So fresh after its release, we caught up with Leman for a run-down on the inspiration behind the track. Take it away Madeline…
Reclaiming the ‘Diva’ and the power of female anger: Madeline Leman describes the inspiration behind her song Diva With The Fever of Change.
I have always identified with the term ‘diva’ but couldn’t articulate why. Post Me Too, I feel like this idea of a zero-fucks fierce female energy has reentered the zeitgeist and out of that came this song.
The Diva has historically been a pejorative term created by insecure men to suppress talented women by sullying their reputations. But it’s all just spin. Here is my translation of the Diva’s attributes.
Arrogant: fiercely believing in her talent and her charm
Egotistical: knowing who she is and what she wants
Demanding: getting what she wants by any means necessary
Opinionated: raising her voice and having her opinions heard
Attention Seeking: taking up the space that is usually occupied by men
Dramatic: theatrical, charismatic, interesting
The word Diva is derived from Latin and literally means goddess. So where did it all go wrong? The male ego, I can only presume. When the term was first used, women were starting to land leading roles and do headline shows and men couldn’t handle having to share the limelight. So they started labelling women ‘divas’ to discredit their reputation and their skill. There is no corresponding male word for diva because these attributes are simply those of a successful man.
In 2008, Beyonce joined the line of women starting to reclaim the term (Annie Lennox released Diva in 1992). But for me, a Diva is more than just ‘a female version of a hustler.’ As in all things women have to work harder, dig deeper, think bigger. To me, the Diva is the embodiment of what Jill Soloway (the creator of Transparent) describes as the female gaze.
For so long I couldn’t put into words what my Diva was. I knew it was more than putting a positive spin on arrogance or charm. I guess it started with labelling myself a diva so the patriarchy couldn’t. But now it feels like so much more.
When I first started to perform Diva With The Fever Of Change, a few people asked if I was okay. The short answer to that question is yes. But they then follow with “well why are you so angry?”
I find it hard to answer that question, except by asking “how are you not?” There is so much to be angry about in 2018 and I don’t subscribe to the notion that anger is always unproductive or evil.
Some anger is fleeting. A temporary response to a stimulus that eventually returns you to your normal state. But the Diva’s anger is a constant agitation. It pulls everything apart so when it comes back together it tells a different story. Female anger is revolutionary. It is inclusive, empathetic and powerful. It is not sinister or violent. It is not debilitating or jaded. It is transformative.
The Diva’s anger is not negative because it is not futile. It is a call to arms. It is forward moving energy, an inertia of shared experience designed to pull other women along, to whip them into a frenzy of desire. Desire in the sense of knowing what she wants and asking for it. A diva is a master of desire.
It was so important to me to get a female director for this clip because as a director your job is to desire. You want the shot to look a certain way and your crew will make it happen. Jessica Barclay is a very talented woman and I think she found the perfect tone to represent the Diva. It was so exhilarating watching her call the shots and seeing her desires realised. The making of that clip felt dangerous and exciting.
I come off stage after performing this song feeling empowered and energised. I am not a chill girl. I’m a diva with the fever of change. I’m a smart girl with revolutionary anger that I’ll use to lift up all women.
So find your agitation. Join the flock of divas shaking shit up. Lock on to their power, ride their wake until you feel strong enough to create your own. Because female stories are dangerous. They are a threat to the status quo and they will ignite the revolution. Yes, I am angry but my anger is an instrument of change.
Watch Diva With The Fever Of Change below: