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The Prima Donna

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"I've got fair-weathered friends to feed."

Wesley: She still thinks she's the god-king of the universe.
Gunn: So she's like a TV star.
Wesley: No, nothing that bad.
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The Primadonna is the Alpha Bitch of show business. Her talent and beauty are matched only by her ego, and she is prone to making infuriating demands of her producers (like demanding an Unlimited Wardrobe), and God help the poor sap in a position of servitude to her. As a performer, she will make sure everyone knows it is her show and she rules the stage with an iron fist. She never considers that she may be past her prime, or that her nasty attitude could be bringing down the morale of those around her. Often she'll be considerably meaner backstage than any of her famous roles. Expect her to put on a sweet facade for interviews and publicity appearances, but rumors of her real personality will always abound.

The Primadonna is etymologically and stereotypically female, but men are just as likely to act this way, and the word's meaning gradually became less specific through overuse. It's Italian for "first lady" and originally referred to the lead female singer in an opera company. Evidently, enough of them embodied the traits described here that the word has gained a decidedly negative connotation. Nowadays it refers to any individual—male or female—who is talented in their field but insufferably egotistical. The term "diva", which is Italian for "goddess" and referred to a seasoned and respected female singer, has gained the exact same associations with ego and entitlement, to the point that the two terms are virtually synonymous. However, "diva" is still limited to entertainers (though not necessarily women or singers).

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A Sister Trope to It's All About Me.

Compare Taking Advantage of Generosity. See also Prima Donna Director, who acts much the same. Also see Bridezilla for when it's a bride — performer or not — who behaves like this during her Big Day (but can be a lovely person most other times).


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • A commercial for Blockbuster Video featured a rabbit and a hamster watching a Blockbuster from their pet store. The hamster says he could be a movie star. When the rabbit asks if he can act, the hamster says he can act like a movie star. He then goes on to display the very behavior of this trope.
    These are brown pellets. I specifically asked...for green!

     Anime and Manga 
  • Misaki from Death Parade is an actress with this type of personality. Though she's a Struggling Single Mother who works for her kids, her two older children see her as neglectful. Misaki's attitude is the reason she was murdered. She slapped a worker of hers and the woman hit her tipping point, strangling Misaki.
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    Comic Books 
  • Bianca Castafiore from the Tintin comics, though much nicer than most examples. Still, if you don't serve her pasta "al dente", she'll upend them on the poor sap doing so, even if he's a prison guard.
  • Rio thinks Jem from Jem and the Holograms is one of these but she's anything but. Jerrica is just bad at hiding her alter ego so she acts unintentionally unsympathetic.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in Dilbert, where a technology Prima Donna is shown to be rude but indispensable.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sharpay Evans from the High School Musical movies, but she is more of a Lovable Alpha Bitch.
    • When Sharpay got to be the hero of her own film, she was promptly and utterly blown out of the water by Amber Lee Adams, the film's villain. Sharpay's an emotional teenager who could conceivably grow out of it; Amber Lee, by contrast, is a professional prima donna. Just one example: when she gets the lead role in a Broadway musical about a dog, she spends the film growing increasingly paranoid that the audience will be coming for the dog, not her, and ultimately, on the day of the very last dress rehearsal, orders the entire script rewritten to remove the dog.

    Literature 
  • Eventually, Veda in Mildred Pierce.
  • Pornstar 'Trixie Vixen' (she had it legally changed) from The Dresden Files. A brainless Grade-A bitch who absolutely believes that anyone that isn't her is worthless - the very last person who should have any kind of access to reality-warping magical powers.
  • "Face" Loran in the X-Wing Series makes a few cryptic references to having run into one particularly bad prima donna in his career as a child actor. It's not explained what exactly he did, but put it this way: the man ends up being Face's character reference for notoriously ego-ridden Imperial Captain Darillian.
  • In Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Roger's celebrity wife Jessica is a humanoid toon known for her demanding attitude and back-stabbing nature.
  • Played with in the Sophie Hannah novel The Narrow Bed, concerning a stand-up comedian who becomes involved in a murder investigation. She has a multi-page list of demands and requirements that must be fulfilled before any contract or appearance she makes, and which gets ridiculously specific, nit-picky and highly-strung. Thing is, she actually isn't that much of a Prima Donna at all; she's just so sick of being taken advantage of by variously unscrupulous employers that she came up with the list to make sure anyone she agreed to do a gig for wasn't going to mess her about.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Vanilla Hoare in the "Scott of the Antarctic Sahara" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    "Look, you crumb bum. I'm a star. Star, star, star!"
  • Rachel Berry in Glee seems to be one of these in-training.
  • Miss Piggy of The Muppet Show often acts like this.
  • Bill McNeil in NewsRadio.
  • Jenna and Tracy on 30 Rock. Tracy often shows up extremely late or not at all and Jenna once locked herself in her dressing room because her niece drew a picture of her that made her look fat.
  • Batman: Parodied with Dawn Robbins from The Penguin's A Jinx:
    Oh, what a drag it is being a famous movie star and so rich. Why doesn't anything exciting ever happen to me?

     Music 
  • The singer in Mitch Benn's "I Want", which is a list of increasingly ridiculous demands interspersed with wondering why everyone else isn't as easy-going and patient as him.
    I want thirty-seven different kinds of bottled fizzy water,
    I want the venue manager to offer me his daughter,
    Nobody can use a word like "insecurity",
    And everyone must rush around for me, me, me, me, me, me...

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Shawn Michaels was such a primadonna, in and out of the ring, on and off camera, that people largely forgot all about his jobber run in the National Wrestling Alliance, his Tag Team with Marty Jannetty that imitated The Rock 'n' Roll Express and even his stint as a Gorgeous George who feuded with Rick Martel and posed for Playgirl magazine. Mostly what is remembered that Michaels was a whiny but talented wrestler who ruined the careers of several other wrestlers, quit the business, lost his smile and returned to atone for the wrongs he did after helping train several better-behaved wrestlers like Bryan Danielson, London and Kendrick. Incidentally, Shawn sang too, but he wasn't any good at singing.
  • MNM were a mix of this and The Bully in Ohio Valley Wrestling. They weren't exactly the most respectful group before they had got to spend time on national television, after which barging into the locker rooms of other tag teams and terrorizing non wrestling personnel became their modus operandi. Ironically on cable television they were merely portrayed as celebrity hangers-on, with Melina ending up more like a ruthless diva, John Morrison become a bizarre religious figure and Joey Mercury becoming obsessed with destroying Matt Hardy after Matt and Jeff destroyed his face.
  • Lady Frost became one after winning her first title belt in Midwest Championship Wrestling, complaining the shading of her picture on promotional posters and demanding the filter on the camera be turned of while recording her promos, so fans could see how "porcelain" her skin was". Even before winning the belt she demanded her own dressing room with sparkling water and personal air conditioning.

     Puppet Shows 
  • Miss Piggy is frequently portrayed as making huge demands on her fellow Muppets, and automatically assuming that she has to be the star. Whether her fame and/or talent actually matches her self-opinion or she's a Small Name, Big Ego varies considerably depending on the production.

    Theater 
  • Gussie in the musical Merrily We Roll Along. In the original play, The Prima Donna was called Althea Royce (her stage name, of course).
  • The title character in Alban Berg's opera Lulu, a renowned dancer. She feigns a fainting spell on stage when she sees her lover, Dr. Schön, in the audience with his fiancee, and refuses to continue the performance unless Dr. Schön breaks the engagement.
  • Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music is a somewhat lesser version. There's only one Grande Dame in her family, and that's her mother.
  • Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street. The Ultimate Job Security which allows her to get away with this is not her talent (as she's long past her prime), but that she's the mistress of the show's sponsor. She gets over this attitude after she breaks her ankle and is forced to leave the production.
  • Applause, being a musical version of All About Eve, has Margo and eventually Eve as this.
  • Carlotta from The Phantom of the Opera. In the musical, she even gets a song called "Prima Donna" as the new theatre owners suck up to her and assure her that they won't let this "Opera Ghost" dictate how she should be treated; even after the Phantom humiliates her on stage and she's forced into a minor role in his Don Juan Triumphant, she never lets up on this attitude.
  • The Farndale Avenue plays revolve around the misadventures of an amateur dramatic society whose resident prima donna, Thelma Greenwood, is in her forties but still insists on playing the young ingenue/romantic lead in every production. In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado, she brings the entire show to a halt at one point because she believes she's been insulted, only agreeing to go on after the society's president mollifies her by promising her the title role in an upcoming production of Lolita.

    Video Games 
  • Sumire of Sakura Wars is this on stage in addition to being the Team Prima Donna on the battlefield.
  • Total War: Warhammer II has Cylostra Direfin. A lifetime of not only being a member of the notoriously spoiled and self-centered upper classes of Bretonnia, but also being known as the greatest singer in all of Bretonnia, possibly the greatest in the World, and so renowned that even the Phoenix King of the High Elves wanted to hear her sing, left her with quite the ego. Hell, upon her watery demise during a storm as she was on her way to Ulthuan, she was not horrified or saddened that she would meet her cruel and untimely end, but furious beyond reasoning that the greatest concert of her life was cut short. Death only made that ego mightier.

    Western Animation 

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