Set the scene: Capri, Italy. The famed Ristorante Aurora. You’re enjoying an opulent, lazy dinner, probably wine drunk already at the late 11 p.m. hour, when you’re jolted out of your over-stuffed, over-imbibed stupor by a sudden loud blast of music. A sudden loud blast of Mariah Carey’s music.
And then—AND THEN!—in walks the emancipated butterfly, the imperfect angel, the elusive chanteuse herself, along with her fiancée James Packer. As one diner who witnessed this very scene, possibly the most blessed diner in all of the land, marveled to Page Six, “She literally had an entrance song.”
Yes, Mariah Carey literally had an entrance song to dinner on a Sunday night. More, Mariah Carey’s entrance song was one of her own.
Not only that, Carey’s music apparently played all night as she dined. Someone at her table asked for something more upbeat. The staff played “Fantasy.” Diners at the restaurant, because they are humans on this earth with taste and enough perspective to know when a god-honest miracle is happening in their midst, went crazy.
Yet the headline recapping this whole extravaganza, this borderline religious dining experience, confuses. It defies rationality. It is a negative headline. “Mariah Carey Takes Diva Behavior to a Whole New Level,” it says, suggesting that every single solitary thing that transpired on that Sunday night in Capri wasn’t a magical, spiritual, life-affirming experience for everyone involved.
Sure, Mariah Carey has taken her diva behavior to a whole new level. Assuming that level is the level that is called “the exact level that this goddess among us deserves.”
First of all, let’s not pretend that Mariah Carey and her entourage rolling into the same restaurant as you and insisting on playing her fabulous music while she literally sits right there for you to stare at is a nuisance. That qualifies in no uncertain terms as the greatest dinner on earth.
Find me someone who wouldn’t enjoy hearing “Fantasy” while they ate anyway, whether it’s at the Applebee’s down the street or at a fancy-pants restaurant in Capri. At any dinner, in any context, Mariah Carey’s music makes for great soundtrack. Fun for all!
But then, excuse me, have that music play while the Dahling Supreme herself is there? I’d imagine the only thing greater would be to take a time machine back to the shooting of her iconic MTV Cribs episode and cheers champagne flutes with her while cuddled together in the bubble bath.
Jimmy Kimmel, it turns out, beat us to that dream. Mariah Carey, purported diva of a whole new level, is clearly game to wink at that very notion.
Here’s the thing. The word “diva” is thrown around a lot these days. It’s thrown around when a female celebrity makes a demand. It’s thrown around when a female celebrity is late. It’s thrown around when they lick donuts. It’s thrown around, sure, when a female celebrity accomplishes something great. Heck, it’s thrown around merely to describe a female celebrity who exists.
The word has become trapped in misogyny that patrols successful women for, as that Page Six headline describes, their “behavior” and no longer brings with it any discernment—divas are divas because of their talent and the aura they give off, not because of their demands or actions.
Now it’s a lazy label. Jennifer Lopez elucidated this quite eloquently, explaining the difference in how she’s described and thought of if she holds people to high standards while producing on a TV set or in a recording studio versus men who might do the same. They have admirable creative vision. She’s a diva.
More, everyone’s a diva. You’re a breakout young star with your first record, you’re a pint-sized diva-in-training. Take home an Oscar, you’re an award-winning diva. Now it’s just a synonym for singer, actress, host, dancer, or performer.
As a description, then, it’s become somewhat meaningless. But Mariah Carey defies it as merely description. For her, it’s an embodiment. And we should celebrate that, dahlings. Lord knows she is.
For one, it’s something she’s earned two decades, 18 number ones, a breakdown, a comeback, and a legacy-defining Vegas residency into her career. The accomplishments of Mariah Carey and the being of Mariah Carey are both so impressive and fascinating that she may be the first person to announce a reality TV show about her life and not have it seem desperate or demeaning—despite what some vocal critics have said. Instead, it seems like a fabulous career move.
That’s because Mariah Carey is in on the joke of being Mariah Carey (which is not a joke but in fact a serious, beautiful, glorious thing). She’s turned her diva status into veritable performance art, seizing it from any sexist connotation or reputation-damaging liability.
She recently, for example, threw a party in which guests all dressed up as Mariah Carey. C’mon. That’s fantastic.
Following her divorce from Nick Cannon—a marriage with Cinderella-themed anniversaries—she got engaged to her current fiancée Packer, whom she described in a recent Complex article as “regular, normal person.” This is a regular, normal person who purchased a 35-carat diamond ring for his betrothed. His betrothed who is Mariah Carey.
She doesn’t suffer fools, which isn’t bad behavior but merely standards. She rarely stoops to full-on spats with fellow celebrities—the en vogue trend for Twitter-happy celebrities eager to speak their minds—though she has perfected the art of subtle shade. She not only embraces the “I don’t know her” meme, in which she slighted Jennifer Lopez by not even acknowledging her existence, let alone her talents, but contributed to its persistence on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live.
She, by the way, showed up to that Watch What Happens Live appearance after it had already begun airing, you know, live, and she somehow managed to make it endearing, excellent television. Did she make Andy Cohen completely reverse the set so that she was sitting at her best angle? Of course. But that’s somehow endearing, too. The whole evening is the perfect example of how being a diva, of course, is about brand management, which she does better than anyone.
She even spun the incident I almost hesitate to speak of—those disastrous isolated “All I Want for Christmas Is You” vocals at the 2014 Rockefeller Tree Lighting—into something iconic, setting up a holiday residency two years in a row in New York City and nailing that song, and every song, each night. When a Village Voice writer turned up at each night of the residency to review the experience of Mariah overload, Carey had enough humor to give a shout out to Hilary Hughes, the writer, during a show and say she loves it.
It’s all fun, which is what a diva is. In solidarity, I will cue up Daydream while I scarf down my Chinese food tonight on my lumpy couch. It’s not Capri, but it’s what I got. I hope you will join me.