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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.

The Prima Donna 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 Prima Donna 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, regardless of gender or field of expertise, who is immensely talented but insufferably egotistical. The term "diva," which is Italian for "goddess" and referred to a seasoned and respected female singer, has some of the same associations with ego and entitlement, though this isn't universal, as The Diva trope is mostly framed in a positive context.

A Prima Donna actor often causes Hostility on the Set. Compare It's All About Me and Taking Advantage of Generosity. See also Prima Donna Director, who acts much the same but is running the show rather than just acting in it. Also see Bridezilla for when it's a bride — performer or not — who behaves like this during her Big Day but can be a decent person most other times. noreallife


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  • 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.
  • Dr. STONE: Lillian Weinberg's first appearance in Chapter 43 shows her whining about the cramped conditions on the space station and treating the actual astronauts like crap. It's quickly subverted, however, and she's shown to be a very down-to-Earth girl who put on that attitude as a joke.
  • The actress Seina from Kaiju Girl Caramelise. She is first seen as Arata leaves his interview on the news show that she was originally scheduled to appear on that day, berating her manager Koyama for the mix-up. When Arata defends Koyama and says it's his fault for her missing her TV spot, she smacks him on the forehead with the rim of the hat she's wearing, complains about all the planning she put into appearing on the show, and then uses Crocodile Tears to make him feel guilty before coercing him into talking her up to the producer of the show.

    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 (IDW) 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 
  • Eden Starling from Barbie in A Christmas Carol is the self-proclaimed best songstress in London, and part of her Scrooge-like hatred of Christmas comes from the "insipid little carols" she has to sing instead of something worthy of her talents.
  • Darla Dimple from Cats Don't Dance is this trope combined with Enfant Terrible: a child actress who does not tolerate getting upstaged, especially by animals.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mike Shiner from Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a classic Prima Donna actor. Mike fights Riggan's direction throughout the film, trashes the set after realizing they aren't using real alcohol and traumatizes his co-star because he thinks an impromptu sex scene will make their on stage relationship more realistic. He also steals a story Riggan told him to make himself sound better in an interview. Despite the friction, Riggan keeps him on, and they learn to work together. The casting of Norton was a bit of a cheeky Actor Allusion, because Norton is himself infamously hands-on and difficult for directors to work with if he doesn't agree with them.
  • Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure: Sharpay is 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.
  • Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard is a White-Dwarf Starlet who clearly used to be this. Due to her sheltered life, she still believes millions of fans are desperately eager to see her next picture.
  • The plot of Thank Your Lucky Stars, such as it is, involves getting Glamorous Wartime Singer Dinah Shore into a benefit revue while keeping her manager Eddie Cantor away from it by any necessary means.
    "Well, Mr. Cantor, to be brutally frank, you have the reputation of taking over everything you participate in."
  • Winona Ryder plays a stuck-up, prima-donna actress in S1m0ne in a role that reeks of Adam Westing. The director eventually grows tired of her demands and replaces her with a virtual actress that he created himself. This seems to have created some humility when she returns later in awe of Simone's success.
  • Jamila Vardek is the prima donna of the Theatre Royale in The Climax, and bitterly jealous of the up-and-coming new soprano Angela Klatt. (She essentially fills the role of Biancarolli from Phantom of the Opera (1943), of which this film was originally intended to be sequel.)
  • Shadow of the Vampire is set in an Alternate Universe where Max Schreck (the main actor in Nosferatu) is an obnoxious and demanding Prima Donna who constantly overacts and hijacks the movie from the director, F. W. Murnau. Oh, and he’s also a real vampire that eats any cast or crew members he deems to be unnecessary.
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure: The child actor working on the film that acquired Pee-wee's bicycle is revealed to be a prima donna between takes, snarling abuse at the director and driving his costars mad, all of which evaporates when the camera is rolling.
  • Escape Me Never: The prima ballerina dancing in Sebastian's ballet throws a fit, saying that the music and the dance routine are all wrong, and she threatens to quit. She nearly derails the whole show.

  • 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. Her fellow cast-members put up with her for two reasons; 1) she's currently a very popular star, 2) she's currently a very popular star, but she's fast approaching the end of the time when she's young and good-looking enough to act in the porn business and is far too stupid to move on to direct or produce, so the more long-term workers know they won't have to put up with her much longer. Unsurprisingly, as soon as she's in the room with the novel's Big Bad, who also has a massive ego but is legitimately dangerous, she annoys him and he kills her without a thought.
  • Dame Timpani in Maskerade is the counterpart to Carlotta in The Phantom of the Operanote . Although she gets even less page time than her counterpart in the original book, it's implied she has the same dislike of Christine as Carlotta in the musical:
    Chorus member: Look at Dame Timpani. There's a nose in a sling if ever I saw one.
    Agnes: She's smiling.
    Chorus member: So does a tiger, dear.
  • 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.
  • Welcome To Wonderland: Aidan Tyler in "Beach Party Surf Monkey" is revealed to be this in the middle of the book when he's overheard berating Gloria for letting blue M&Ms melt over his green ones.
  • In Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Roger's celebrity wife Jessica is a humanoid toon known for her demanding attitude and back-stabbing nature.
  • "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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Janda Kembang: Episode 13 is about Salmah and Rais meeting such singer, Vanya Karambol, during a filming of her music video. She argues with the director a lot and refuses to be made up unless her overly specific demands ("mountain water filtered 19 times") are fulfilled. Even her assistant is ecstatic about being fired.
  • James Marsden is characterized as this in Jury Duty. He is unbelievably full of himself and pulls constant selfish stunts, such as hounding paparazzi at the trial in an attempt to get out of jury duty and later obtaining special treatment to return home that the other jurors do not have. He spends the entire show more focused on getting a part in the film than bonding with the others and flips out when he loses the part, flipping over Ross' birthday cake in a fit of rage. Obviously, this is all a bit that makes fun of his perceived image as a pretty-boy actor.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: Alexi, the celebrity who happen to become the dorm residents' "friend", has a big ego. During his time starring Ada Azab Dalam Cerita, Alexi keeps making selfish demands and follows his own schedule, something the director, Akbar, only tolerates because his fame is good for ratings. After the more reasonable Juna becomes a co-star, it doesn't take long before Akbar fires Alexi.
  • 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.

  • 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...
  • "Primadonna" by Marina Diamandis is actually a subtle deconstruction. Despite the bubbly music and haughty lyrics, there are quite a few lyrics suggesting the titular "primadonna girl" is not actually as happy with her life as she sounds, with those themes being expanded on for the rest of the album.

    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 Expressnote  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.

  • 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.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: Carlotta. 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.
    Prima donna, first lady of the stage
    Your devotees are on their knees to implore you!
    Can you bow out when they're shouting your name?
    Think of how they all adore you!

    Prima donna, enchant us once again!
    Think of your muse, and of the queues round the theatre!
    Can you deny us the triumph in store?
    Sing, prima donna, once more!
  • 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 
  • Paper Mario: the Origami King somehow gives this personality to a rubber band. They get angry when the crowd cheers for Mario (despite they themselves not appearing at any point until their Boss Battle), and gives a dramatic speech that’s cut off short after their defeat.
  • Sumire of Sakura Wars is this on stage in addition to being the Team Prima Donna on the battlefield.
  • Sims with the Diva trait in The Sims 3 will turn them to this. While they make very good actors, as a trade-off, this makes them far harder to be friends with and much easier to be enemies with. Only those with an Easily Impressed, Good, and/or Friendly traits can tolerate them.
  • Total War: Warhammer II has the Ghost Pirate 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.

    Web Original 
  • Nightmare Time: Zoey Chambers is the Prima Donna of the Hatchetfield Community Players, often showing up late to rehearsal and believing she deserves to win the towns beauty pagent just by the sake of her reputation.

    Western Animation 
  • Razzberry Jazzberry Jam:
    • Billie is a downplayed example, as while she does have a large ego and is the Jazzberry who cares the most about fame and stardom, she still gets along well with her bandmates, and while she does want everything to be absolutely perfect she’s willing to put in the effort to make them perfect herself, rather than demanding other people do it for her. Her standards of perfection are also applied as much to herself as to the world around her.
    • Bonita from “A Bonnie Tale” is a classically trained clarinet (not a clarinetist, a clarinet) who hates anything she considers “frivolous” (such as her brother Woody’s tendency of making up extremely improbable stories of adventures he supposedly had) and looks down on the Jazzberries for performing without sheet music. Fortunately, by the end of the episode Buddy has convinced her to lighten up.
    • Princess Persephone from “A Royal Pain” really lives up to the episode’s title. Within minutes of her introduction, she manages to soundly out-diva Billie by taking over the latter’s room (which is apparently the only dressing room in the House Of Jam “fit for a princess”), and then she starts banning the Jazzberries one-by-one from their performance that night. She does see the error of her ways once she bans every Jazzberry and is faced with the prospect of performing completely alone, however.
  • South Park features two in "Helen Keller: The Musical." The first comes in the form of a Broadway turkey named Alinicia. She enjoys being the center of attention and refuses to work with other turkeys, especially Gobbles. The second comes from Timmy, who stars as Helen Keller and in turn refuses to play his part if Gobbles isn't featured in the production.
  • Dee in Producing Parker wants her wardrobe unlimited, drinks cold, and male assistants beefy.
  • Uncle Croc in Uncle Croc's Block. On-screen, he’s an overindulgent ham who’s always happy to be on his show, but off-screen, he wants to get out of there completely, and pursue his dream as a Hollywood actor.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot had Don Prima, who cares more about his shoes than most of the characters on the show. Heck, his name is a play on this!
  • In Miraculous Ladybug episode "Queen Banana", Chloe uses her father's influence to force herself into the film that the other students are putting on, and then immediately becomes one of these, making increasingly ridiculous (utterly ridiculous!) demands and forcing script rewrite upon rewrite. When the prop hastily created for the villain (who she made up out of nowhere) isn't realistic enough for her liking, she decides to head home for some "beauty sleep". The students take this opportunity to shoot the film as originally written — and without Chloe. To make things more infuriating for all involved, she had initially refused to be part of the film at all, only suddenly deciding that she needed to be the star upon realizing her half-sister Zoe had been cast as the main heroine.


Video Example(s):



The Hanar actor playing Blasto is - to put it mildly - a jackass, grumbling over sharing top billing, treating his fellow actors like crap, hogging the spotlight, and generally getting on everyone's nerves. Plus, he doesn't seem to get the difference between fiction and reality.

How well does it match the trope?

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