Book Review -- Divas, Inc by Donna Hill
I remember reading a quote about the use of the word “diva” to describe black women. I don’t remember it word for word, but essentially it said that when a woman proves herself to be powerful, ambitious, and successful, the world calls her a Diva. When a man does the same thing, he’s called a Genius. That was at least six years ago. But, since then, I don’t think I’ve been able to encounter the word “diva” as attached to the name of a powerful woman without thinking, “backhanded compliment.” So, at first, I didn’t know what to say about all of the contemporary black fiction featuring Divas, and their accompanying “divatude.” But, backhanded compliments aside, I recommend Divas, Inc.
Delicious Diva Tip Number 1: “Always wear sexy underwear even if you are just cleaning the house – you never know who may stop by.”
The star of this book isn’t a Diva. Margaret Drew is more of a sidekick at first, or a Diva-in-Training. However, her two best friends since childhood, Tiffany Lane and Chantel Hollis are both “bona fide divas” with the looks, the wardrobes, the careers, the clout, and the confidence that Margaret lacks. And covets. And that’s how Margaret’s advertures begin. When Tiffany and Chantel go to Europe for six weeks – without even asking Margaret if she wants to go – Margaret uses her position as appointed apartment-sitter and dog-walker as a chance to get into their closets and their lives. She wants to see how they do it. She wants to be just like them. She wants to belong to Divas, Inc.
Delicious Diva Tip Number 3: “Your hair is your crowning glory. If you can’t get to the salon, invest in hats, scarves, and hair accessories.”
No, I’m not kidding. Tiffany and Chantel really do belong to a group called “Divas, Inc.” With its international membership, custom manuals and training sessions, and exclusive networking opportunities, Divas, Inc appears to be the cross between a snotty, upscale sorority and a professional career-advancement association. But while Tiffany and Chantel are well-respected members, Margaret is just a crasher. She can’t afford for anyone to find out that she’s just faking it. (Her efforts to pass, undetected, as a Diva-imposter, as you may have guessed, drive the plot.) Margaret feels that she doesn’t really belong. At the same time, she can’t help being intrigued, and using some of the Divas, Inc., rules, she manages to improve her career and spice up her love life.
Delicious Diva Tip Number 7: “If you really want to get ahead at your job, do the work, come early, stay late, but never take on more than you can really handle.”
Margaret also discovers that the entire organization is run by a woman known as the “Grand Diva.” Margaret wonders about the identity of this mysterious woman, and only “meets” her at the end of the novel. Unfortunately, I knew who the Grand Diva was less than halfway through the book, so I was annoyed that Margaret was so slow.
Overall? I found the book funny and entertaining. It was, literally, a page-turner–I could not wait to see what happened next. But there were a few drawbacks. The most obvious was the Diva theme itself. Even though part of being a Diva meant having drive and self-confidence, I though that some of the tips were frivolous and unrealistic. (See Diva Tips, numbers 1,2,3,4,6, and 9.) Besides, why perpetuate the myth that black women have to be "Divas" with overpriced clothing and fancy cars in order to succeed? And why would Margaret have to do so much lying and sneaking around in order to learn a handful of simple life lessons? (I mean, she could have just asked someone, or read a self-help book.) How was it even possible that Margaret grew up without encountering these secrets to success, while her two best friends had the "inside track" all along?
So, there are a few things that Donna Hill doesn’t explain, and a few loose threads in the story that are never tied together. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good read. And like Margaret, I bet there are a lot of Divas-in-Training out there who could learn something from the Diva Handbook. This one was my favorite:
Delicious Diva Tip Number 15: “Most of all, have fun and take charge of your normal life. Surround yourself with people of like minds and determination. There’s nothing worse than getting to the top and having no one to share it with.”