Diva (//; 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 woman, 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, the feminine of the Latin word divus (Italian divo), someone deified after death, or Latin deus, a god.
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).
Women are often referred to as a "diva" if they are "difficult, temperamental and demanding". Welsh National Opera note that the title emerged in the early 19th century after an increase of female leading sopranos who became "almost became goddess-like in the eyes of their adoring public". 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".
Many pop stars have been labelled as divas in the media, including Aretha Franklin, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Cher, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, among many others. On top of this, others performers have been called "ultimate diva" by popular press, such as Madonna or Mariah Carey.
Multiple female artists and bands have also released albums and songs either titled or containing the word "diva". These include Annie Lennox, En Vogue, Beyoncé and Sarah Brightman. English media personality and businesswoman Gemma Collins is well known for her "diva persona". 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.
In 1998, VH1 debuted its first annual VH1 Divas concert with Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain. Some other artists who performed at later concerts are Whitney Houston, Cher, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and Destiny's Child. From April 1999, WWE used the term "diva" to refer to their female performers. In 2016 they discontinued this term becoming Women in WWE.
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- Time magazine observed in its October 21, 2002, issue: "By definition, a diva was originally used for great female opera singers, almost always sopranos."
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