The Accidental Diva

( 21 )

Overview

Being a diva isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just ask Billie Burke. Brainy, beautiful, and at the top of her game, she's the beauty editor at the world's leading fashion magazine, where paying tribute to the perfect pink lip gloss is serious business. Trouble is, all this corporate climbing and party-hopping has left her with migraine headaches-and a long, lonely bout of celibacy.

Enter Jay Lane-a gorgeous performance artist who came up in a grisly 'hood in a part of Brooklyn ...

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Overview

Being a diva isn't all it's cracked up to be. Just ask Billie Burke. Brainy, beautiful, and at the top of her game, she's the beauty editor at the world's leading fashion magazine, where paying tribute to the perfect pink lip gloss is serious business. Trouble is, all this corporate climbing and party-hopping has left her with migraine headaches-and a long, lonely bout of celibacy.

Enter Jay Lane-a gorgeous performance artist who came up in a grisly 'hood in a part of Brooklyn completely foreign to Billie. In no time, this beauty expert's nights are bubbling over with hot passion-and she's caught in an affair that's as addictive and crazy as the city itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Word? Diva-licious. Set in New York City in 1999, Williams's sparkling debut in the overcrowded and almost bitched-out chick-lit genre stars Billie Burke, a young African-American beauty editor who hasn't had sex in five years and is "wound tighter than 400-thread count sheets." Billie, along with close pals Renee, a hip book editor, and Vida, a hotshot publicist (with a rapper boyfriend named Git TaSteppin), inject a black Sex and the City vibe while invoking cultural clashes with caustic glee: "She no longer tried to understand the particular brand of white girl who felt compelled to use late-eighties `homegirl' slang.... As if she might feel disoriented and at a cultural loss without a `you go girl' in every exchange." Burke lives for her glam job with Du Jour, a top women's magazine with a predominantly white staff, when her uptown world is dizzily disrupted by downtown Jay Lane, an up-and-coming writer/performance artist and former street hustler. Lane's impoverished, complicated Fort Greene past collides with Burke's happy family history as they try to build a lasting relationship. Williams's gift for sexy if sometimes purple prose ("They were ravenous love junkies") and insider ear (" `Moment' and `situation' were industry speak for what was happening at that very second") save this energetic romance from being just another uptown girl meets downtown boy tale and signals the arrival of a sharp new talent. Agent, Mary Ann Naples at Creative Culture Inc. (May 24) Forecast: Williams, the beauty director at Teen People magazine, appears regularly on MTV, CNN and Fox. Aimed at young black women, the book should also appeal to white readers who won't mind a black heroine who's a bit critical of her white sistahs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Will suburbanite beauty editor and thug poet find romance in the big, fashionable city? The first thing newcomer Williams-beauty editor at TeenPeople and late of YM, Elle and many another fizzy magazine-makes sure readers know is how easy her beauty editor protagonist Billie has things. Twenty-six-year-old Billie's perfect buppie life is hardly interrupted by her average day at Du Jour magazine, where she gets swamped in designer product samples, gets invited to parties to launch them, and occasionally writes a few words about said products. Williams knows this world and has it down cold, but, atypically for a roman a clef, doesn't seem intent on settling scores. The better parts here follow Billie through the downtown Manhattan scene with her strange, spoiled sorority and limn the frisson that's created as she and her two best friends become successful, upwardly mobile black women in an otherwise lily-white world. Though Williams would have done better to stick to this world and watch Billie find her way through it, she unfortunately slaps a silly romance into the middle of everything. Thus Billie falls head-over in love with Jay, a gorgeous slam poet who came up the hard way in the projects and now has his own off-Broadway hit show-like a lethally talented combination of Savion Glover and DMX. The couple's love is soured by the fact that Jay has an old girl on the side, a happening hairdresser who, coincidentally, is also the subject of Billie's next big feature. By the time the soapy climax arrives, any glimmer of verisimilitude has long disappeared. This is an author who knows a lot about New York-and actually finds a few fresh new ways to look at the overly studied city-but haslittle of interest to say when it comes to people and love. Agent: Mary Ann Naples/The Creative Culture
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451215079
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,436,471
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Tia Williams is the beauty director of TeenPeople magazine and has been a beauty writer and editor at YM, Elle, Glamour, and Lucky. She appears regularly on MTV, CNN, Fox News, and other stations to discuss beauty trends.

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Read an Excerpt

1.
so media-genic

There's nothing new to say about mascara," announced Billie Burke to the adjoining cubicles that made up the beauty department of Du Jour magazine. She needed a headline for her mascara caption and was utterly tapped out.

"Read it out loud," suggested Sandy Fuller, Du Jour's associate beauty writer. She was one of those pink-skinned strawberry blondes who always looked on the verge of tears.

" 'The newest must-have mascaras plumpen, elongate, and sex-ify lackluster lashes. The result? Sinfully sultry bedroom eyes fit to make Ava Gardner wail with envy.' "

"Cute!" said Mary DeCosta, the plucky beauty assistant.

"But I'm not sure 'plumpen' is a word," Billie said, unconvinced.

"Plump up?" offered Sandy.
"Hmmm. That's so good," Billie said, quickly typing in the change. She could barely suppress a grin. She knew there was more to life than lashes, but honestly, she lived for this stuff. Billie had almost forgotten how not to speak in hyperbolic, insanely descriptive beauty editor rhetoric. When her friends asked her for makeup and hair advice for parties or first dates, she'd wax on about "burnished blush, copper-kissed lids, dewy, sunlit skin-think Iman on safari," or "disheveled, devil-may-care hair, and lips drenched in diva-red, Heart of Glass gloss . . . you know, a red so deeply divine you'll want to bathe in it." Billie was as moved by James Baldwin, nineteenth-century gothic lit, and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" as much as the next English major, but something in her just delighted in the whole beauty thing. It was so entertaining and campy and intrinsically girly. Like Regis Philbin.

"Okay, now I need a headline," continued Billie, on the cusp of panic. "The Azucena lunch starts in two seconds, and it's way downtown. I can't think, I can't think!" Azucena del Sol, like all major beauty companies, launched new products with lavish events that it was Billie's job to attend.

The events were always themed. Recently, for example, a line of wine-colored lipsticks had been launched with a wine-tasting. The same week, a more ill-received event had been a breakfast introducing a line of punky-bright hair dyes. It involved fluorescent dry ice and Day-Glo ribbon dancers who, at the climax of their performance, pelted the bleary-eyed editors with multicolored Styrofoam popcorn. It was 8:30 in the morning.

"How about 'Lash-Out'?" asked Mary. "No, that's the name of a L'Oréal mascara, shit. Hmm, 'Bat Your Lashes' . . . 'Batter Up'?" Mary, who was from Staten Island, said batcha lashes and batta up.

" 'Batter Up' is a little abstract, but not uncute," said Billie.

" 'Lashes to Lashes'?" suggested Sandy.

"Morbid." Billie stood up and yelled over the partition in the direction of the clothes-strewn fashion cubicles. "Somebody help me! I need a headline for a mascara caption, quick."

"Ummm . . . 'Lash Gordon'?" a lanky fashion editor offered.

"How about 'Lash in the Pan'?" Mary suggested, giggling.

"Why don't you kiss my lash?" Billie said saucily. "Oh, wait, no, I got it, I got it. 'Lash of the Titans.' 'Lash of the Titans'? Is that stupid or cute?"

"That's so cute," said Mary.

"Yeah, and it just screams major lashes," said Sandy. Billie crowned her caption "Lash of the Titans," printed it out and dropped it in the in box of the oft-absent executive fashion and beauty director. Paige "Beige" Merchant was heavily tanned and heavily peroxided in a way that made her skin and hair color look indistinguishable, hence the nickname. Despite her eerie coloring, Paige was a ravishing beauty whose face and supermodel figure were frequently splashed all over society pages. She was old money, as a result of the chain of office supply stores her great-grandfather had started 150 years ago.

After fifteen years in the industry, Paige was over the whole "working" thing, so she was always on vacation-at the moment, in Capri. She trusted Billie, the senior beauty editor and her number two, to unofficially run the department; they'd worked together for five years, since Billie was a twenty-one-year-old assistant. Billie pretended to resent picking up the slack for her lady-of-leisure boss but secretly relished it.

"Okay, I'm gone. see you guys later," Billie said, grabbing her bag and heading for the elevator bank.

"Take the train, you'll never get a cab," Sandy called after her.

"The Azucena people sent a car to pick me up, thank God. Bye!" Billie said over her shoulder before stopping abruptly and running back to her cubicle to retrieve her forgotten cell phone. She managed to make the elevator just as the doors closed. It wasn't until she reached the forty-fourth floor that she realized she was heading up rather than down. "Jesus Christ," she muttered, rubbing her temples.

She had a migraine that could've killed a horse.

···

The second Billie located the Lincoln Town car with a card reading "Burke" in the window, her cell phone started to ring. It was Renee.

"Girl."

"Hey," said Billie. "Lemme call you right back, I'm on my way to this thing-"

"No. I'm so excited. You have to listen to me."

"Wha-at?" Billie said, climbing into the car while balancing the phone between her ear and shoulder. "This better be so important."

"It is, it is! I found my next writer, and he's so perfect I could scream!"

And her history was full of hunches that had turned into gold, which was why, at such a tender age, she was a full-blown book editor at Crawford & Collier Books. Starting as an editorial assistant, a college grad usually filed, typed, and read appallingly bad manuscripts from authors who weren't even good enough to get agents. If an assistant actually found something publishable, she turned it over to her senior editor boss, who then immediately took credit. Even once you got an entertainment budget with which to wine and dine agents-who had the good manuscripts-you'd discover that they'd rather sip an arsenic spritzer than submit something readable to a junior editor. Success in book publishing was all about instinct, luck, and a boss who likes you. Renee Byrd had all three.

At twenty-four, she'd had her first success with The Women, a book of new essays on female identity in different decades by great women writers. It included chapters like "Is Love Ever Really Free?" and "Carol Brady has Left the Building." Sue Snyderman had fairly drooled at the idea. She was one of those civil rights-era Jewish women who considered black women special sisters in arms, and found tough-talking, brilliant Renee delicious. She knew everyone, and was able to convince Toni Morrison and Gloria Steinem to add essays to the project, then handed it back to Renee and allowed her to edit it, herself.

Renee became the darling of C&C Books. She followed up this success by discovering the "Black Jackie Colllins"-best-selling Amy Parsons-and publishing Sun, Moon, Water, You, a well-reviewed collection of short stories by a Rastafarian named Columbus that were serialized in The New Yorker. Just Columbus (his first name was Just, pronounced Yoos).

"Anyway," continued Renee, "have you read New York magazine and the Village Voice yet?"

"Please, I'm still carrying around last week's that I never got to."

"Well, you saw The Times's Sunday Styles section last weekend, right?"

Billie was embarrassed. "Fashion Week started last weekend! On Sunday, I was too busy memorizing the smoky eye at Marc Jacobs to be literate."

Renee huffed impatiently. "Anyway, there's this guy, Jay Lane. He has a one-man show called Nutz & Boltz, where he acts out these brilliant monologues based on five characters."

"Uh-huh," Billie said encouragingly.

". . . and they're being compared to Whoopi Goldberg's early character sketches, and he's getting major, major buzz. But in the Voice, he says what he loves most is writing the parts, not the performing! He's fascinating. We're talking about a twenty-seven-year-old orphan from the projects in Brooklyn, a former hustler-"

"Hustling what?"

"He doesn't say. Crack? I mean, what else, really? Dave Mathews tickets?"

"True," Billie said, with a chuckle.

"Anyway, he has all this shit against him, and he ends up at Columbia's creative writing program? And now he's getting fabulous reviews. And he's so hot. He's got this, like, dangerous smile and a scar and dimples and perfect cornrows. Oh Billie! He's so media-genic!" She paused for effect. "I must own him."

"Then own him you will, goddammit." Billie loved it when Renee got in "taking over the world" mode.

"I'm seeing the book as a series of stream-of-consciousness vignettes based on his show, and unseen material." Billie realized Renee was not really talking to her, she was plotting her next steps out loud. "I have to see Nutz & Boltz right away."

"You should, definitely."

"Let's go tonight. Come with me!"

"What? I can't-I have to go to the Sam C. show tonight, and Vida's going, too." Vida was the third in their trio of friends. "What's your boyfriend doing?"

"Moses?" It was as if Billie had suggested sprinting into oncoming traffic. Renee rarely gave him much credit. "No, you have to come. I need a trustworthy second opinion. What time's Sam C.? Can't you come after? And bring Vida, too, though God knows that girl has zero attention span." Renee was the type of person who would relentlessly stalk a "no" until it converted to a "yes." Billie agreed to meet her at the East Village playhouse at ten and hung up, pissed.

—from The Accidental Diva by Tia Williams, copyright © 2004 Tia Williams, published by The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2006

    Lovin those shoes

    Here is a book about greatness just waiting to happen......from page to page you are placed within the confines of love,life and where true happiness lies. I was elated at how I could relate to every character, a wonderfully expressed read written with such explosive imagery!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2006

    Diva-licious?

    Entertaining, but failed to live up to its contemporaries like The Devil Wears Prada and the Gotham Diaries. The lack-luster plot, although filled with references and connections to the fashion industry failed to spark excitment making finishing the book a chore. Hopefully, Williams' next book will have a more developed plot with complex characters. Overall rating B- to C+.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2005

    This book had a little of everything!

    I loved this book!It was fun to read, I almost read it straight through.There is fashion and glamour that you can see while you read. The sex in this book is not overbearing, it is just enough to feel the words on the page. I cant wait to read Tia Williams next book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2005

    Excellent Book

    I LOVED this BOOK! It was sooo good, williams did a great job. I love to read about successful black people doin their thing, and this book does just that. Once I started this book I could not put it down, it's fantastic and I hope williams comes out with another book soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2005

    Great Book

    She did an excellent job in capturing the reader in, I really could not put this book down, I read it in one day. Great Job and the ending made me so teary eyed! Go girl!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2005

    Very Good!!

    I read this book in a day. From the very first page I was brought into the lives of the people in the book. Any woman that reads magazines will have a connection with the main character. And the love scenes...yum! Why is it so sexy to have a man with a crazy past? Would recommend to any of my girlfriends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    Accidentally Awesome!

    This is the light hearted fiction read of the summer 2005! Williams included something for everyone from the elusive, tough guy 50 Cent scene to the Melrose/5th Ave clique who speaks in 'Manolo Blahnik' and 'Prada' dialect over VIP mimosa brunches. The novel also touched on sensitive contemporary issues like balancing career and romance --- which is more important to today's 'Independent Woman?' The witty/trendy dialogue was absolutely sizzling and painfully real -- very a la moment and the sex scenes were oooh la la lalicous! Loved the flashbacks and plot twists --- the author could not have written a better ending (aaahhh, insert: sign and sob :) Very refreshing diversion/departure from the typical Black Lit which focuses on race betrayal, baby daddies, and cheating men. Could not have wished for/written a better novel myself :) GO OUT AND PICK UP THIS BOOK ASAP --- You'll be ACCIDENTALLY head over heels in love!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2005

    Loved it! Loved it!!!!

    This book was real good. I loved Jay Lane! He was a man I wish i knew! Rough around the edges, but sweet and soft in the middle. This book was very moving and well written..Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2004

    THE BEST EVER!!

    This book was the best ever! i have not found a book like this its so in to details you can see everything going on and the intense feelings that every one was going through. I really felt for billie as if she was a real person

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2004

    A Must Read!!!!!!!!

    I could not put this book down. From the moment I got it I began reading it non-stop. I love Bille's friends and her life minus the migranes but really love the love Jay and Billie have for one other. I love how they met and reading it you just knew it was going to be fire that not even fire department put that flame.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2004

    Wonderful!!!!!

    The Accidental Diva is a wonderfully written book. Ms. Williams did a excellent job you could cleary visualize the characters, the places, and the activities happening. I especially loved pg.61. A fantastic book you won't want to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2004

    OHMIGOD

    This book was so good. It had everything in it, you could just imagine all of the scenes. Williams writing is superb! YOU HAVE TO GET THIS BOOK!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004

    Wow. Finally.

    Finally a book whose characters have depth! So many writers lack the talent, skill, and instinct of Tia Williams. She does a great job of captivating both male and female, black and white, gay and straight audiences. Loved It! Great Writing!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2004

    Bravo, Ms. Williams!

    Catchy cover, fluid writing, and great characters make this a more than worthwhile read. I didn't hesitate to give this novel five stars. Billie Burke, the female heroine has no real social life outside her job as beauty editor of a popular New York magazine. However, her 'marriage' to her job ends abruptly when she meets Jay Lane, a charismatic former hustler. The cultural differences between Billie and Jay create a wonderful balance in their romantic relationship. Buy the book, you'll love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    Accidentally GREAT!

    I picked up this book because i read part of it in Cosmo during an airplane ride. After i read it, i wished i could go join the mile high club with someone because the sex parts are great! Aside from those, you are able to relate to Billie and in the last chapter, i even cried. I read the book in three days, it was great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2004

    Oh My God !!!!! This book was soooo good

    After seeing the sexy shoe on the cover, without even knowing what the book was about I purchased it. I was not disappointed. This book was 'can't eat or sleep 'till I read the last sentence' good. I am not easily pleased but on her first try Tia Williams delivered....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews

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