The University of Wisconsin Press

Essays / Popular Culture / Gay & Lesbian Interest


My Diva
65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them
Edited by Michael Montlack


My Diva is a series of love letters to some of the most inspiring, surprising, dynamic darlings ever, from Claude Cahun and Julia Child to Kate Bush and Cher.”
Time Out New York


“In their divas, these writers don’t just find a persona, but a touchstone—a fellow traveler whose life path parallels their own abuse, estrangement and crushed self-esteem. The result is a crazy quilt, everything from the frivolous to fetishes to the arcane.”
—San Franciso Chronicle


From Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Midler, and Diana Ross to Queen Elizabeth I, Julia Child, and Princess Leia, divas have been sister, alter ego, fairy godmother, or model for survival to gay men and the closeted boys they once were. And anyone—straight or gay, young or old, male or female—who ever needed a muse, or found one, will see their own longing mirrored here as well.

These witty and poignant short essays explore reasons for diva worship as diverse as the writers themselves. My Diva offers both depth and glamour as it pays tribute with joy, intelligence, and fierce, fierce love.


There is something about these larger-than-life stars that represents our yearnings for vindication, in which we see ourselves transcending the difficulties a gay man faces in this world.”
—Edward Field, on Gloria Swanson

“I laughed out loud at my campus mailbox as I flipped through a new book edited by Michael Montlack, My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. Boy, do I understand diva worship! It’s definitely one of the weird, possibly DNA-linked traits that I have always shared with many gay men and very few lesbians. There are so many wonderful things in this book. Joseph Campana, for example, says about his passion for Audrey Hepburn: ‘Who hasn’t had real relationships with imaginary people or imaginary relationships with real people? What else were the arts invented for if not for consummating the deep and necessary loves that can only be lived in the imagination?’ Hear, hear! That’s practically my militant manifesto.”
—Camille Paglia,


A sampling of contributors and their divas include:

Virginia Woolf by Brian Teare

Margaret Dumont by Christopher Murray

Bessie Smith by Sam J. Miller

Lotta Lenya by David Bergman

Marlene Dietrich by Walter Holland

Grace Paley by Mark Doty
Eartha Kitt by D. A. Powell

Anna Moffo by Wayne Koestenbaum

Rocío Dúrcal by Rigoberto González

Liza Minnelli by Jason Schneiderman

Laura Nyro by Michael Klein

Ricky Lee Jones by Timothy Liu

Margaret Cho by Kenji Oshima

Princess Leia by Christopher Hennessy

Michael Montlack is professor of English at Berkeley College in New York City. He has published two chapbooks of poetry, Girls, Girls, Girls and Cover Charge. This book was inspired by his love for Stevie Nicks.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)


The cover of Montlack's book is blue-green, with a fashion-model type woman superimposed on an extremely colorful butterfly wing.

May 2009

LC: 2008043125 HQ

160 pp.   7 x 10

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“Part flapper, she could wrap her lovely figure up in her long brown mink or coat of lynx. Her cigarette was always held at bay from the tangerine or pink gloss of her lips by the dark span of a cigarette holder.”
—Scott Hightower, on Aurora de Albornoz

“A book for anyone who has ever idolized an iconic woman.”

“What makes the book work is how each diva is so intensely personal to each writer. Forget the eyes! The diva is the window to your beautiful gay soul.”
Modern Tonic

My Diva is a hit parade of wonderful women who've inspired wonderful men. . . anyone who’s ever experienced a moment of doubt—or hope—or pure joy—inspired by someone who’s just a little out there, just a little over the top, will find themselves reflected in this immensely lovable book.”
New Orleans Picayune

“An ultimate homage to the precious, the opulent, the bitchy, and the eternally beloved women who rock our worlds.”
Bay Area Reporter





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