Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
October 20, 2014

NIGERIA DECLARED EBOLA-FREE

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

How Becoming The First African NBA General Manager Inspires Masai Ujiri To Give Back

Nba Cares
NBA

Why Are Black Women Dying of Breast Cancer, Even Though More White Women Are Diagnosed?

Tiffany Jones Pink
Andrew H. Walker via Getty Images

40 Contemporary African Artists Take On Dante's 'Divine Comedy'

Wangechi

Congressional Hearing On Ebola Was 'Shameful,' Janet Napolitano Says

Capitol
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russian Tennis Czar Insults Williams Sisters

Serena Venus Williams
Elsa via Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent On Texas Voter ID Law

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Liberian Leader Warns Ebola Risks Causing A 'Lost Generation'

Ebola Liberia
John Moore via Getty Images

Obama Moves Into Campaign Mode

Obama
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Joanne Borgella Dies At 32

Joanne Borgella
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images

Why Vonderrit Myers Matters

Vonderrit Myers Family
Scott Olson via Getty Images

NIH Official: Budget Cuts Can't Be Blamed For Lack Of Ebola Vaccine

Ebola Outbreak
ZOOM DOSSO via Getty Images

Michael Dunn Sentenced To Life In Prison

Michael Dunn
ASSOCIATED PRESS

I Am a Liberian. I Am Not a Virus.

I Am Liberia
Let Girls Lead

Darren Wilson Says He Feared For His Life: Report

Michael Brown
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law

Supremes
Getty

Stacey Dash: Minorities Feel 'Worthless,' 'Uneducated' Under Obama

Stacey Dash
YouTube

Greatest Magazine Cover Of 2014?

Lupita
Courtesy

Cliven Bundy Challenges Eric Holder In Video Endorsing Black Congressional Candidate

Cliven Bundy
David Becker via Getty Images

Nigerian Girls' Hometown Cautiously Hopeful For Their Release

Chibok
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

Kobe Bryant Calls ESPN 'A Bunch Of Idiots'

Kobe Bryant
Jeff Gross via Getty Images

Stop And Frisk Linked To Trauma And Anxiety In Young Men

Stop And Frisk
ASSOCIATED PRESS

From Civil War In Sudan To The Silver Screen

Ger Duany Emmanuel Jal
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

Still No Charges 3 Months After Eric Garner's Chokehold Death

Eric Garner
STAN HONDA via Getty Images

Facebook Fight Allegedly Led To 3-Year-Old's Fatal Shooting

Amiracle Williams
WDIV-TV

GOP Congressman Gets Boost From Racially Charged Ad

Ashford
NRCC

Ebola Panic Reaches College Campuses

Ebola University
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Do 'Stand Your Ground' Laws Benefit Black Defendants?

Todd Rutherford South Carolina
ASSOCIATED PRESS

These 5 Scary Obamacare Predictions Were Dead Wrong

Obamcare Fact Check
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Walmart Yanks Ammo From Shelves Of Stores Near Ferguson

Walmart Ferguson
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Ebola Outbreak In Senegal Is Officially Over

Ebola Sierra Leone
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Arizona Same-Sex Marriage Ban Declared Unconstitutional

Gay Marriage
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Report: Nigeria And Boko Haram Reach Cease-Fire

Shekau
AP

Blake Griffin: 'Donald Sterling Didn't Care If We Won'

Blake Griffin
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Exonerated Man David McCallum On How The World's Changed Since He Went To Prison In 1985

David Mccallum
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

Ebola Epidemic Could Lead To 'Hunger Crisis Of Epic Proportions' For West Africa

Liberia Ebola
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Laverne Cox Weighs In On Trans Writer Debate

Laverne Cox
Brad Barket via Getty Images

These Are The Celebrities Stepping Up To Fight Ebola

Celebs Take On Ebola
Ebola Survival Fund

He's A Veteran, A College Student And Homeless

Military Veteran College
DON EMMERT via Getty Images

Meet One Of The Thousands Of Drug Offenders Hoping Obama Will Shorten Their Prison Terms

Donel Clark
c/o Donel Clark

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    1. HuffPost
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. View all RSS feeds

Tyra Banks Proves You Can Be A Feminist And A Runway Model

Tyra Banks
Michael Tran via Getty Images

Beyonce Dons A Floral Romper For Night Out With Adele

Beyonce
Keith Hewitt via Getty Images

Jada Pinkett Smith Brought A Man On A Leash To Her 'Gotham' Audition

Jada Pinkett Smith
Nomi Ellenson via Getty Images

'SNL' Nails Important Point About Aid Programs In Africa In Hilarious Sketch

Saturday Night Live 39 Cents
Saturday Night Live / YouTube

Drake Shoots Hoops, Becomes Jimmy From 'Degrassi' Again

Drake
C Flanigan via Getty Images

LeBron James Returns To Akron

Lebron
Beats by Dr. Dre

Here Are The Most Progressive 2 Minutes Of TV This Season

Viola Davis How To Get Away With Murder
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

Jordin Sparks Wants You To See Her Without Makeup

Jordin Sparks
Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images

How One Artist Is Single-Handedly Changing The Way We See Death Row

Elkins

WATCH
Chris Rock's New Movie Gets A Really Funny Trailer

Top Five Trailer
Paramount

Sheryl Lee Ralph Breaks Down Her 24th Annual 'DIVAS Simply Singing!'

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Paul Archuleta via Getty Images

Iggy Finally Gets An Apology From Snoop Dogg

Iggy Azalea
Gary Miller via Getty Images

PHOTOS
Fly Rudeboys Remind Us What Cool Looks Like

Bevan Agyeman
Dean Chalkley

Nick Cannon Responds To Amber Rose Relationship Rumors

Nick Cannon
Tommaso Boddi via Getty Images

Let Kerry Washington Be Your Guide To 'No Makeup' Makeup

Kerry Washington
Instagram

The Best Worst Answer Ever On 'Family Feud'

Penis
Family Feud

'Real Housewives Of Atlanta' Star Confirms Pending Divorce To Husband

Phaedra Parks
ELLEN

Afroman Updates 'Because I Got High' For Legalization

Afroman
YouTube

LOOK
Pharrell Channels Michael Jackson On 'Dear Girl' Tour

Pharrell Williams
Courtesy of Swarovski

Erykah Badu Made This Much Singing On NYC Sidewalk

Erykah Badu Singing
Karl Walter via Getty Images

Harlem Globetrotters Ride The Subway; Passengers Have A Ball

Globetrotters
AOL/Huffington Post Video

Major Decision Made In Teddy Pendergrass Estate Battle

Teddy Pendergrass
Ebet Roberts via Getty Images

Quvenzhané Wallis Has Her Fingers Crossed For Another Oscar Nod

Quvenzhane Wallis
Evan Agostini /Invision/AP

Rappers with Cameras

Thig Nat
Thig Nat

North West Is Even Cuter With Little Cat Ears On

North West Kardashian
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff via Getty Images

'The Book Of Negroes' Adapted Into Miniseries For BET Debut

The Book Of Negroes
BET/eOne

Painting the Desert: Urban Artists In The Navajo Nation

Desert

How To Spot A Black TV Character Written By White People

Saved By The Bell Tv Show
NBC via Getty Images

Alicia Keys Holds Protest For Lost Nigerian Schoolgirls

Alicia Keys
JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images

David Oyelowo On Playing MLK And Race In Hollywood

David Oyelowo
Vallery Jean via Getty Images

An Endless Love for Diana Ross Who Came. Saw. And Conquered

Comments (40)

In the seventies, my mother hated Diana Ross. Whenever the diva from Detroit, who turns sixty-seven today, appeared on television batting feathery false eyelashes and speaking in an affected voice, mom sucked her teeth and muttered, "I can't stand her; she thinks she's cute."

It wasn't until later on that I learned what served as the fuel to ignite the high disdain for a woman she never met: my mom's friendship with a Motown insider who shared shady gossip about working with Diana. At the time, I was too young to understand. In my innocent eyes, having introduced the world to the Jackson 5, as the Motown publicity department led us to believe, was reason enough to love Diana.

More than a decade later, when Diana moved to New York City and began hanging with painter Andy Warhol and his nightclubbing crew, I lovingly recalled seeing pictures of her in the gossip columns. Popping-up in paparazzi shots inside Studio 54 and on the cover of 'Interview,' she always looked glam while posing with the glitterati.

My fandom was untainted by Diana's supposed bad behavior. What did I care if she threw temper tantrums or tried to force the other Motown artists, who had known her since she was a funny-looking teenager from Brewster Projects, to address her as Miss Ross?

As a Harlem kid fascinated by Motor City boogie, bopping my head to Stevie Wonder and wanting to swoon like Smokey, I simply didn't understand the dirt that fueled mom's bête-noir. By default, since I usually shared her cultural taste, from B-movie horror flicks to the paintings of Picasso, my embrace of the musical and visual pizazz of Diana Ross became my first act of childhood rebellion.

Blaring WABC-AM before school, I secretly prayed that the disc jockey Harry Harrison played 'Touch Me in the Morning' or 'Last Time I Saw Him' (both from 1973) before it was time to leave the house. Much like her contemporaries Dionne Warwick and Marilyn McCoo (The 5th Dimension), the "penthouse soul" of Diana Ross was a whisper compared to roaring gospel-based sounds of Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner. But like silk flowing rhythmically across a woman's skin, there was something satisfying and comforting about the lightness of Diana's tone with its feathery texture.


Decades after The Supremes released 'Where Did Our Love Go' and 'Stop! In the Name of Love,' I'm reminded of watching Ed Sullivan's popular eponymous variety show religiously every Sunday night in hopes of getting a glimpse of her.

Her songs became imprints throughout my wonder years. The ghetto-centric swing of 'Love Child,' takes me back to my play sister Sylvia's ritual of writing out the risqué lyrics in her school notebook to pass the time when she was a child stuck in the hospital with rheumatic fever.

Released in 1968, the 'Love Child' was the title track from one of the first Motown releases to touch on social issues and one of their biggest sellers. The irony was, though Diana came from the same hood she was singing about, by then she was very far from that place. Thanks to the guidance of charm teacher Maxine Powell, she had transformed from rags (well, not literally) to pop royalty. After touring the world and meeting real monarchs, Diana got a taste of upward mobility from a view at the top. And there was no way she was going back to the 'hood. Instead, she embodied that "queenly" style and combined it with ruthless ambition to conquer the world.

Without question, she made more than a few enemies, especially with her old musical family including Martha Reeves, Gladys Knight and her own group members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. But as Temptations singer Otis Williams once observed: "The rest of us was (sic) just singers. We could live with that, but Diana couldn't."
In the cramped rooms of the original Hitsville studios, the reported tensions between her and the rest of the Motown posse often boiled over. It didn't help that many felt Diana received special treatment (private dressing quarters at venues, better hotel rooms on the road and more press coverage in the magazines), because she was linked romantically to Berry Gordy.

Though they were involved (Berry is the biological father of her first daughter Rhonda), it is too simple to state that was the main reason for her success. Fact is, if the world hadn't loved her, Diana would've just been another overexposed pop tart.

But as I grew up, staring at her pristine image on the covers of 'Sepia,' 'Ebony,' 'Black Star' and 'Jet' magazines, always dressed in some wild-styled Michael Travis/Bob Mackie gown, she was, to me, the perfect pop creation. There was always a beaming smile, a twinkle in her eyes and the clothes, though too ornate for mere mortals, always placed her beyond reach.

As many folks who bad-mouthed the "big eyed skeleton," as my friend Nicki once called her, there were just as many who were inspired. In high school, I knew a young woman named Virgie who had a photographic shrine to Diana on her bedroom wall and swore she was, "...going to be a designer, just like Diana Ross in 'Mahogany' (1975)." Years later, many young black fashion designers would admit the movie, and Diana in particular, once (and for some, still) served as their creative muse.

Without a doubt, from kids playing dress-up in the mirror to the homosexual community who adopted her sleek Chic-produced single 'I'm Coming Out' (1980) as their personal anthem, Diana Ross unquestionably represented a freedom that comes with being one thing: fearless.

That's why the skinny diva with the big eyes is still a winner, baby.

Michael Gonzales is a renowned New York City-based entertainment writer.

In celebration of Diana's birthday, we reminisce about her life-and its impact-through photos. View our gallery below.

Comments: (40)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 4