Divas, Inc.by Donna Hill
Diva (n.): an extremely arrogant or temperamental woman.
Delicious Diva Tip #13: When in doubt, just do it anyway.
Tiffany Lane and Chantal Hollis are bonafide divas-in every sense of the word. They've also been Margaret Drew's best friends since they were children. Margaret has always been the plain Jane of the threesome, living vicariously through
Diva (n.): an extremely arrogant or temperamental woman.
Delicious Diva Tip #13: When in doubt, just do it anyway.
Tiffany Lane and Chantal Hollis are bonafide divas-in every sense of the word. They've also been Margaret Drew's best friends since they were children. Margaret has always been the plain Jane of the threesome, living vicariously through the exploits of her friends. But when Tiffany and Chantal head to Europe on an extended vacation, leaving Margaret to tend their apartments, Margaret decides to see how the other half lives. Co-opting their apartments, their boyfriends (current and past), their fabulous lifestyles and Tiffany's very savvy pooch, Virginia, Margaret finally feels like she has found the life she has always wanted and deserved. But her double living begins to catch up with her and Margaret might soon be homeless, manless, and friendless all in one swoop.
- St. Martin's Press
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Read an Excerpt
By Donna Hill
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Donna Hill
All rights reserved.
Too Complicated for Words
Let me just say this: Tve gotten myself into one helluva jam, and if Tiffany and Chantel find out what I've done — well, I don't even want to think about it. At the moment, I'm in between boyfriends — literally — Tiffany's and Chantel's, to be more specific. I never actually meant for it to happen. It just did.
You see, this all started when they went out of town and sort of left me in charge. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, the moment I'd been waiting for since we were all lined up in our bassinets waiting to be christened: Tiffany in her white satin-and-pearl dress with matching bloomers, Chantel in eggshell silk and silk tights, and me ... plain white cotton, a bargain disposable diaper that was chafing around my thighs, and white ribbed socks — you know, the kind that come six in a pack. Do I sound bitter, bitchy? Wait, I'm sorry. Let me begin at the beginning and at least introduce myself before you starting thinking the worst.
My name is Margaret Drew. Yeah, I know, real plain and ordinary. That's how most people think of me. To be truthful, it fits. At least it did, then it didn't, then it did again. Basically, that's how I got into this mess in the first place. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.
As I was saying, my name is Margaret, but for the purposes of this drama, you can call me Maggie. And believe me, this is drama, ... la daytime-soap action. I'm a thirty-something, solid-size ten ... well, twelve on a good day. And that depends on before or after PMS, eight hours of dedicated, no-kind-of-sex-at-all sleep, and a manageable hairdo. I buy all my good clothes on sale. I am the find-a-damned-good-sale Princess of Harlem. I can squeeze my feet into a size nine for three solid hours before breaking into a cold sweat, which is just about long enough to have a decent meal, catch a cab, and get home before my dogs swell. In an average month, I have about fifty dollars in my checking account, and my savings account hovers around the ten-dollar mark with careful financial planning. I've lived in the same one-bedroom apartment on 127th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue since my second year in college — you do the math — and I refuse to fall into the stereotype of "single woman found living with her cat(s)." Besides, cats make me sneeze. I opted for goldfish instead.
Wait! Ssssh. I think I just heard a car pull up. Ouch! Darn couch. I've been living here long enough to know my way around in the dark. Oh, did I forget to mention that I'm sitting here in the dark? Why? you ask. Well, I'm hiding, if you must know, until I figure out what to do about Calvin and James — those are Tiffany's and Chantel's boyfriends. Both of whom I've been alternately dating for the past six weeks — hence, my dilemma, among a host of other catastrophes.
You see this all started that night in the restaurant — well, actually, back in grade school. ...
It was the first day of school. The weather was perfect for September: not too hot, not too cold. I was six — actually, I was five. My mother doctored my birth certificate so that I wouldn't have to wait another year to get into school, and she drilled it into my head so I wouldn't forget how old I was supposed to be. I guess I learned even back then to pretend to be something that I wasn't.
Anyway, I was all excited about going to first grade, especially because I would be going to school with Tiffany and Chantel. Even in kindergarten, they were the most popular girls in class — in some circles. All the girls, except me, hated them. To be truthful, Tiffany and Chantel were the kind of little girls that you loved to hate, but pretended you didn't. Everything about them was perfect; they knew it and had no qualms about flaunting it. They even had this way of moving their hips like metronomes in their frilly dresses that had the other little girls rolling their eyes. "Who do those hussies think they are?" the girls would whisper behind their backs. Well — maybe they didn't use the word hussy, but you get the picture. But the teachers thought they were "so adorable" with their designer toddler outfits and Shirley Temple curls, and they had all the little boys waiting on them hand and foot.
"Oh, Stevie," Tiffany would say in her tiny, sweet voice, "won't you share your crayons with me? Mine are all old and broken." She'd smile, flashing dimples and perfect little teeth, and Stevie would all but pour his whole box of Crayolas in her lap.
"Billie," Chantel would coo — everyone had an te at the end of his name — "is one plus one really two?"
Billie would scoot over on the red rug, grab her hand, and hold up her pudgy fingers then count all the way to five, much to Chantel's delight — and his. It never dawned on poor Billie that Chantel, even at the tender age of five, could count to a hundred, subtract two boys from three, and still wind up with four.
"Hey, Willie," I remember saying one day at the lunch table, testing out my own feminine wiles. "Would you like to share some of my sandwich?" I grinned and suddenly wondered if it mattered that my two front teeth were missing. He screwed up his face and tossed his Twinkie at me. That was the last time I had anything to say to Willie with the ie.
But things were going to be different, I decided as I peeked out my window that September morning on the dawn of first grade. I was going to be different. I was going to work as hard as I could to be just like Tiffany and Chantel. The teachers and all the boys were going to just love me.
Is it possible for a five-year-old, pretending to be six, to have acne? Well, I did. Each week without fail, I broke out — on my forehead, my nose, my chin — you name it. My mother made my embarrassing condition worse by always lathering my face in Vaseline.
"I don't want my child going out in the street ashy," she said each and every morning as she smeared the goo on my face, and if there was any left over, she would put a dab on the toe of each patent leather shoe and shine them with a tissue. I pledged each morning as I marched off to school that when I grew up, I would never allow a jar of Vaseline within one hundred yards of my home!
But for some reason that escapes all logic, Tiffany and Chantel let me hang around with them — at the lunch table, on the playground, at the movies, slumber parties, you name it. It wasn't until years later that I really understood why.CHAPTER 2
Growing Up Third
I suppose it would help a little if I told you a bit about how and where I grew up. It wasn't a bad place. At that time, the brownstones that have now become the rage could be bought for a song. The neighborhood I grew up in (or "the hood" as it's called in some circles) was tagged Bedford-Stuyvesant in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Most of the families that lived in the hood owned their own homes. So I guess you could call it a middle-class hood. Tiffany lived two houses down, and Chantel lived across the street. Tiffany and Chantel were like sisters. They walked alike, they talked alike — they were so close, they began to look alike. I, on the other hand, was more or less like a tagalong stepsister and didn't look anything like them, a fact that was duly noted by everyone who saw us together.
Most Friday nights, our moms would get together at Tiffany's house to play cards, and me and the girls would hang out in Tiffany's room and talk about who we were going to be when we grew up.
Tiffany's room was something right out of a commercial for upset stomachs. Brilliant white curtains hung in the windows, framing her four-poster canopy bed. The entire room was painted a Pepto-Bismol pink, with flower accents: pillows, quilts, shams, and dust ruffles. Tiffany was the first person our age that had her own television and record player in her room. So if you could get your stomach to stop twirling from the profusion of flowers and make it believe that it didn't have to swallow "the pink stuff," it was actually a pretty cool place to hang out.
"I know one thing," twelve-year-old Tiffany announced as she posed in front of the full-length mirror. "I'm going to be rich and fabulous when I grow up." She smiled at her reflection and turned her profile from left to right. "Don't you think so, Chantie?"
Chantel giggled, as she was prone to do at anything and everything Tiffany said. "Me, too," she said, bobbing her head, swinging her shoulder-length pigtails merrily.
"What about you, Maggie?" Tiffany asked, not taking her eyes off her reflection.
"I'm going to be a writer," I said.
They turned to me simultaneously, their perfect adolescent faces twisting in confusion.
"A writer?" they harmonized.
Tiffany scowled. "What kind of career is that?"
"What kind of career is that?" Chantel echoed.
"I ... would write stories like Zora Neale Hurston."
There was a moment of silence, and then they both broke out into gut-busting laughter.
"You are too funny, Maggie," Tiffany said, returning to admire her image in the mirror.
"You sure are," said Chantel.
"Writers are poor ... and live in apartments," Tiffany said with disdain. "And they wear secondhand clothes." That notion seemed to disturb her the most. She gave a little shiver.
My smile was weak and forced. "Just kidding. Geez, can't you guys take a joke?" They almost looked relieved, and from that moment on, I promised myself that I would keep my mouth shut and just watch.
Tiffany finally tore herself away from the mirror and sashayed over to her dresser, where she went through an incredible assortment of nail polish. It was the dreaded manicure time. I quickly took a look at my chewed-off nails and summarily hid them under my thighs.
"I'll do yours, Chantie, if you do mine," Tiffany offered magnanimously.
I felt my stomach roll.
Tiffany plucked the bottle of pink polish off the dresser and took a seat on the pink carpeted floor. (Oh, yeah, the carpet was pink, too.) She held her right hand out to Chantel.
"And don't smear it," Tiffany instructed.
While they were engaged in a heavy discussion of nail polish etiquette, I stretched out on the floor with my ragged nails tucked beneath my chin and gazed out the window.
One day my life would be different, I thought. I would be a rich and famous author, traveling the world while my fans tossed roses at my feet and shouted my name from their windows as I passed.
Wherever I went, my entourage would be close at hand, ready to do my bidding.
"Is there anything I can get for you, Madam Drew?" my manservant would inquire in his most groveling voice.
"No, thank you, Willie." (Yes, Twinkie Willie.) "But do bring the car around. I should be ready for my shopping spree in about two hours."
"Yes, madam," he would humbly murmur, bowing his way out the door.
"Oh, Willie, please tell Tiffie and Chantie that I will see them now."
"Yes, Madam Drew."
Moments later, there is a light tapping on the oak wood door of my massive study.
"Come in." My voice rings out like music.
"You rang for us?" they chorus as they tiptoe into my sanctuary, keeping their eyes lowered.
"Yes, girls. I want you to take some dictation, Tiffie, while Chantie does my nails."
They quickly take their places. Tiffany at the desk with her notebook at the ready and Chantel at my side with polish in hand. While she meticulously paints and repaints my three-inch-long nails, I dictate my latest masterpiece: "Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who had two wicked, ugly stepsisters."
Maggie! Maggie! Wake up."
My eyes flew open, and I looked around. Where was I? This wasn't my beautiful mansion with humble servants. It was the stomach-commercial room with the wicked stepsisters. I rubbed my eyes and sat up. "Guess I dozed off."
"Well, at least sit up. You're getting Vaseline all over my rug," Tiffany complained.
I rubbed my chin, which now, on top of my latest pimple outbreak, had a thin coating of pink fibers attached to it.
"Did you do your take-home math test?" Tiffany asked. I knew that tone. "I finished it during study hall." I yawned and pulled myself up, careful to keep my nails out of view, lest they descend upon me with nail polish and emery boards.
"Can you help me with mine?"
"You're so good at math."
I knew, even at twelve years old (really eleven), that all the praise was pure bull, but I loved it nonetheless because it was true. I may not have been the cutest, but I was one of the smartest kids in class. I picked the pink lint from my chin and silently cursed my mother and her Vaseline.
"Want me to do yours for you?"
"Would you?" Tiffany asked, already knowing that I would, since she was handing me her rexo.
Chantel pretended to plead. "Mine, too?"
Faster than you could say, "Beam me up, Scottie," I was immersed in math homework while Chantel and Tiffany busied themselves with their nails. Their homework assignments and I were summarily forgotten. I suppose it was a good thing, since I didn't have any nails to busy myself with. But it would have been nice if they at least looked my way every now and then.
I guess you must be wondering why I bothered to hang around with those two. I asked myself the same question and still do. The only answer that I can come up with is that even at an early age, I had masochistic tendencies. Or in simple terms, as my grandmother would say, "If you look for trouble, you'll get kicked in the ass." Grandma always improvised on old sayings. However, hanging out with Tiffany and Chantel did have its advantages. There weren't a lot, but there were a few. You see, for some strange reason, as long as I was around, Mrs. Lane and Mrs. Hollis would let Tiffany and Chantel go wherever they wanted. Even then, I was the mascot/chaperon, a distinctive honor I've carried with me to this day.
"Can we go roller-skating?" Tiffany would ask her mother.
"Sure, if Margaret is going."
"There's a new movie playing downtown," Chantel would say to her mom. "Can we go?"
"Sure, if Margaret is going."
And with the laundry list of activities that Tiffany and Chantel were regularly involved in over the years, I always had plenty to do. In addition to the fact that none of the girls in the entire borough of Brooklyn could stand them, I was their only other friend — of sorts. They were hated with the vengeance that females could feel for one another, but they were always invited to every party and event — because if Tiffany and Chantel were in the vicinity, the boys were sure to follow.
Although their powers were pretty strong even as toddlers, they were magnified a hundred-fold by the time we reached our teens.
I remember one time in particular that almost made me bow down at their feet. We (or rather they) had been invited to Melody Grimes's sweet-sixteen party. We were all getting ready at Tiffany's house because she had the most mirrors. Go figure.
I sat on the edge of Tiffany's bed, fighting to hold my dinner down as they spun and twirled in front of the mirror, and I tried to keep from getting buried beneath the discarded outfits they tossed in my direction for nearly an hour.
"Red is definitely your color," Tiffany said, tossing her shoulder-length hair over her shoulder as Chantel posed in a fire-engine-red miniskirt and bloodred halter top.
"You think so?" Chantel arched a thin brow beneath her perfectly cut bangs.
Her sandy-brown skin and long, dancer's legs were fully exposed, leaving little to the imagination. She posed in several angles in the mirror, reminding me of a photo shoot without the photographer.
"Would I lie to you?" Tiffany crossed the room and adjusted the spaghetti strap on Chantel's shoulder. "You should put your hair up — it accentuates your neck."
Accentuates? I chewed off a ragged nail.
"What do you think, Maggie?" Tiffany asked, spinning Chantel to face me.
My first thought was that she looked like a spoiled tomato, but I knew that wouldn't go off well. If there was one thing I learned about being around those two, it was agree, agree, agree.
"I think it looks ... really red." They both frowned. Their expressions were so identical, it was almost comical. But I didn't laugh. That was a no-no, too. "But red is great ... especially on you."
They smiled in unison.
Excerpted from Divas Inc. by Donna Hill. Copyright © 2004 Donna Hill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Donna Hill has twenty published novels to her credit. She is a public relations associate for the Queens Borough Public Library system and runs a promotions and management company, ImageNouveau. She is also a writing instructor at the Frederick Douglass Creative Art Center in New York. Donna lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is an excellent book filled with all the things we rarely hear in novels today but would like to. Though this character Margeret Drew needs a cofidence boost, she is still adamant at being herself which is what being a DIVA is all about. It is a overall good read in my opinion because it gives us somethings to laugh and cry about. '2Thumbs Up! and praise for Donna Hill. Keep doing ya thang gurl!'
Picked up this book b/c it sounded fun. Kind of ridiculous. The publisher's summary is even wrong, these two 'divas' were never friends with the main character, they just used her. After reading the diva book, the main character turns into a witch. She kept referring to Victoria as a real person. I'm not going to tell you what it really is. After reading the 1st paragraph on page 81 (made no sense), I resolved to quit reading if it didn't get much better. It was immediately after the Twinkie Willy thing that I quit the book, which I rarely do. Ms. Hill should not quit her librarian day job.
this book was cool but the beginning is boring the middle is mellow and the end is exciting but i dont really recommend it to anyone
The book is a page turner. Highly recommended. Characters are definitely someone that the reader can relate to. The protaganist speaks directly to the reader. You will go through the emotions and drama that she faces when you read Divas Inc.
This book has one of the most creative storylines I have ever read!! I could not put it down and read it all in one afternoon. The dialogue is 'reader-friendly' and invites you to come along for a very wild, divalicious, dramatic ride! Every woman aspires (or wishes) to be a Tiffany or Chantal when the reality is that most of us are Margarets and it is this issue of trying to be/pose as someone else that really hits home. In today's media obsessed society where role models are along the dysfunctional/artificial (and very airbrushed) lines of J-Lo, Beyonce, Pamela Anderson, and Top Model -- women especially have the tendency to think that the Platinum limit or Prada heel is higher on the other side but Margaret's experience shows that sometimes the best person you can be is -- yourself!! There are many other themes at play including self esteem/awareness, image, confidence, real vs artificial beauty, materialism/gold digging vs independence/ambition, personal success vs the appearance/illusion of, true happiness vs achieved or prescribed happiness/status, and ideal husbands/wedding fantasies vs lifetime mates -- Hill is genius at getting to the root of all of them. Hill also examines the notion of friendship -- why we invite people into our lives and allow them to stay even when they are no longer a fit. The ending is an absolute show stopper!! The characters sparkle and are hilarious right down to the dog and if you look closely -- you may find all of these people in yourself or your life. Truly delightful, hilarious, and ensightful read -- take it with you to the beach, add some mimosas and enjoy!! Great summer (or anytime) read!!
This book was boring. I had it for months and it usually takes me a maximum of 5 days to read a book. This author needs to find a full time job.
this was one of the best donna hill books i've read in a while...... thank you miss hill,i can relate to this one!
This book was wonderful. It will make you scream and laugh out loud. This book took me 1 day to read. It is truly a book only a diva could handle. An excellent read
Donna Hill has done it again. Going off the beaten track of her usual romance novels, Ms Hill introduces us to Tiffany, Chantel, and Margaret. Tiffany, Chantel and Margaret have been friends since their early ¿bassinet¿ days. While Tiffany and Chantel have always been obsessed with being one of the smartest, the best dressed and the most popular, Margaret has always been considered to be the plain-Jane reliable friend. As their friendship progresses over the years, Tiffany and Chantel become true divas. Margaret stays 'good ol¿' reliable Margaret until she is left behind while they go on a fabulous 6-week vacation to Europe. Entrusting Margaret to look after both of their apartments and Tiffany¿s snooty dog Virginia, Margaret stumbles upon the world of Divadom. ¿So this is how the so called other half lives¿, thinks Margaret. This is the kind of lifestyle she has only read about; now Margaret begins to live a double life. Opting to fulfill her curiosity, Margaret begins to help herself to their boyfriends, cars, clothes and makeup. Trying to juggle her regular routine of visiting an eccentric grandmother, a domineering mother and Tiffany¿s nosy neighbor Wayne, proves to be more than Margaret can handle. Her double life begins to catch up with her and after all is said and done, Margaret may have bitten off more than she can chew. Ms. Hill has written a savvy, whimsical novel of a woman that if we don¿t know someone like her, we ourselves have been in her shoes at one time or another. Not in its entirety, but there¿s a little bit of Margaret in all of us. Kudos to Ms. Hill for providing her loyal as well as new readers with an upbeat, funny novel that will leave you laughing to the very end.
Maggie, Tiffany, and Chantal have been friends for a long time going back to pre elementary school. While the flirtatious Tiffany and Chantal have been dude magnets able to get males to do their bidding since first grade, Maggie has always been reticent and in awe of the dynamic duo. Tiffany and Chantal remain successful, obtaining fabulous jobs and homes as everyone considers the two women as Divas. Maggie envies them but loves her pals. When Tiffany and Chantal go on an extended vacation, she agrees to watch their expensive New York apartments. Soon Maggie begins emulating her friends and though still overweight with glasses, hunks take notice of her for the first time. She learns that Tiffany and Chantal belong to the exclusive women only Divas, Inc., club for females who demand the best. However, as she begins obtaining multiple boyfriends and behaving like a Diva, Maggie worries that at midnight Cinderella will only have a mouse to show for her efforts. This is an amusing contemporary tale that gently winks at some of society¿s ¿Ivana¿ like assumptions. Maggie is a delightful protagonist as she gradually turns from bookworm to diva. Fans will notice that this tale lacks Donna Hill¿s normal deep drama but readers who enjoy an urban Cinderella like frolic will appreciate the humorous somewhat biting DIVAS, INC. Harriet Klausner
I usually find Donna Hill's novels entertaining, but not this one. It just didn't grab me. I couldn't finish it. But I will continue to read her books.