The Diva Rules Sparkles: A Book Review

Michelle Visage, co-host of RuPaul’s Drag Race and author of The Diva Rules, was allowed to do something as a child that I will not allow my child to do.

When she moved from New Jersey to Manhattan to attend drama school, she continued returning home on the weekends to be part of the teen club scene in New Jersey. One weekend, her mother refused to pick her up at the train station, insisting that the only way to have a life in New York City would be … to have a life in New York City.

“But how will I get into clubs?” 17-year-old Michelle wondered.

Before long, a package arrived at her dorm (the Beacon Hotel) which contained a fake ID and a notarized fake birth certificate to back it up. Michelle Shupack had rapidly “aged” a few years and been rechristened a student at the University of Texas. Yeehaw.

Although I would never do the same for my daughter or son, and never would have sought out the same thing for myself, it worked out pretty well for Michelle (who didn’t drink then and doesn’t now). She says that once she got into the NYC clubs, “it was there, in those dark, sweaty, legendary dance halls at The Underground, as well as the Palladium, the Copa, the World, and Tracks, that I started working it every night, and where I made all the connections that would lead me to where I am today.”

When I bought The Diva Rules, I will admit it was because the audiobook was on sale on Audible and I was out of credits. It didn’t take me long to be glad I ended up listening to the book (which I’ve listened to twice — a rarity for me), and I now own the hard copy.

I loved many things about this book. Here are the main takeaways, one thing I disagreed with, and a piece of advice:

The NYC Pier/Club/Vogueing Scene

If you’ve known me for more than thirty minutes, it’s likely you know how much I deeply love New York City. That’s probably one of the reasons I was in intense like with this book within a few pages. The New York City Michelle experienced is one I never did, but I loved learning about the sense of community she felt in the clubs, how she was part of the vogueing trend, and the pier queen scene. What she described about the community and family structure helped me understand why so many patrons considered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando as more than a club; it was a safe place. It was family.

Presence Trumps Perfection

This was one of my favorite lines from the book. It addresses one of my constant struggles, the struggle to not let myself get paralyzed when things aren’t perfect enough. It addresses the fact that pretty much every supervisor I have had has, in one form or another, said “you need to have more confidence in your decisions.”

In the “Presence Trumps Perfection” “T (Truth),” Michelle writes what she would tell her 19-year-old self (“stop being so hard on yourself”) and shares one of her favorite RuPaul quotes, “What other people think of you is none of your damn business.”

Exposure Won’t Put Food on Your Table

If you’re at all involved in blogging circles, you’ve probably been a part of the recent discussions of why working for “exposure” (something some brands offer instead of cold hard cash) doesn’t put food on the table. Well, here’s Michelle echoing that, word for word (see page 99). “…when it comes down to it, exposure won’t put food on your table.”

I have been part of several multi-thread discussion recently among bloggers about the fact that a brand that offers you “exposure” rather than monetary compensation is not recognizing your worth as a blogger. That said, there are times when exposure is helpful. I am new enough to blogger land, especially sponsored blogging, that I have chosen to do some projects for “exposure” or in exchange for product only in the hopes that it will help me be more prominent as a blogger and prove myself.

What I still have to force myself to shut up and not say is, when I have done a cause-related project for which I was compensated, saying to the brand/cause, “I would have done it for free.” Because if I choose to write for a cause it is probably technically true that I would have done it for free — I don’t accept assignments that I don’t believe in. But even causes/non-profits have budgets for communication and what favor am I doing myself if I hint at the fact that they really didn’t need to pay me in the first place?

But About Those Dockers

When I decided to listen to the book a second time so I could narrow down which takeaways I wanted to focus on, I kept remembering “but there was one thing I disagree with.” I didn’t recall what it was … until I got to Diva Rule #18: Never trust a man in Dockers. After reading WHY she doesn’t ever trust men in Dockers, I have to say the one bad apple clad in khaki really did give her a compelling reason to distrust guys in pleated tan Levis.

Given this small glimpse into my husband’s closet (believe me, the rest looks pretty much like this), I can attest at least one Dockers-clad guy out there isn’t all bad!

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Doing Things Differently Brings Joy

Here’s something that gave this book a spark of joy I have rarely felt from books recently. It’s DIFFERENT! It’s UNIQUE! It makes me think in terms of glitter and hot pink zebra print!

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The sparkly glitter starts on the cover!

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What you see the minute you open the book!

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Even the Table of Contents is different – color blocks instead of lines of text!

Audiobooks Rock

One recommendation I have if you decide to read The Diva Rules is to get the audiobook version. It’s just different hearing Michelle Visage herself narrate her life story. I mean the Pier Queenese lesson on pages 62-63 is SO much more entertaining when you’re listening to Michelle give it verbally rather than just reading the words. (But as you can see from the images I’ve shared from the hard copy of the book, it also has its fun points too (glitter, zebra, etc.!).

Other books I recommend on audio because authors narrate them include:

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush

Bringing Things to a Close

This post was inspired by a Mama’s Losin’ It prompt: Talk about something you were allowed to do as a child that you will not allow your child to do. I wrote about how Michelle’s mom had gotten her a fake ID and accompanying fake birth certificate.

Inspired by Michelle’s unique style, here’s a little green zebra treatment of that question! What’s your sparkly answer?

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Mama’s Losin’ It

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Everybody Matters: A Book Review

Quick! When you think “perfect place to work,” what workplace characteristics come to mind? Lucrative compensation? A great product? How the idea of saying “I work for [insert name of organization here] makes your soul leap?

I don’t think there actually is a perfect place, but Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family captured ideas and concepts about management that are surely worth a try.

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It took me a long time to read this book, so the processing of its tidbits happened in small “a-has” rather than instantaneous epiphanies. This pacing was well-timed given my two-year odyssey of trying to process my choice to leave my full-time job and evaluate my next steps.

The Power of Everybody

Because it took me so long to read this book, I had the opportunity to type the title repetitively as I logged my “Friday Reads” on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. Almost every time, I could remember the “Everybody Matters” part but I am sure I mangled the rest (which is technically “The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family”), never remembering if it was “extraordinary,” “incredible,” or some other superlative! As the book states early on, though, even if I couldn’t remember that level of specificity, “everybody” really does mean “everybody,” and “not just the fortunate few or the exceptionally talented.” 

The Power of Clear Communication

There is a lot of writing out there about clear expectations and how if you don’t have a goal, you probably won’t get there. I love how this book took that concept one step further — how clear expectations are the catalyst that can help people motivate themselves.

“When people know their goal, they are inspired to express their gifts, and they discover capabilities they didn’t even know they had.”

I also appreciate the organization’s utilization of the power of storytelling, self-awareness, and vulnerability: “We believe that real people telling real stories creates real learning.” I concur!

The Power of an Abundance Mindset

Many of the businesses Barry-Wehmiller acquired had been run into the ground, organizationally, financially, and morale-wise before the acquisition. One of the most challenging hurdles Barry-Wehmiller faced was helping staff in the newly-acquired organizations believe that business could be about more than budget reductions and process modifications designed to cut corners.

We don’t have to win every project. We need to enter into responsible relationships with responsible people who value what we bring to the table.

 

The Power of Honoring Life Outside of the Workplace

This topic is huge to me. As a worker who has recently transitioned from a “traditional” workplace to a virtual one, I have been thinking even more than previously about the configurations of the work parts of our lives and the non-work parts of our lives. The way we divvy up our energy is simply not black and white.

The authors write, “We don’t draw a line between behaviors within the workplace and how people can apply them at home. What surprises participants is that we encourage telling stories about our home lives as much as we talk about the things we do in our leadership roles at work.”

The passage below is not so much about time and energy as it is about the actual essence of the self. I love it:

An important take-away for participants learning our approach to leadership is that they can be — indeed, must be — the same person at work that they are at home. They don’t need to wear a mask to work. The Leadership Checklist is not just for the eight or ten hours people spend in the office or in the factory. It’s for all twenty-four hours and every aspect of their life.

The Power of Reciprocal Commitment

The book interweaves a theme throughout about how co-workers should regard one another and their roles. In their Leadership Fundamentals classes, “We ask participants to set their organizational identity aside for the duration of the course; they don’t know if the person next to them is a CFO or a plant leader…..We specifically say, ‘Please do not talk about your title or the actual day-to-day work that you do. We want to know who you are as a person.”

Along with that effort to peel away “title” identities for the purpose of learning and growing, the authors remind leaders, “if you think you are too busy to give time and energy to your people, then they’re too busy to give time and energy to you. It is a balanced equation.”

The Power of … Well, POWER

As I mentioned above, when an organization is in the business of acquisitions, there is a constant “newness” for the personnel at the acquired organization. Reading these sentiments made me think of a time in my previous organization. I had a new supervisor, who reported to the Executive Director. We had been discussing some decision that had to be made, but apparently my co-workers and I were consistently expressing a tone of “but what if the Executive Director doesn’t want it that way?” You could have heard a pin drop in the room after he asked:

Why is everyone so afraid?

I can only imagine the fear at an organization that has experienced adversity after adversity, broken promise after broken promise. Therefore, I appreciated this sentence: “The cycle of caring begins with you,” as well as “since when do you need a memo from corporate that tells you that it is acceptable to be good stewards of the lives in your care?”

It is hard to build trust again after it has been broken repeatedly. That’s why it was so heartwarming to read one person’s opinion on page 229: They’ve done everything they said they were going to do.

Finally, something I think about often as I watch my 16- and 19- year olds grow up is personal accountability. I see them and their peers simultaneously sharing minute and intimate details of their lives with an extremely broad array of people via social media, but also being disconnected from looking people in the eyes, having to research facts without Google, and not necessarily having defined long-term goals (not that you have to have that when you’re a teen, it just seems different than the outlook I had at their ages). I hope they grow to understand this: 

I am the message.

These four words, to me, show recognition that you may be “fed” information, given instructions, old where to go and what to do. But ultimately what the world sees is the message through you. You are the message, in everything you say and do.

And when it comes to messages, everybody’s extraordinary message does indeed matter. 

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All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Our Community LISTENS, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing powerful Communication Skills Training to communities throughout the United States.

This post is a response to Kat Bouska’s writing prompt: BOOK REVIEW! Book Review

NOTE: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. These effusively positive opinions are all mine.

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.