One thing’s for sure, we live in the age of the celebrity. Dirt on celebs behaving badly (or weirdly) is an ever-increasing market. We are fascinated with the intimate details of the rich and good-looking, their every indulgence has become fodder for worldwide satellite news. But celebrities are far from role models – they’re grand scale studies on the whole gamut of human behavior. Over the last few decades, the cult of celebrity has become the cult of celebrity psychopathy. The eclectic, the indulgent and the bizarre – celebrities have become our freak shows. From the kooky to the distasteful to the downright dangerous, we gobble up the spectacle of celebs like peasants on Coliseum game-day. So why do we love it? Does it reassure us that our own behavior is normal? Or do we enjoy living vicariously – seeing Hollywood divas get away with things we never could, seeing them make outrageous statements we only wish we could make? From Kim Kardashian’s butt cheeks to David Bowie’s backyard exorcism, here are fifteen diva celebrities who have taken things too far and given us all front row seats. You won’t believe the kind of crap they pulled!
The high queen of shock-value, Lady Gaga lives for the spectacle. Indeed, much of the mystique of Gaga is her self-created diva identity. The question of who is really behind the costumes and the persona has followed Gaga from the get-go. But the incredible artistry, imagination and plain fun inherent in most of Gaga’s costume choices seemed to miss the mark with the 2010 MTV Music Award meat-dress. Was it a lapse of judgment or just another episode of brazen boundary crossing? When it comes to costumes, it seems if it can be done, Gaga will do it. But this creepy cave-woman fetish was a slip into the realms of celebrity psychopathy – and definitely went too far.
The life of Whitney Houston and her tragic passing have been extrapolated on time over, but one thing is undoubtedly true – Whitney was one of the greatest divas the world will ever see. Despite her soaring voice and ensuing success, Whitney’s life was hampered by drug use. Sometimes if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. In 2002, we couldn’t help but have a giggle when she claimed she was too rich for crack: “Let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight, okay? We don’t do that. Crack is wack.” We will always love you Whitney, but the diva doth protest too much!
Hollywood stardom must get a bit slow from time to time, and sometimes a man gets the urge to reinvent himself and make it in the real world. After playing Jonny Cash to Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter in the hugely successful Walk the Line, freshly-minted Joaquin decided he had other strings to his bow. News broke that the star had decided to quit acting to pursue a career as a rapper. Filming his transformation in the documentary I’m Still Here over two years, it seemed like the new beard-sporting Phoenix was the real deal. That was, until it surfaced that I’m Still Here was in fact a mockumentary, and the whole thing had been a big, fat joke. A little awkward, a little embarrassing, kinda annoying, definitely too far. Luckily, Joaquin made a comeback as an actor not long after aside Phillip Seymour-Hoffman in The Master.
Where to start? Probably with the time in 1989 that the Pope banned Madge from entering Italy after that risqué “Like a Prayer” video. Burning crosses, kissing a black (scandal!) Jesus and showing a sizeable cleavage while doing it, Madonna certainly took things too far in the eyes of the religious right. A powerhouse of feminine rebellion who changed the course of pop-culture and pop-music, Madonna is arguably the ultimate diva who takes everything too far and come out the other side triumphant. At fifty-five she’s still ripped and getting around showing the same amount of flesh as ever. Girl Power.
The Kardashian family has managed to amass $300 million for little more than proliferating videos and photos of their lifestyle to the world. Together with her sisters, bootylicous Kim has certainly helped to kick some of the heroin-chic hangover from the 1990s. Curvy bodies are back and we love it – but are artificial curves just as unachievable for most people as the lack of them? In 2014, Kim revealed a brand new butt you could use as a table. That year, butt augmentation in the US in the went up a whopping 86 percent. Everyone can do what they like with their own behind, but has Kim gotten things a little out of proportion?
Now for something a little more serious. Former lead singer of the 80s punk-pop band Culture Club, Boy George is a diva in his own right. With his iconic long hair and luscious makeup, he set trends for drag queens and the eclectic for decades to come. Never one to fly under the radar, George took things way too far one night in 2007. After meeting online, George hired Norweigan model Auden Carlsen, to do a casual erotic photoshoot over at his place. However things deviated far from the script and ended in serious assault. Carlsen claimed he was left handcuffed to Boy George’s bed after being beaten with whips and chains. Later found guilty, Boy George was sentenced to fifteen months in prison, but only served four. Considering the severity of the assault, it would seem this diva got off lightly.
One of the most talented and unique icons of music, fashion and art that has ever existed, David Bowie was a boundary-crossing trailblazing glitter-onsie-wearing diva. Remembered for his endless creativity and individuality, we must remember that all true artists occasionally take things a little too far. Like say, the time in the 1960s when a cocaine-fuelled Bowie decided Satan was living in his swimming pool, and remedied this situation by holding an exorcism in his backyard. Too far? Or just the right solution? Either way, some things even legends can’t tame – Bowie and his wife quickly moved from the house. You can read more in Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie.
Yes, that time with Robin Thicke at the 2013 VMA Music Awards when Miley twerked her way into serious racial appropriation. Fresh-faced and full of spirit, what’s not to love about Miley’s laid-back attitude? The tongue, the buzzed hair – the rock-chick attitude? A lot, it turns out. Miley’s spirit of fun steam-rolled its way into some serious racial stereotyping, and the blogosphere spewed vitriol for months. The idea that celebrities must be held up to scrutiny and face the same cultural and racial accountability as anyone else an important lesson. At the VMA’s, Miley’s performance took what should have been good fun way too far.
Pint-sized musical goddess Bjork is known for being a little tetchy. Part of what makes her music so incredibly ambient is thanks to the strict routine she keeps backstage, including the insistence that every venue provide her with a masseuse or an acupuncturist before shows. While this is borderline understandable, the Icelandic singer’s episode in Bangkok in 1996 is less so. Upon greeting reporter Julie Kaufman, Bjork knocked her to the ground! She later claimed she acted out of protection for her nine year old son. Veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve also commented on Bjork’s behavior on the set of Dancer in the Dark in 1999. Towards the end of filming, Bjork decided to quit production without so much as an apology, leaving 35 dancers and Deneuve waiting on set at 6am. In The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve the actress notes that Bjork is “used to being the center of attention and wants to control it all.”
No surprises here. Kanye definitely takes many things too far, he’s had a ton of diva moments but for now let’s settle on the time he compared himself to God. Oh, and that the sweat of his brow must be wiped by $400 Versace towels. And that’s far from being the worst of it, he also reportedly requested for the studio he was working in to be taken down and rebuilt and to have the carpet of his workspace ironed. How ridiculous is that? Does a carpet really need ironing? While we’re at it, lets not forget that embarrassing time at the 2009 VMA’s when he couldn’t deal with losing to a girl and had to fight Tay-Tay for her trophy. Too far.
Long before Brad, Jen and Ang, it was the conservative year of 1959 and Elizabeth Taylor was in her prime in Hollywood. Her voluptuous body, sultry eyes and commanding presence meant she had every man under her spell. And the man she wanted just happened to be Eddie Fischer, the husband of her friend, Debbie Reynolds. Eddie left Debbie and their two young children to run into the sunset with Liz (arguably just as much his fault as hers). Liz broke the friend code, but Reynolds forgave the ultimate betrayal a few years later, saying: “Elizabeth wasn’t the kind of girl you should hate. She truly was a loving and giving person. You just had to make sure you kept your husband in the garage if ever she came to visit.”
Like Bowie, Prince was a diva of epic proportions that challenged stereotypes with his feminine costuming and left-of-field artistry. In 1992, Prince announced he would cease to go by his name, as he was changing it to a ‘love symbol’ which was a combination of the signs for male and female. Sound confusing? Prince wrote: “”It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency”. Spending several years under the awkward title ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’, Prince reclaimed his former name in 2000. A diva with the best intentions, this forward-thinker was always ahead of his time.
Ultimate man-diva of rock’n’roll, The Rolling Stones lead singer Keith Richards has seen some hectic times. Yet rockstars seem to get away with more eccentricities than just about anyone, if they live to tell the tale. This one comes under the plain bizarre: in 2007, Keith Richards reportedly snorted his Dad’s ashes along with a bunch of cocaine. He later amended the statement, saying he’d accidentally spilled some of the ashes and had snorted them since it felt wrong to throw them away. Either way, this one tips the balance of normal.
If we weren’t fooled by the rocks she got, we could well be by her slew of servants. Mega-star, self-made force of nature diva JLo came from humble roots, but her self-made empire now sits at $300 million. JLo is a creative force with some incredible achievements, like being the first Latin American woman ever to be paid over a million dollars for a film role. These days, this diva sports a staff of 75 people, including an eyebrow assistant and a coat carrier. She’s keeping people in business, but maybe not keeping it real.
There’s no denying the power behind the icy blue gaze of Dame Maggie Smith. From the kindly professor McGonnegal to prim and haughty Dowager Countess of Downtown Abbey, Maggie Smith has a long list of impressive credits behind her, and at 77, she reveals she’s got the clout that comes with it. After it got back to Maggie that US Producer Rebecca Eaton had described her as “difficult to work with”, Maggie promptly had her fired. And fired in the sneakiest of ways! By refusing to work with Eaton, well aware of her own star appeal, Mags forced the hand of the directors to choose between the two. A diva to the last.