Divas, They're Just Like You and Me
Do you demand only
the finest 1000 thread count Egyptian Cotton sheets or require that your
bath be drawn only with bottled spring water? Do you insist that your coffee
be stirred only counter‐clockwise? If so, then, like many celebrities,
you're a diva. Are you surprised to learn that you don't need to be famous
to be a diva? Don't be, because divas, they're just like you and me.
By David Desmond,
Author of The Misadventures of Oliver Booth: Life in the Lap of Luxury
Like many Americans who try to stay tuned in to the popular culture, I rely
on a number of sources for all of the latest gossip. Now, some celebrities,
despite their fame, can come across as sympathetic characters. On the other
hand, take Madonna. Apparently she's getting divorced, and that's probably
sad, but a recent item quoted a Swedish pop star named Robyn, who had been
invited by Madonna to open a handful of her European shows. Robyn had been
excited to receive the invitation until she was informed that she and her
crew were forbidden to approach Madonna, speak to Madonna, or take any
pictures of Madonna. In response, Robyn said that, "My worst nightmare would
be to turn into Madonna."
Certainly, it's difficult to know if anecdotes like this are true unless one
experiences the wrath and disdain of a celebrity personally, but so many
incidents like this have been reported that one begins to wonder whether
fame can change one's personality.
The (mis)behaviors of divas fall into two realms, the personal and the
interpersonal. In the realm of the personal lie the luxuries and freedoms to
which these special people feel entitled. During the making of the
box‐office bomb Basic Instinct 2, for example, Sharon Stone's demands
included three nannies, two personal assistants, a private chef, armed
bodyguards, and travel by private jet. Why armed bodyguards? Well, perhaps
they were needed to fend off the hordes of plastic surgeons whose services
she has vowed she would never use. The truly boundary‐crossing misbehaviors
of divas lie in the interpersonal realm, however, because, for some reason,
they seem to feel that the appropriate response to unsatisfactory behavior
by one of their minions is the throwing of a cell phone. We have seen this
from the Australian actor Russell Crowe, the former supermodel Naomi
Campbell, and somebody named Foxy Brown.
What are some of the red flags that can help us spot celebs in the throes of
divadom? How about speaking of oneself in the third person ("P. Diddy is not
pleased with the price of jet fuel")? Developing an English accent for no
apparent reason (Madonna once again)? The use of the fatal phrase, "Don't you
know who I am?" (all of them). Yes, those and so many other behaviors can
serve as red flags,
but we should primarily be alert to our own feeling that we become lesser or
even nonexistent mortals on those rare occasions when we might find
ourselves in a celeb's company.
So are these behaviors a consequence of our era of media saturation? Has the
constant scrutiny of the media through the Internet, the tabloids, and the
celebrity obsessed TV shows created a generation of monsters, or are they
just more visible now than they were in the past? Elizabeth Taylor was
certainly recognized as being a diva many decades ago. As Bette Davis once
said, "The real problem with Liz is that she bought the little lost princess
image invented for her at MGM." In a similar vein, I recall an anecdote in
which Frank Sinatra was standing in a crowded party tent and decided that he
would like to leave. Instead of simply remaining patient and proceeding in a
leisurely fashion to the exit, he took out a switchblade, cut an opening in
the tent, and walked out. Back in the 80s, the rap group Public Enemy
released a song called, "Don't believe the hype." The problem with many of
these divas, both past and present, is that they not only believe the hype,
they believe that it's fact.
Perhaps to the same extent that we admire celebs because of their
accomplishments, we also feel a secret thrill when they're punished for
their moral failings. Celebrity is a double‐edged sword, and more often than
not, an ascendance into the public eye, sometimes for little or no obvious
reason (Paris Hilton, of course, sets the standard), is matched by a
similarly precipitous decline through rehab and onto the set of Celebrity
Fit Club. If these shooting stars knew in advance that their fame would
require a Faustian bargain, would they opt out of the deal? Probably not,
because the glare of the flashbulb can be quite seductive.
Because we're all human beings with both higher aspirations and certain
baser instincts, we need celebrities. When they're on the rise, they make us
feel better about ourselves because they show the heights to which anybody
can ascend given the right opportunities and a modicum of talent (or in some
cases no identifiable skills at all). Conversely, when celebrities crash and
burn, they help us to feel better about ourselves because we haven't yet
become dysfunctional enough to end up in that predicament.
While some might suggest that I should leave the analysis of celebrities'
psyches to Dr. Phil, I should note that in addition to being a writer (by
the way, check out my new satirical novel The Misadventures of Oliver
Booth: Life in the Lap of Luxury if
you want to have some fun at the expense of the self-obsessed), I'm a
licensed clinical psychologist, so perhaps I can offer a few worthwhile
insights into their oftentimes ridiculous behavior. In general, I do not
believe that fame creates divas. Instead, I believe that certain people have
a predisposition to narcissistic, exploitative behavior that becomes
unleashed when they're provided with the power and freedom of celebrity.
That same behavior might be demonstrated by any one of us if we were given
the same opportunities. Divas, you see, they're just like you and me.
©2008 David Desmond
Born in New York City, David Desmond is a
clinical psychologist and a member of the renowned Trump family. He is a
graduate of the University of Chicago with a degree in the behavioral
sciences, and he received his PhD from Fordham University. He resides in
Palm Beach and Paris. David is the author of the new book, The
Misadventures of Oliver Booth: Life in the Lap of Luxury.
For more information please visit www.oliverbooth.com.