When I hear the word ‘diva‘, it’s usually an image of Madonna insisting a new toilet seat is installed wherever she performs or Mariah Carey refusing to enter a hotel without a red carpet being laid out for her that springs to mind. The Latin word for ‘goddess‘ has certainly evolved over time, and what was once a word referring to a celebrated opera singer has slowly mutated into a term that’s only ever really used to describe somebody (let’s face it, usually a woman) who is egotistical, unpredictable and, quite frankly, difficult.
Well, the V&A have decided to eradicate those negative connotations with their latest exhibition, DIVA, which is here to reclaim the narrative and showcase what it truly means to be a diva. Kate Bailey, curator of the exhibit, says: “we had to think about this word, ‘diva’, which is so omnipresent, and how and why it became negative when it started as a statement of creative power”.
The immersive, audio-visual exhibition will span two centuries and celebrate the trailblazing performers who have broken boundaries, challenged the status quo, and used their voices and platforms to encourage social and political change.
The exhibition will showcase 60 looks and more than 250 objects and artefacts (from fashion and photography to costume and design) and will be accompanied by a captivating audio journey that will be triggered (through a pair of elegant headphones, might I add) as visitors move between the displays, making it a truly sensory experience. The exhibit will be spread across three acts: “Act One is the history, Act Two is the thematic, and Act Three brings together the stars.” shares Bailey.
Expect to see legendary looks that have been worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, Cher, Lizzo and SO many more beloved figures that have challenged societal norms.
From the very first divas to the divas of today: no diva is left uncelebrated. This exhibit is a love letter to the performers who paved (and continue to pave) the way for the next generation of strong, creative, barrier-breaking divas.
DIVA will run until April 7, 2024.
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