American singer Mariah Carey is often described as an "ultimate diva" by the media for her musical ability as well as her demanding persona.[1][2][3][4]

Diva (/ˈdvə/, Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is the Latin word for a goddess. It has often been used to refer to a celebrated woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, theatre, cinema, fashion and popular music. If referring to an actress, the meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna. Diva can also refer to a person, especially one in show business, with a reputation for being temperamental or demanding.


The word entered the English language in the late 19th century. It is derived from the Italian noun diva, a female deity. The plural of the word in English is "divas"; in Italian, dive [ˈdiːve]. The basic sense of the term is goddess,[5][6] the feminine of the Latin word divus (Italian divo), someone deified after death, or Latin deus, a god.[7]

The male form divo exists in Italian and is usually reserved for the most prominent leading tenors, like Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli. The Italian term divismo describes the star-making system in the film industry. In contemporary Italian, diva and divo simply denote much-admired celebrities, especially film actresses and actors, and can be translated as "(film) star". The Italian actress Lyda Borelli is considered the first cinematic diva, following her breakthrough role in Love Everlasting (1913).[8]

An extravagant admiration for divas is a common element of camp culture.[9]

Modern usage

Women are often referred to as divas if they are "difficult, temperamental and demanding".[10] Welsh National Opera note that the title emerged in the early 19th century after an increase of female leading sopranos who "almost became goddess-like in the eyes of their adoring public".[10] They also note that the word has been used by the media to name many female politicians and entertainers rather than "just ambitious and assertive like their male counterparts".[10]

Many pop stars have been labelled as divas in the media, including Aretha Franklin,[11] Ariana Grande,[12] Beyoncé,[10] Cher,[13] Christina Aguilera,[14] Diana Ross,[15] Tina Turner,[15] and Whitney Houston.[15] Additionally, Madonna and Mariah Carey[4] have been called an "ultimate diva" in the press and have often embraced the title as their media persona.[16][17][1][3] Carey herself noted on a podcast with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex that today's media "mean you're a successful woman" but also a "bitch" and that "it's not okay for you to be a boss".[18] Musicologist Lily E. Hirsch argues that the phrase may be used in a sexist and racist manner when discussing a woman of color.[19]

Multiple female artists and bands have also released albums and songs either titled or containing the word "diva". These include Annie Lennox,[20] En Vogue,[21] Beyoncé[22] and Sarah Brightman.[23] English media personality and businesswoman Gemma Collins is well known for her "diva persona".[24] In 2018, she released a book titled The GC: How to Be a Diva and began starring in her own reality television series Gemma Collins: Diva.[25][26]

In 1998, VH1 debuted its first annual VH1 Divas concert with Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain.[27] Some other artists who performed at later concerts are Whitney Houston, Cher, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and Destiny's Child.[27] From April 1999, WWE used the term "diva" to refer to their female performers.[28] In 2016 they discontinued this term becoming Women in WWE.[28]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Mariah Carey Proves She's a Diva With Bottle Cap Challenge". Time. 8 July 2019. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Hotel rolls out the red carpet for Carey, the ultimate demanding diva". The Independent. October 20, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Ultimate Diva: Mariah Carey". Paper. March 27, 2015. Archived from the original on November 3, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Rambarran, Shara (2023). ‘Proceed with Caution’: Mariah Carey - The Ultimate Diva in Popular Music and Culture? in Diva: Feminism and Fierceness from Pop to Hip-Hop. ed. by Fairclough, K., Halligan, B., Hodges Persley, N., Rambarran., S. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781501368257.
  5. ^ "diva | Origin and meaning of diva by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  6. ^ Time magazine observed in its October 21, 2002, issue: "By definition, a diva was originally used for great female opera singers, almost always sopranos."
  7. ^ Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera
  8. ^ Doane p.125
  9. ^ "Vamps, camps and archetypes: gay men, the diva phenomenon and the inner feminine" Archived September 4, 2009, at the Wayback Machine by Andrew Milnes (2002)
  10. ^ a b c d "Diva: criticism or compliment?". Welsh National Opera (WNO). Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  11. ^ Eskridge, Sonya (July 31, 2017). "The Diva Has Returned: Aretha Franklin Reveals Stunning Weight Loss". Hello Beautiful. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  12. ^ "Ariana Grande Opens Up About How Being Labeled A Diva F*Cked Her 'Up A Little Bit'". ELLE. 13 May 2020. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  13. ^ Bogursky, Sasha (October 16, 2013). "'The Voice' recap: Cher's diva antics exposed as contestants deliver intense performances". Fox News Channel. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  14. ^ "Christina Aguilera's 7 Best Diva Moments". Bustle. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  15. ^ a b c "Best Pop Divas of All Time". Live 365. August 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "Madonna: An American life". NBC News. April 29, 2003. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  17. ^ ""Glee" Stars Pick Their Favorite Songs for All-Madonna Episode". Rolling Stone. November 12, 2009. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  18. ^ "Meghan Markle and Mariah Carey Want To Reclaim The Positivity Behind The Word 'Diva'". Grazia. 31 August 2022. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  19. ^ Hirsch, Lily E. (2023). Can't Stop the Grrrls: Confronting Sexist Labels in Pop Music from Ariana Grande to Yoko Ono. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 146–148. ISBN 9781538169063.
  20. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (15 May 1992). "Diva". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  21. ^ Promis, Jose F. "Funky Divas – En Vogue". AllMusic. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  22. ^ "Rap-Up TV: Bangladesh Reinvents Kelly Rowland And R. Kelly". Rap-Up. 2010-07-12. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  23. ^ "[스크랩] 2010 년 가온 차트 부문 별 Top 100 위 <국외>". TVXQ. Archived from the original on 17 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  24. ^ Golby, Joel (17 August 2019). "Diva Forever: can a new reality show reveal the real Gemma Collins?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  25. ^ "Gemma Collins: Diva Espana - what time is it on TV?". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 24 April 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  26. ^ "A fun read? Towie's Gemma Collins discusses her new guide to being a diva". The Irish News. 5 July 2018. Archived from the original on 30 October 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  27. ^ a b "VH1 Divas Live at 20: A Look Back at the Major Music Moment That Almost Never Happened". E!. 16 August 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  28. ^ a b, Staff (April 3, 2016). "All-new WWE Women's Championship introduced at WrestleMania". Retrieved April 4, 2016.