The Algebra Of Being A Diva

English: Opera singer Olive Fremstad

Hey “Diva”, You’re No Olive Fremstad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term diva has become fashionable in pop culture. Shirts, jewelry and bumper stickers are all available to help one declare herself a diva.

Ahh, and there lies part of the problem with diva-dom, the self-assigning of diva status.

My understanding of the word is that it comes from the world of opera. Diva was a term used by others to describe an immensely talented female performer who displayed temperamental behavior. Opera producers and fellow performers put up with outbursts and unreasonableness for the privilege of working with a gifted performer.

Diva’s Downfall

The meaning of the term has degraded in recent years. It started being applied to pop stars who prove that talent is not a prerequisite for getting a recording contract. The talent requirement eroded. That is when the trouble started.

When the term got tacked on to performers of questionable talent, those whose gifts were even less significant took note. They felt free to call themselves divas. This cycle of devaluing talent continued down the short road to those who had minimal talent. Minimally talented, self-assigned divas validated decisions by those who totally lacked talent to declare themselves divas.

Algebra Equation

Algebra. I won’t waste your time telling you how good I was at it. (Photo credit: Evelyn Saenz)

So now we have a word, diva, that has moved away from its meaning. Today’s “diva” is unrecognizable to most because of the factor of missing talent. Where the diva of the past knew that it was simply understood who and what she was, today’s diva must endlessly tell others. She tattoos it on her arm (or worse, her neck), emblazons it on her 10-year-old Pontiac, buys jewelry that declares it.

Diva By Numbers

I’d contend that if you’ve got to tell me you’re a diva, what you’re really telling me is that you’re misusing the word. Let me define the word diva as a math problem to sharpen my point:

e – t + (d/w) = diva


e represents exceptional talent

t represents temperamental behavior

d represents desire to enjoy the talent

w represents willingness to put up with her crap

The wonders of algebra prove that being a diva is a balancing act. Being a pain in the butt is counter-balanced by the exceptional talent, the desire of others to enjoy that talent and their willingness to deal with negative behavior to do so.

Now let’s examine the equation that represents the more modern, pop culture diva:

t/w = diva

The formula for the new diva is simpler. Temperamental behavior divided by the willingness of others to put up with her crap equals a diva. Where is the difference in these two equations? Talent is no longer there. Without talent, how willing is the average person to put up with difficult behavior from another person?

I’d have to say that average person is not very willing at all. I should know. After all, who is more average than me?

But wait, there is more. I recall that my algebra teacher said something about reducing fractions to their least common…least common something or other. T/W (or temperamental behavior divided by willingness to put up with it) is a fraction that we can reduce. When we do, we find that:

p/z = diva

where p is being a pain in the butt and z represents that folks have zero desire to put up with such a person


a pain in the butt = diva

Based on that indisputable math, we can reach the following conclusions:

  1. If you know you are a pain in the butt, you might try to label yourself a diva;
  2. If you are calling yourself a diva, we all know that is simply code for pain in the butt;
  3. Being a diva or a pain in the butt is not an excuse for poor behavior.

Give It Up, “Diva”

Yes ma’am, we are on to you. The rest of us see what you’re doing, just as we see right through your counterpart, the gentleman who tattoos “only God can judge me” on his bicep. You’re making a pitiful attempt to exempt yourself from the rules the rest of us play by. Unfortunately, all you’ve accomplished is letting everyone know that you intend to act the fool.

Thanks for the warning.

The difference between you and the rest of society is that you believe that we not only respect you for “keeping it real” enough to put the world on notice that you are rude, but we are willing to tolerate you because you wave your little diva flag.

Well we don’t, nor do we tolerate you.

Get over yourself and be nice; you might get somewhere.

And lose the neck tattoo.

Related Algebraic Post On Blurt

The Algebra Of A Compliment


39 Comments on “The Algebra Of Being A Diva”

  1. Thank you, I feel so enlightened. I’ve met the divas with talent, and there’s no question they’re divas! I’ve met a few prima ballerinas who were definite divas, and you did have respect for them because they blew everybody away. Yep.

  2. e – t + (d/w) = diva

    I’m having that tattoo’ed on my neck.

  3. List of X says:

    I think your algebra may be off: when you go from “p/z = diva” to “p=diva”, it only works when there is exactly 1 person unwilling to put up with her crap (z=1). And the more people are unwilling to put up with her, the smaller is the diva value.

  4. My mom’s Doberman was named Diva. Nobody argued with her about wither or not she was one (my Mom or the Dob).

  5. Laura says:

    That wasn’t aimed at me, was it? Because you may have misread my neck tattoo. It says “divan”, in honor of my twelfth-favorite piece of furniture.

    • omawarisan says:

      Mine says davenport, after what my grandmother called the couch. But it is in Chinese characters so you can’t read it. I’m sure that’s what it says though.

  6. I agree, when people say they are “keeping it real” they are just using it as an excuse to be rude. (this entire post was about me, wasn’t it?)

  7. Blogdramedy says:

    By labeling yourself a diva, you are ensuring the success of Bravo’s new reality tv show: Diva Diving. Like Dumpster Diving but with more trash.

  8. Katie says:

    Only a diva would write something with this much math.

  9. My left foot thinks it’s a diva.

  10. Z.N. Singer says:

    Should’t Diva’s be able to be male then? According to the strict definition. Wasn’t Steve Jobs a diva then? He wasn’t very nice, but he was a visionary in the tech field, sure enough. I’d say the personality to talent equation holds up very well here.

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh yeah. Italian has a male form of the word, divo – pronounced like the band, but spelled different.

      Men absolutely can be the same sort of person, but I don’t see the same self labeling there.

  11. I am off to tell my daughter that she can actually use algebra one day. Thanks for proving the value of education!

  12. knace says:

    We once had two employees (unfortunately at the same time) who referred to themselves as Diva and you were right, they were horrible. Then one day as perhaps could only be expected, there was an epic diva battle and a phlebotomy tray was thrown across the lab. Then they were fired and we had a potluck later that week to celebrate. But one them had an incredibly offensive neck tattoo. -so offensive I don’t think it would be ok to share here on your gentle blog. I always wondered why anyone would get such a horrible thing tattooed on their neck. And now I understand. I learn so much from your blog!-

  13. pegoleg says:

    I was the weird one who was geeked when we had story problem day in Algebra class. This is why. This right here.

    My biggest guilty pleasure is watching the show “Toddlers & Tiaras”. (I know – don’t judge.) Almost without exception, the mothers of these little beauty queens refer to their offspring as “divas”. In this case, at least, “diva” is code for “obnoxiously pampered and spoiled monster whose parents have long since given up any semblance of control over or attempt to raise to be a polite, productive member of society.”

  14. Debbie says:

    I was doing good here until you brought in algebra. I see mathematical equations and my eyes glaze over. But you’re right — diva is an opera term and should have stayed there. Tattoos on the neck? Not a fan.

  15. Once I saw a guy on the subway who had a dagger tattoo on his neck. A male diva or a warning?

  16. adixon210 says:

    Some of the worst human beings I’ve ever met were known to say “Don’t hate me because I’m a diva” (before I roundhouse kicked them in the throat).

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