*What qualities does a woman need to possess to be a diva? As a man I can honestly say I do not know, but judging by the “Dynasty” episodes my mother would watch I can only speculate it has something to do with having a major attitude and an affinity for spontaneously smacking the taste out of someone’s mouth.
But after EURweb.com’s Lee Bailey spoke with actress, singer and philanthropist Sheryl Lee Ralph, over lunch, we quickly realized being a diva was far more than that.
The original “Dreamgirl” has been the catalyst for the Diva Foundation and the Divas Simply Singing event for 20 years. By the time we were done we were thoroughly educated in diva-tude, and the great works performed by Sheryl Lee Ralph’s foundation.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since we have been singing,” said Ralph referring to her annual event coming up this Saturday, Oct 9th. “I’ve been nothing if not consistent in bringing to the stage some of the best and most talented people. I also remember I brought this group to the stage in the 3rd or 4th year called Wild Orchid. They did it for about 2 to 3 years and I used to tell people to watch out for the blonde white girl in the middle because, trust me, she’s going somewhere. I said she needed to get a new look, that girl became Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. I remember having a 6 year old Raven-Symone on stage with me and I said ‘Baby, all you have to do is take a few classes, watch your money and you could be a millionaire.’ Did she take my advice or what?”
Sheryl also recalled a former teenaged actress diva’s early troubles and predicted her current, unfortunate circumstances.
“I remember telling people that little Lindsey Lohan was going to jail, and everybody just laughed and laughed,” she remembered. “I told them ‘Y’all can laugh all you want, but somebody better love that girl before she goes to jail.’ It’s a real personal relationship between me and the Diva’s audience and they were like ‘How did you know,’ and I was like ‘How could you not.’ It’s so sad. We’re seeing mental illness right in front of us and people want to laugh and make fun.”
From the types of pseudo-divas that are plastered on reality television shows on nearly every network it would seem as though being a diva has something to do with being a spoiled brat and an anti-social narcissist, but that’s not the epitome of being a diva. In fact that has very little to do with being a diva. According to Sheryl, the bad behavior we witness on television is indicative of personal imbalance of these so-called celebrities.
“A lot of people get to a certain amount of money and all they want to hear is yes,” she explained. “They don’t have anyone to say ‘maybe should do this, or maybe you should do that.’ They don’t want to hear that. All they want to hear is yes. Then they get a lot of bad habits that some people want to glorify and it turns into an issue. Some things just break people’s brains. A lot of people should not drink because it breaks their brains, a lot of people cannot do drugs because it breaks their brains, some people cannot be stressed because it breaks their brains and some people cannot be locked in small spaces because it break their brains.”
The world of the entertainment industry is filled with people that are “broken”, but these very same people are responsible for what is now considered great television and entertainment. After hearing Ms. Ralph break that down we had a better understanding of what a diva was not. But what we can say is that Sheryl Lee Ralph is officially a diva just off G.P. After all, her Diva Foundation started drawing attention to the plight of people living with HIV and AIDS back when it was still considered a “gay” disease. Today 41% of new HIV and AIDS victims in the United States are African Americans, or of African descent. After listening to what she had to say next we understood that a diva has to be able to tell it like she sees it, straight no chaser.
“In all these years of dealing with people with HIV and AIDS I have come to realize there are several reasons why people of color are more prone to some of these issues,” she explained. “There are several reasons like low self-esteem, poverty, lack of information, we have got to get ahead of the curve. When we first started to do this event 20 years ago nobody wanted to talk about the gay community, which was being ravaged by the disease at the time. Everybody thought I was crazy because I cared, but all I saw were humans. I think that if we cared more about this then we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now. Twenty years later there’s still silence. Look where we are now. Now its effecting a lot of women, and a lot of women that look just like me. For 20 years I’ve been able to fill that stage with some of the best talent ever.”
There are now more than a few charitable organizations and events that have annual fundraisers fueled by celebrity involvement, we would guess it’s pretty easy raising money for this monster of an ailment, right?
“Oh hell no. It’s hard! It’s hard raising this money for HIV and AIDS,” said Ralph. “I got into this business because I cared. Some people got into the fight because they loved these people, others got into the fight and made it their business. Twenty years later I’m still doing this because I expect people to care, I expect people to come to the stage and perform with the best of their abilities. But no baby, that ain’t the way it goes. Though I’ve raised millions of dollars exponentially by getting celebrities involved and having them go out and raise money, but I have had to learn that it’s all a business.”
Diva’s Simply Singing has featured some of the most talented women in the entertainment industry and this year is no different. Divas, divas everywhere.
“Sharon Stone did the show, Whoopi Goldberg did the show, Nancy Wilson, the black one and the white one, did the show. Angie Stone, before she was Angie Stone, Brownstone, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams,” said Ralph of her past diva participants. This year is going to have it going on as well.
“Jodi Whatley, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Lewis and Tina Marie is going to debut her daughter that can really, really sing. Naturi Naughton from “Lottery Ticket.” She’s a beautiful little lady. She couldn’t be nicer. If that’s all that we had it would be a great, great show but there’s much, much more. Halle Robinson-Peete is going to be singing this year. Do you remember she used to sing in ’21 Jump Street’?”
A Los Angeles Times reviewer once said of Divas Simply Singing; “It’s a wonder why this event…so much more
entertaining than any other number of television variety shows, has not made it to the tube.” With the aforementioned acts mentioned we will second the assertion of the L.A. Times. But not to worry, thanks to new media the event will be broadcast all over the world.
“It’s Saturday October 9th at the beautiful Saban Theater, used to be the Beverly Wilshire Theater,” the diva told EURweb.com. “We’ve got a brand new website we’re launching www.divaswhocansing.com. Tickets are on sale now. We stream part of it on Holy Connection Live, and we have a huge audience for divas in Europe . They love the concert.”
If you can’t make it in person, you can also support the divas by logging on to www.holyconnection.tv where it’ll seen live.
At the start of this interview we were not certain as to what a diva is, and we’re still not very clear on what qualifies one to be a diva. But we can honestly say a diva likely looks something like Sheryl Lee Ralph.