Welcome ‘The Queens of Pop: Viva La Diva’

Saturday: The Queens of Pop: Viva La Diva; (BBC Two, 9.30pm)

Friday, 6th August 2021, 5:00 pm

When you think of the creme de la creme of the world’s musicians, who springs to mind? Prince, perhaps? David Bowie or Elvis Presley? Maybe Buddy Holly or Freddie Mercury? Undoubted rock and pop deities they are, to a man.

For women in the music industry, as with almost every other facet of life, things are different. None of the first 25 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame during its inauguration during 1986 were female; Aretha Franklin became the first a year later.

Of course it has changed now, with a liberal sprinkling of female artists among the list of the great and good, but it throws an important point into sharp relief: when a male musician achieves superstardom, they are dubbed a rock god, a rebel, or maverick genius. They have control over their career direction and image, while their behaviour – no matter how arrogant or offensive – has in the past been shrugged off as ‘what happens in showbiz’.

Scissor Sister and BBC Radio 2 presenter Ana Matronic

However, when a female star achieves global success, she is saddled with the term ‘diva’, which has all sorts of negative connotations.

Scissor Sister and BBC Radio 2 presenter Ana Matronic believes it’s time to reclaim this word and in this insightful documentary she dives into the lives and legacies of five female musical legends, unpicking their triumphs and tragedies to get a better understanding of what makes them stand out from the crowd and puts them on the same level as – or above – many male legends.

Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter has gone from feisty girl-group member to fierce goddess, striding the world stage with the supreme confidence of a woman who was born to inspire millions, making sublime music and proving she’s got a head for business as well as a decent tune.

Cherilyn Sarkisian, better known as Cher, is also a firm fixture in the goddess firmament, and has enjoyed a near-60-year career, winning an Oscar and proving retirement is for wimps along the way.

Grace Beverly Jones is possibly the scariest of Ana Matronic’s profilees, but take your eyes off her at your peril. An eccentric and accomplished singer, model and actress, her fearsome behaviour has raised many eyebrows and generated plenty of headlines but she remains utterly fabulous.

Mariah Carey shot to fame thanks to her frankly astonishing voice and quickly established her star quality both on and off the stage, cementing her status by appearing among the glittering line-up for three fundraising Divas concerts.

Finally, Madonna Louise Ciccone, the scrappy upstart from Michigan whose ambition propelled her into the public eye in the early 1980s. She has stayed there ever since, reinventing herself time and time again over a 40-year career.

Ana Matronic’s exploration into each of these astonishing women’s lives reveals how there is so much more to being a diva than demanding to have strokable puppies in their dressing rooms, or being the ones calling the shots when it comes to their music and image.

The presenter also sets out her vision of what a ‘diva’ might look like in the future, and we can’t wait to find out what she comes up with.

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