Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Maria Callas, who left behind not only an amazing body of operatic work but also the perfect template for a classic diva on a collision course with misery, reminding us that a “Diva in training” shirt on a little one isn’t really a good label.
Maria Callas was born Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos in New York City on December 3, 1923. She became a celebrated opera diva for her stunning voice and emotional delivery. But Ms. Callas died a mysterious, brokenhearted, lonely death in Paris in 1977.
While modern-day moms may think it’s cute and trendy to label themselves and their daughters as divas, wearing T-shirts or jewelry proclaiming it, the truth is that with being a great diva comes great misery and loneliness.
Perhaps that’s because while divas are fun to visit, nobody wants to live with them.
Callas’ life story could rival any opera. She lived with great passion, touched the heights and plummeted to the depths of emotion. She captured the attention of the wealthiest man in the world, Aristotle Onassis, only to lose him to the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
When Jackie became Jackie-O, that was the end of Callas, who became a recluse in Paris and died a mysterious death there at the age of 55.
Callas fit the classic definition of “diva” in the Etymology Dictionary Online: "distinguished woman singer, prima donna”; "goddess, fine lady”; "divine (one).” Callas was, in many ways, “divine” in the way she transformed her operatic roles into beings of such depth and beauty that they will live forever. To hear her sing was to touch grace.
However, today, the Urban Dictionary defines diva as, among other things “hustler," "princess," "vixen.” That second definition is what young women and teens emulate today.
Because of that second definition, anyone who calls herself a diva today via T-shirt, World Wrestling title, or music industry status had better take some time to learn about Callas, to see what it really means to live that lifestyle.
My mother was an immense Maria Callas fan when I was growing up. Seeing today’s Google Doodle, Mom, now 83, remarked, “she had the most gorgeous voice, but she had a temper. She deserved to be called a diva.”
When I saw Callas on the Doodle today, it immediately brought to mind the way society has begun to celebrate the worst qualities of the diva, being temperamental, snappish, haughty, and unreasonable, without realizing that living that way can cause you to end up heartbroken and alone.
When I was a little girl growing up in New York City, my mother broke me of my little diva ways using Callas.
Whenever I threw one of my monumental temper tantrums, my mother used to counter them by putting Callas records on and playing them louder than I could wail.
“If I have to listen to a diva, this is the one I want to hear making noise in my apartment,” Mom would tell me.
I would stop the tantrum because I started to listen to Callas and the music. You can’t listen to something that pure and be a brat at the same time.
While Callas had a temper, she also had a voice, drive, ambition, and natural beauty. It’s sad that so much of her legacy is tied to her temper and lost love.
Being a diva is great for the stage, but when it comes to life in your home or plastered as a label on the front of a child's shirt, it’s time to pay attention to the plot line we are writing for our kids and change our tune.