ross the definition of a diva?


Times Staff Writer


The word gets thrown around all willy-nilly these days, doesn't it?

We use it here on our very own Deal Divas fashion blog. Female WWE wrestlers are known as Divas. There's a show called Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime.

A quick Google search brings up results for a Lingerie Diva, a Cake Diva, an Evil Diva, Red Hot Divas and a Surf Diva surfing school. VH1 has hosted a Divas concert since 1998, including an upcoming 2010 show featuring an odd lineup of rappers (Nicki Minaj) and rockers (Paramore). It's hard to tell what counts anymore.

Saturday, one of the world's most legendary owners of the title comes to Clearwater: Diana Ross. She's the big-haired, flamboyant former lead singer of the Supremes, the woman who routinely performs in head-to-toe rhinestones, who was BFFs with Michael Jackson. Heck, Ross had an entire VH1 Divas concert dedicated in her honor.

She's got to be a diva, right?

Maybe. Let's check out the various definitions of the word diva and see which ones apply to Ross.

Definition: The dictionary says the word comes from the Italian word for goddess. In Latin, it's the feminine version of divus divine, or god. Sounds official.

Verdict: Diana Ross is human, not deity. We think. Then again, we're not sure how she gets her hair to do that.

Definition: Diva is a synonym for prima donna, otherwise known as the principal female singer in an opera. That would make divas out of the likes of Maria Callas (pictured), Rosa Ponselle, Kathleen Battle and Renée Fleming.

Verdict: Ross has some serious pipes, but we're not sure if she could hit the high notes in Die Zauberflote. Although she does get up there with the "woohoos" on Ain't No Mountain High Enough. We'd like to see a sing-off.

Definition: Yale English professor Wayne Koestenbaum told the St. Petersburg Times in 1997 that a diva was "a woman who dominates a theatrical proceeding." But, he added, "it's too easy to say that any bossy, tempestuous, self-conscious woman is a diva. A certain loneliness also comes with the word, a certain pathos."

Verdict: Ross has seen her share of blues. In 1984, she told Jet magazine that despite having just made $1.7 million dollars and broken box office records at Radio City Music Hall, she was lonely after the death of her mother, and had no romantic prospects on the horizon. "If anything's missing at all in my life, it's that relationship you share on a one-to-one with a man," she said. "That's wonderful to me."

Definition: In Beyoncé's (above) 2009 song Diva, she says a diva is the "female version of a hustla." Which is . . . what now? Urban Dictionary defines "hustla" as "someone skilled at turning a profit no matter what the enterprise."

Verdict: Ross is totally rich, so that fits. Adding to her personal wealth, Ross was also married at one time to Norwegian shipping tycoon Arne Naess Jr., who died in 2004.

Definition: In 2002, Time magazine said a diva was "a rampaging female ego redeemed only in part by a lovely voice."

Verdict: Ross doesn't do a ton of charity work, but McNally Smith College of Music established a scholarship in her name in 2004. She has also performed a number of benefit concerts over the years. But she has been known for antics. In 2001, Fox News reporter Roger Friedman described a Ross freak-out at one such charity concert. "Watching her meltdown as the spotlight went to these two other women was a lesson to be remembered," he wrote. "Is she just mean and crazy? Or is she so self-conscious that she's literally scared of other people?"

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

.if you go

Diana Ross

The show is at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $63-$123. (727) 791-7400.

Is Diana Ross the definition of a diva? 11/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 12:30pm]
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