BRUNO: Day of the Diva

From Delilah to Diana Ross, from Salome to Sade, and Helen of Troy to Madonna the Boy Toy, legendary, world-changing women have wielded their feminine power with greatness and relevance. But are they divas? Vanity, narcissism and ego have become synonymous with the word, but diva simply means "goddess." If you're a woman, you're a diva, and in the words of Diana "The Boss" Ross, "We is terrific."

You won't find many traditional Italian prima-donna divas like the unmatchable soprano Mirella Freni, but the world of divadom is vast. There are domestic divas, screen siren divas, digital divas, mountain-biking Dirt Divas of Charlotte, N.C., faux divas, (think RuPaul), political divas (Hillary springs to mind), living legend divas (Barbra Streisand, of course) and an unfortunate proliferation of flash-in-the-pan pop diva playmates. And then there's you and me.

We divas may not have everything in common, but we certainly share one need: a day off. 'Cause if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Whether you're a raging, disaffected housewife desperately in need of self-expression, an international celebrity with enormous emotional resources, or somewhere in between, every diva occasionally requires energizing. Marlene Dietrich, 1930s film goddess and ultimate Hollywood woman of mystery, said, "A man would prefer to come home to an unmade bed and a happy woman than to a neatly made bed and an angry woman." She may not be a modern-day feminist, but she understood the concept of divahood. So surround yourself with girlfriends and laughter, and get ready for D-day.

Dietrich's contemporary, Joan Crawford, once told Esquire magazine, "I think that the most important thing a woman can have—next to talent, of course—is her hairdresser." A recent survey in a popular ladies' magazine found that Joan was not alone, as 78 percent of women wish to pamper themselves with deluxe beauty and spa treatments. Professional treatments promise to cosset you in comfort, privacy and relaxation, and urge you to scrub away the dead weight of worry along with all that rough, dead skin. With oxygenated Roman baths, aromatic Swedish massage and rejuvenating Euro-aroma facial, the choices are countless. Why not try Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, which uses finger, palm and elbow strokes to massage away your aches and pains, or get a spa pedicure replete with walnut exfoliate and a relaxing paraffin wax dip? Get a full body seaweed wrap and release those toxins from your body. You can even get a facial on your back!

Maybe you don't subscribe to all this self-nurturing hooey. Detractors coldly label it "the New Age philosophy of enlightened selfishness." OK, I realize not everyone considers essential oils to be, well, essential. I'm not even suggesting you have to have your chakra balanced or sit for a session of Tibetan reflexology. Only you can design your idyllic diva day. But if you're not willing to clear your mind and seize one joyful, stress-free day, all the masseuses, estheticians, hairdressers and naturopaths in the world cannot help you.

Because I'm a diva's diva, having my toes painted petal-pink makes me crazy-go-nuts happy, but beauty treatments are not for everyone. American Demographics found that 36 percent of women consider shopping the ultimate pampering experience. So, if you can, finance those Jimmy Choo stilettos at the chichi foofoo boutique, or if you're more inclined, haggle your day away at the discount mall.

All divas should take a moment to read Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman." You'll ooze earthy, self-confident, feminine sexuality when you let her rhythmic verses get under your skin: "I am a woman, phenomenal woman, that's me." Need more help with body image or inner pride? Listen to some Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, the Diva of Divas. She makes us all feel like a natural woman as we admire this goddess of unapologetically ample size. Need some comic relief? Listen to comedian Camille West's new CD, "Diva's Day Off," and laugh your sassy ass off at songs like "Viagra In the Waters" or "My First Pedicure."

I've oft been accused of having an Oil of Olay budget and Estee Lauder taste. If you're a diva on a shoestring, run a deep, steamy bath filled with rose petals and lavender aromatherapy oil. Listen to the smoky, sultry stylings of Billie Holiday, the ultimate jazz diva. Drink a glass of buttery Chardonnay, or feast on your favorite Belgian dark chocolates without guilt. For cool, cerebral divas, read the New York Times over that fifth cup of mocha java, or watch the entire "Today" show without getting ready to go anywhere. Curl up on the couch with a first-class chick-flick or a current bestseller and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Brownie Batter ice cream, dozing occasionally with dreams for the next diva day.

It's your day, girlfriend. Don't waste it.

Diva Kathleen Bruno is a chef and a writer in Jackson.


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