By Bryan Guillette
You are beautiful in every single way
So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways
‘Cause what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
The word “diva” has a dictionary definition of either being a female opera singer, a female pop singer, or a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please, most often a female. In the times we are living in, the battle of the genders, rather than the sexes, is raging on. It is truly unfortunate that a battle is even being fought. A battle forces us to think that one side will win. The result does not favor equality. For too long of a time, it has fallen on women to fight their way to be equal to men. There are many influential women in our world who have fought, and more now who are fighting for all of us, for the equality of the human race, for love. Through the power of music, Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Kelly Clarkson are constantly teaching us how to remain true to ourselves, how to love each other, and how to be a diva, redefined.
Our shockingly sweet speaking, explosive singing star Christina Aguilera topped the charts with hits that say outright in the chorus that there is a price to pay in order to be with her and that one has to rub her the right way. Society would suggest, and probably be correct, that a man has to physically please this teenage girl so he can walk down the hall with her. It’s what the music industry was doing, pandering to hormonal teenagers, convincing them that sex sells. The songs highlighted the ideals that beauty really was on the outside. Christina was not about this life, not about this image, and not about using her voice to be that kind of girl. We learned this in 2002 with the release of the Stripped album. We found out from Christina that we were beautiful in every single way, that we deserve a night off from being who we appear to be, that we can “dirrty”, and that we have a voice within that just needs to be heard. Christina had a hand in writing the songs that were more geared towards being stronger.
And like any woman, Christina has had body image issues, but she has always been able to admit when she has felt uneasy, a true sign of bravery in a high-pressure industry. The best part of it? When faced with body criticisms, we know Christina loves her body when she can just shrug it off, admitting she loves her body, her lover loves her body, and she has a child who is happy. Finally, in the love vs. hate war that has engulfed our world as we know it, Christina released her song “Change” in the wake of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, FL. She cries for tolerance and equality through the lyrics, “Waiting for hope to come around, waiting for hate to be lost and for love to be found.” All proceeds from the song’s release on iTunes went to the National Compassion Fund, to aid those affected by the shooting. In these ways, Christina Aguilera has truly been our Genie in a Bottle.
Like Christina, the early part of Pink’s career was centered on society’s image of her and what a record company could to promote her image, without much say from her. The image was not something that Pink agreed with, and the music was still about relationships, but where we start to split off from the superficial, material desires of most girls, Pink got to tell men what she really wanted. Or from a breakup song, it wasn’t about it so much being a man’s fault, but calling him out for saying he’d change but not walking his talk. But it just wasn’t her. So, what did she do? She broke away from her portrayed image and dealt with deep-seeded issues that so many of us deal with, released in her album Missundaztood. In this album, we got to dive into issues that we didn’t have to read about in the tabloids: teen angst (Don’t Let Me Get Me), the effects of divorce (Family Portrait), teen drug abuse (Just Like a Pill), and how to cut loose on a Saturday night (Get This Party Started). Christina brings out our souls with her voice, while Pink practically commands us to acknowledge our pain and weakness, awakening our ability to heal and strength.
When it comes to body image, Pink’s hot button was pushed only recently when her own daughter (Willow), just six years old, showed her mother that society’s ideal image of a girl had poisoned her own self-image. When Willow randomly told Pink that she was the ugliest girl she knew, Pink was just beside herself. How could a six-year-old believe this about herself and why would she think it at such a young age? When asked why, Willow said it was because she looked like a long-haired boy. Pink made a Powerpoint presentation for Willow, showing her pictures of singers who were made fun of for the same reasons, including herself, and told her that she doesn’t have to change. The mission is to live your true self and help others to change so that they see more beauty. And in the fight towards equality and the pursuit of love over hate, Pink’s latest contribution to our hearts and sense of optimism is her song “What About Us.” This song is not about women or men. The song is about the billions of beautiful hearts we are, the unsolved problems we have, the children we have and still are ourselves who need to be loved. The song is about the big picture of how we all have issues, how so many of us feel silenced, how we live in a world of broken dreams and promises and that we have had enough. We want to be heard, we need to be heard. Pink makes us feel what we are afraid to feel, but the resulting feeling is always the same: hope.
Now, it isn’t much of a surprise that the first American Idol winner would have to conform to predetermined standards to portray an image put forth by a record label. Fortunately, for Kelly Clarkson, she had a hand in writing four of the songs on her first album “Thankful.” Christina didn’t have any, and Pink was a contributor to only one of her first songs. It seems as time went on, these women were coming along with some creative freedoms. Incidentally, Christina and Kelly contributed to “Miss Independent.” The thing is, while Kelly’s first album was a double platinum success, it still received mixed reviews. This could be because it was just the beginning for her, kind of like warming up at the gym before showing the world what you’ve really got. Such was the case for Kelly, who had unprecedented control of her voice and was already considered in expert singer, like she had been singing for longer than she had been alive. The most impactful aspect of Kelly’s music comes from the fact she is an emotional singer in a more obvious way than our other two divas, who make you experience emotions that result in others soon after. Kelly, especially when live, delivers what she is feeling, and you have no choice but to feel with her. And you feel like she is your best friend, giving you advice. When she wanted to “Breakaway,” you wanted to spread your wings and fly…hopefully with her as your bestie. When you had a bad day, you bet she cheered you up when she got you dancing in your car to “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” You channeled her to clean off your “War Paint”, and when you realized one of your past relationship conflicts was pretty petty, you forgave that person because you “were just a couple of kids trying to figure out how to live, doing it (y)our way.”
Kelly is one of the most casual and honest, yet politely so, divas of any generation. She is happy to be who she is, what she looks like, no matter what people have to say about it. When it comes to body image, it comes way more easily to her now than it did in her younger years. For a time, Kelly was quite depressed in her life, which is actually the reason she was skinnier. But because she was aesthetically pleasing, people assumed she was happy. From her song “Sober”, she picked out the line “pick out the weeds and keep the flowers” and took it to heart, continuing to live by it. She had so much negativity in her life, but also a lot of positivity and light. So, whether she is skinny one day or heavier another day, it doesn’t matter because it does not affect her talent, which is what got her to where she is today. And who she is also contributes to the movement towards equality that we continue to work towards. Kelly is the kind of person who just wants people to find happiness, to find love somehow, some way. For that reason, it’s no surprise when she maintains that she is for “straight rights, gay rights, white/black/purple/orange rights.” She cannot wrap her head around why anyone would not have right to choose who they want to marry, especially those who fight for our country’s freedoms, only to be denied those freedoms. When she sings, people can feel what she feels, and they have an honest feeling that she truly cares about anyone who is listening.
These three amazing, honestly emotional, powerful women of voice got the chance to make people feel all that emotion, three-fold at the 2017 American Music Awards. Kelly and Pink opened the show, singing together for the first time. With all the domestic and international terrorism, the political strife, the #metoo movement, and the unfortunate outrage over the annual Starbucks holiday cup…all of this that just keeps happening in our world today, these two emotionally commanding singers came together to sing REM’s hit “Everybody Hurts.” Together, they made us feel, even if only for a few calm and uplifting moments, all the hurt that we have been feeling all at once. We could hear it in their voices, see it in their faces that they felt it, too. And while we felt this massive sadness come over us, the combined power in this duet brought us the comforting knowledge that we are not alone and that the future will be bright as long as we know that. Later on, Christina carried on that message with her passionate tribute to the late diva Whitney Houston with songs from The Bodyguard. She reawakened the feelings we got from Whitney when she belted out notes that made us feel stronger. If we feel we aren’t being heard, Christina has the voice that makes us reach deep inside and realize we have a voice just as loud that deserves to be heard. When concluding with “I’m Every Woman,” the women and men were singing with Christina, remembering Whitney, remembering how strong a woman is and remembering how strong we all are when we come together in song.
Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Kelly Clarkson have come to redefine the diva. You never really see scandal in the magazines about these women any higher than a rumored feud because they have nothing to hide and no reasons to feel ashamed. There is no winning gender here, but these three women have collectively made a huge contribution to the movement that women can be strong. Women can be individuals. And women can be heroes to all. Christina, Pink, and Kelly are part of an ever growing collective of females that continue to shock and amaze us in the most profoundly positive ways. Oprah. Ellen. Cher. Rosa. Amelia. Maya. Madonna. Whitney. They are only a few of the long, growing list of real divas. A true diva is any person who stands out in the crowd, shining with the personality, confidence, and drive to be who they want to be without letting anyone stop them. By setting this example for all those who witness, a diva inspires strength, offsets loneliness, makes us believe in ourselves, and most importantly, brings us hope.