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Ariana Grande expertly dismantles the myth of the female diva

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Kayleigh Dray
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Ariana Grande 2020 Grammys

“I’m tired of seeing women silenced by it,” says Ariana Grande.     

He’s confident, she’s an attention-seeker. He’s the boss, she’s just bossy. And he’s a man who knows what he wants, while she’s a diva.

There’s no point denying it; the language we use to describe men and women is deeply sexist. And Ariana Grande, easily one of the world’s most successful musicians, is sick and tired of it.

Indeed, sitting down with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe to curate an At Home playlist for his radio show, Grande made a point of dismantling the double standards around antagonising women for being “divas” compared to the celebration of men as “bosses.”

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“The word diva gets thrown around when someone is successful in all the wrong connotations. It gets completely misconstrued,” said Lowe. “What it really is [the misconstruction] is it’s an insult to a strong female energy. That could be female energy in women or in men or in bi or in transgender. It doesn’t matter. That diva energy really is about taking control. That’s what I love about that word.”

Grande agreed with Lowe’s read of the situation, explaining: “[If someone is a diva, it] means they’ve got an opinion and a drive and artistic integrity. They’ve got something to say. It’s funny because you bring that up. I stopped doing interviews for a really long time because I felt like whenever I would get into a position where somebody would try to say something for clickbait or twist my words or blah, blah, blah, I would defend myself. And then, people would be like, ‘Oh, she’s a diva.’

“I was like, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’ Because I have an opinion about something that was an opinion artistically or if I am directing something, or if I have something to say regarding a choice that’s being made with my career or something, blah, blah, blah, it always was in the past manipulated and turned into this negative thing, whereas I don’t see that with men.”

Grande continued: “It’s like when men express their opinions or defend themselves: ‘Oh, he’s being a boss. Oh, he’s taking control.’ And yet, it’s just so not the same thing with women, which I hope we can work on fixing. 

“Of course, that’s not always the case. It’s not always that way. But it does make it kind of… it makes you want to quiet down a little bit.”

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Despite this pressure to be quieter and take up less space, though, Grande went on to explain that she’s doing her best to confront the problem head-on.

“I’m trying to also say, ‘fuck that.’ You know what I mean?” she said. “I’m tired of seeing women silenced by it. I think there’s this thing where we’ll hear something, or be, ‘Oh, she said this.’ And then it really sits with you. And you feel like, ‘Oh wow. Should I not express myself anymore? Should I not have this fight that I want to have any more? Should I just say, OK, and let it be?’

“And then it kind of fucks you up a little bit. Of course, it’s not an all the time thing. But it is definitely still prominent. But I’m trying to just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and let go of that trauma. Because I do have a lot to say, and I do enjoy talking to people. And I do want to do interviews and share with people, and not be afraid to be myself. 

“I’m working on becoming that.”

Ariana Grande has said seh is sick of being made to feel like a diva.

It has, of course, been a long time since Grande has given an extensive interview of any kind – which is something Lowe raised towards the end of their chat.

“If I may say, when you stepped away, though, you let your work do that fighting, which was really powerful,” he said. “It was like, OK, I could sit here and have 15, 20 conversations with people and try to navigate these murky shark-ridden waters and see if I can get something positive out of it. Or I could let this work resonates, sit, and hold the tone. And it did. And it has.”

“Thank you,” Grande replied. “I appreciate that. Yuck, sorry. I appreciate that a lot. Because it was a really difficult time to navigate. Even coming back, I did one interview last year or something. And I was still misquoted a little bit and then it totally fucked up everything I meant. It’s just so weird. It’s nice to feel…

“First of all, to hear you say that, I appreciate that. I’m glad that the work said what it needed to. But also just, it feels good to be like, ‘I want to talk to my friend Zane and not be afraid of the world for two seconds.’”

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Grande isn’t the only one who feels this way. A few years ago, a survey of more than 2,000 British women revealed that they wanted to see at least 20 sexist terms banned from our everyday vocabulary – ‘diva’ included.

From ‘hormonal’ to ‘ball breaker’, it was a definite case of terms of belittlement over endearment – with women insisting that the phrases undermined their strength.

Top 10 words women would ban:

  1. Hormonal
  2. Drama Queen
  3. Bitchy
  4. High Maintenance
  5. Hysterical
  6. Ball Breaker
  7. Diva
  8. Highly Strung
  9. Mumsy
  10. Princess

Keen to redress the balance, 72% of women added that they would like to see more often women described as ‘confident’, or ‘resilient’, and ‘courageous’ – just as their male counterparts would be.

Now that is something we can get behind.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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