The Humble Diva

“A true diva is graceful and talented, and strong and fearless and brave, and someone with humility.” -Beyoncé

It started when one of his sisters called my son a “diva”. He countered by asking what that even meant (though we were all quite sure it was not meant as a compliment). She couldn’t really explain.

A few days later, we had a discussion around the lunch table about the diva status of the “Disney Princess”. The debate centered around whether Ariel was a spoiled, ungrateful daughter, shirking her responsibilities, or if she really deserved the opportunity to pursue a “better” life out of the sea?

The Siren and the Submarine, Brittany Lopez Burton, 2023. When we are enticed by a dream that ends in our own destruction.

My son began to connect the dots: “Are you calling me an ungrateful princess?”

Needless to say, our trip to the DIVA exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London was well-timed. From the first Prima Donna to Beyoncé, we learned that, in general, the “diva” consisted of these criteria:

  • A woman (good news for my son)
  • Involved in the performing arts
  • By default, an advocate for women’s rights or other social issues.

Later, the definition of diva was updated by the Oxford English Dictionary:

Probably what my daughter was alluding to with reference to her brother 😉

The origin of the word diva comes from the latin word, divus, or divine. Similar to ancient greek goddesses, the women we encountered in the exhibition became bound to their new role, which carried with it restrictions and responsibilities that they could no longer back out of. Many lost their lives (some literally) when reaching what appeared to be the pinnacle of their creative work.

The Captive, Brittany Lopez Burton, 2023. When the rise to fame results in the loss of freedom.

So what exactly is the goal of our creative work? If we have poured a great deal of time and effort into our work, shouldn’t we hope that as many people as possible engage with it?

Consider this: (talk it over with a friend, spouse, or your children)

  • Why do we work? (“To earn money” is a valid reason, but is there anything beyond that?)
  • Is fame a good thing? A bad thing? Neither?
  • When you become famous, what do you give up? What responsibilities do you take on? Is this fair?
  • How can we keep from becoming enslaved to our work?

Please share your findings and thoughts in the comments!

To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for.” – Wendell Berry

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