Patti LaBelle says she is not a diva. I — wait, what? Really? I don't understand. Uh. Um. Well, if LaBelle, goddess-diva among mortals, says she isn’t a diva, I guess that means she... isn’t a diva? AUGH NOPE. CAN'T DO IT. DOES NOT COMPUTE. Uttering "is not a diva" after "Patti LaBelle" feels so wrong and unnatural and weird. I don't know if I'll ever get used to saying it. In an interview with PrideSource, LaBelle said, “That word is used so loosely that I don’t even consider myself a diva.” Have we ruined the word "diva" for real divas? Damn. When the interviewer mentioned that the term "diva" used to be respectable, she replied, "Well, for opera singers, and for ladies who earned it, but that was way, way back when."
The word “diva” comes from the Italian word diva, meaning “female deity.” LOVE IT. In English, it means "lead female opera singer." It can be used for celebrated, talented female vocalists outside of the opera house, too. It can also mean someone who is difficult or entitled (“diva” as a pejorative is my least favorite use). OH! I almost forgot: A diva also can be "the female version of a hustler.”
Cool etymology lesson, Rohwedder!
If not a diva, what does LaBelle consider herself? “A woman who sings her heart out and who gives 120 percent.” I like that. I wish there was a word for it, though. You know, for the sake of brevity. If only!
The “diva” discussion didn’t end there. The interviewer asked if she associates any negativity with the word, and LaBelle responded. Oh, did she respond. I wasn’t ready for her response. I don’t know if any of us could ever be ready for her response. Is the suspense killing you? Here’s what she said:
“Yeah, because all these little heifers who can't sing are called divas!”
Oh my god. Oh my god. PATTI LABELLLE!!!!! GOING FOR THE JUGULAR!!!! That is so salty. SO SALTY. I don't even know what to do with it. There’s a small, awful part of me that is like, Well, if you're going to go there, go all of the way and name names. I know, I KNOW. I’m terrible. Yes, it's for the best that she didn't list any names. Feelings would be hurt, and I don't want that. Plus, I know that if she did rattle off the names of the "little heifers who can't sing" I’d probably have to call out sick for a week. Because it’d overwhelm my entire immune system. Because IT’D BE PATTI LABELLE GIVING ZERO FUCKS.
She said that the word is meaningless to her “and probably to some of the other ladies who have been doing it for as long as [she has]: Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick.” LaBelle said she wouldn’t call any of those legendary singers divas “because it’s not in good company.”
Wait. I shouldn't call Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, or Dionne Warwick “divas” anymore?! THEY ARE THE DIVAS. "DIVA" STILL MEANS A LOT TO ME. THIS IS TOO MUCH FOR ME TO PROCESS. MY MIND CAN'T HANDLE THIS. WHAT IS ANYTHING?!?!?!?!