Every few years, in some serendipitous way, the powers that be (better known as those who control the music biz) align the perfect combination of talent, beauty, charisma and style in a way that seems almost effortless … and a diva is born.
Liza Minnelli, Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand: talented performers are born but divas like these are created and the process is anything but effortless. It takes a team of experts getting together to create a strategy. They invest a lot of money and put countless hours into promoting their protégée.
In these days of pop culture explosions, it takes more than a Svengali-like Henry Higgins and an amiable muse like Liza Doolittle. Elocution lessons and a pretty frock are just the tip of the iceberg, although these are two very important pieces of the puzzle.
Just look at early interviews of Mary J. Blige and Rihanna before they polished the rough edges to become ravishing jewels, iconic with style that defines their essence. Blige blasts an edgy maturity and a depth in her voice that transcends other artists that have long since become "where-are-they-nows?"
Rihanna is one of the newest members of the diva club. With countless awards, magazine covers and a Cover Girl makeup contract, she is one of the few African American singers consistently covered in the fashion pages of the tabloids. She's a fashion fave for designers and Hollywood is sure to be calling next.
As one rises to the next level, another diva gets groomed to go into the fame machine. "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell discovered the next big thing on British TV talent fest "X Factor": Leona Lewis. The singer is bound to be big. Her father is Guyanese and her mother is Welsh. Her tawny features are as mesmerizing as her sultry and stirring voice.
Cowell saw big business with this diva du jour, so he quickly enlisted the master who created the career of the legendary Whitney Houston, the soulful Alicia Keys and "Idol" finalist/Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson — the incomparable Clive Davis.
Davis and Colwell have the power to turn Lewis into the next Mariah Carey. Lewis' first solo album is reminiscent of Carey's "Visions of Love." Her vocal range is similar and there is a charismatic rawness and eagerness that is as hauntingly memorable and similar to Carey.
But for every girl that graduates to diva-dom, there are so many that had the potential, the talent, the looks but just never broke the glass ceiling. There was the amazingly talented Deborah Cox, who had every sign of being on the fast track to super stardom. My friend Jordan Hill was discovered by David Foster, sang the theme for the "Casper the Ghost" movie and released a self-titled album. But is anyone other than me running for president of her fan club? I don't think so.
Can it just be destiny? What turns a Beyonce Knowles into the star as opposed to being just one of Destiny's Child? What makes Diana Ross more than a Supreme? Is it the sensationalism, the glamour, the story?
Perhaps. There has to be a story to create the legend that drives the press, which helps create the diva image. There is a huge amount of luck and a finite amount of determination, toughness and energy as well as the rest of the package you must posses to be a diva.
Jennifer Lopez had it from the first day I saw her behind the scenes of Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue cover shoot. She sparkled a little brighter than the other starlets. It's that "it factor" that took her from being a boogie down Bronx Fly Girl to being one of the most versatile celebrity entrepreneurs of our times. With several successful perfume, clothing and accessory lines as well as producing films, TV shows, hit CDs, concert tours and videos, she's not only a diva, she's also a mogul.
But surely, there's something less tangible than a label, a brand, or a perfume that secures one's spot in the Diva Hall of Fame.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Kelly Clarkson's flare up with her mentor and boss, the aforementioned Davis, may have killed her diva status forever. Janet Jackson's Superbowl nipplegate put the brakes on her fast and furious career. She shied away from the spotlight until the recent release of "Discipline."
I'm just waiting for Whitney Houston's comeback. We will see a flex of the star machine muscle at its most omnipotent. There will be talent, glamour, and humility wrapped into the perfect package. She has sold more than 170 million albums and garnered major box office success with "The Bodyguard," "Waiting to Exhale," and "The Preacher's Wife" — it's time for Whit to have another hit album.
Perhaps with every pop culture icon's misstep being splashed in our faces, the next generation will take note of the do's and don'ts of how to be a diva. So Leona, think Beyonce or Celiene when looking for role models, not Lindsay or Brit.