Up Close with CC Minton: A Conversation With Opera Singer Divaria

By CC Minton

There is nothing like the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Between parties, shopping and spending time with family, I find it refreshing to meet up with someone who is exciting and breathes life into a conversation as one season ends and another begins.  

I had the pleasure of having dinner with Divaria, an opera singer who has traveled the world and Harlem World Magazine‘s newly appointed Relationship and Advice “guru,”. I have known Divaria for a few months and only had the pleasure to connect with her on two occasions.  I must admit, the third time around is a charm.

Learning more about her column and her recent travel to Siberia was intellectually appealing and meeting up at Lenox Sapphire in the heart of Harlem was mouth-watering.

I cannot wait to submit my questions to Divaria on advice and relationships about business, friends and the relationship I have with myself.

Relax and release as Divaria dishes in my interview with her.

CC Minton: Tell me about your column.  What is it called, how did you come up with the idea and has this been something you’ve been interested in doing for a while?

DIVARIA:   In short, in operas the solo vocal interludes are called arias. When I was in college I wanted an alter ego name for certain uses so I came up with Divaria, divas sing arias. That’s where the name came from. Then from the ballroom vogue culture, I devised the tag, House of Divaria.

CC: Get out of here.  I never knew that!

DIVARIA:  Yes, I’ve been using Divaria as my alter ego name for many years now. A close friend of mine who plays drums for Dianne Reeves and Christian McBride has been trying to get me to brand Divaria. So here I go…

CC:  You mean like Sasha Fierce?

DIVARIA:  So, yes like Sascha Fierce. It’s funny that you mention Beyoncé because just after they were winners on Star Search as Girls Time, they used to come sit in on my voice lessons. We all studied with the same teacher. This is one of the reasons Beyoncé can sing with different vocal techniques.

So back to your question…the thinking of me coming up with Divaria was to create an alter ego way back in college.  It’s DISHw @divaria @houseofdivaria .  We’re going to Dish about everything.   We’re going to dish about all kinds of advice on various topics.

CC:  Did you have the idea of dish for Harlem World Magazine or did that idea come to you after speaking with Danny Tisdale CEO and Founder of Harlem World Magazine?

DIVARIA:  As soon as the idea of doing an advice column with HW Mag was presented to me, by you, I already knew that I wanted it to be “dish.”  I knew I wanted it to be something simple and something catchy.  So “dish” was the word that I came up with. It has to be a total dish about everything….discussing everything… all topics, because nothing is off-limits.

CCWhat is it about relationships that would make you want to dish about that verses dishing about business?  I believe Mr. Tisdale did ask you a question about business?

DIVARIA:  It was so impromptu and I was unprepared for that but it was good for me;he put me on the spot. I guess for the listeners who appreciated my response….”well gosh she knew nothing about the business he was talking about, but had a good response.” Because I had to ask him subsequent questions to get an idea of what type of business he has and what type of product he was selling.

CCBut I don’t think it came across as you didn’t know.  You questioned him about the needs of the company which was important in order for you to answer the question?

DIVARIA:  But I do have a business background and that’s why he wanted to ask that question.  When someone thinks of someone as a female, an African-American female, who sings opera,  who’s a classical musician and who has a business in medical device sales.  You’re thinking well. . . . you do sales, but what do you really know about business?   So it was good for him to ask those questions so that the readership gets an idea of what my business compass is. Of what my business acumen is.

CCWhat made you want to focus on relationships?

DIVARIA: But I don’t necessarily want to focus on relationships.  We’re going to talk about relationships.   All types of relationships.  Not just romantic relationships.    Relationships with your doctor and your co-workers and relationships at work.  Basically, how to handle relationships with a myriad of people who we interact with on a daily basis.  If there’s a question I cannot answer.  I always defer to a group of people who I confer with regularly.  People who are highly specialized professionals like lawyers, doctors, and nurses.  People who are in some cases, older than me and have more experience than me, so that if there is a question that I need more input on, the readership should also know that there’s a panel of contributing experts.

CC:   How often will you respond to questions?  I know it’s a monthly column.

DIVARIA:  I’m hoping that I will be able to respond to at least five questions per month in the column.  I’m hoping that we will have some good questions on a myriad of topics.  I want to make sure that I have time to adequately and respectively respond to the people whose questions are chosen for publication.  I was also thinking, if I have extra time to devote to responding to other questions, not published, I’d be willing to do that too.

CCWill you at any point share more about your career as an opera singer with the readership?  I think it’s fascinating.

DIVARIA:  So I think maybe that could be something we’d share in some way.  But as far as the column, I would like to devote it to the readers.  I hope that it was obvious in the initial letter that I wrote to the readers.  I wanted them to know a little bit about who I am as a person, how I was raised and where I’m from.  Because, why would they want to write to me specifically?   When most people think about who they identify with and who they might have something in common with it probably wouldn’t be an opera singer. (laughter,laughter, laughter).  So they might think, “Why would I ask her for advice?”

CC: What makes that so important to you?

DIVARIA: I’ve done a lot of different things in my lifetime  because I’ve had to stay relevant and make money while being a classical musician.  I’ve traveled quite a bit.  I’ve had life experiences that some people have had but in a different context.  It’s very important to express this journey and have people relate to me and feel comfortable in seeking advice.

CC:  So when does your column start?

DIVARIA:  It starts in January and we’re waiting to get the questions from the readers and then it will start.  We want readers to submit questions and then I can start to answer them.  We may get the same questions at times but I’ll answer them as one question.

CC: Tell me a little about your trip to Russia?

DIVARIA:  The Russians were so helpful and so generous when it came to the language.  They know it’’s a difficult language.  Even though I was in Siberia, the city that I was in, Krasnoyarsk, is just a few hundred kilometers from Mangolia, China.  It was very cold there, mountainous, dry and landlocked.  The people were very helpful and accommodating; inviting.  They know that if you’ve never been there, you will need some assistance in getting along. My translators were two amazing local young men.

CC: How did you receive the invite?

Divaria: The conductor is Russian and his name is Vladimir Lande and he conducts all over the world but he lives in Baltimore.  He got his doctorate from Peabody Institute in Baltimore.  So he and his wife, who lives in Baltimore too, go back and forth to Siberia.  They’re both from St. Petersburg Russia but they go back and forth to Siberia where he is the resident conductor of the Siberian State Symphony Orchestra in Krasnoyarsk.  They also have a home there.  They are just lovely, lovely people and they invited me and the Kevin Short, the baritone, who is friends with Maestro Lande.

CCSo, exactly what were you invited to do?

DIVARIA:  I was invited to sing the Randall Benett Porgy & Bess Suite and it was televised!

CCWOW, that’s exciting.

DIVARIA:  Yes, they are going to re-master the telecast and then I’ll be able to share the link with everyone. The concert was sold out!

If you have a question for Divaria you can send it attention Divaria at harlemworldinfo@yahoo.com with the words “Dish With Divaria” in the subject line of the email. 

Read more more stories by CC Minton HERE.