One of the most affordable luxuries for the Diva-in-Training has to be movies. Not just any movie, you understand, but movies that celebrate strong, occasionally outrageous, women being unabashedly themselves, regardless of how the world might look sideways at that.

Many films in this genre are happy and uplifting (although not all of them – everybody needs a good cry from time to time), so we’ll start there with a couple of true classics.

Auntie Mame (1958) – SUCH a good movie! Rosalind Russell plays Mame, a rich, kooky woman raising her nephew in a definitely bohemian style against the wishes of – well, just about everybody. Yes, Mame is a bit much, but her love is fierce and she is wiling to work hard to create comfort for those she adores. Stuffed shirts are deflated and the Technicolor sets and costumes are eye-popping. Excellent for rainy days when you feel cramped and small. Remember – “life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” (PS – Do NOT confuse this with Mame, the 1974 remake with Lucille Ball. While I sincerely do love Lucy, the 1958 film is the one to watch.)

Gigi (1958) – Yes, I know. I’ve started with two movies from the same year. It was a very good year for divas; what can I say? Gigi stars the incomparable Leslie Caron as the title character, who is being groomed to be a kept woman by her grandmother and great aunt. It sounds outrageous, and it is, but in Paris in 1900 (the setting of the film), a woman’s choices depended greatly on the man she chose to associate herself with and marriage limited your options. But Gigi dreams of love and fidelity and is her own woman, which leads her family almost to despair. Add to the mix a talented supporting cast and scenes like this one, and you have yourself a fine film to remind you that love triumphs, but it’s also good to know how to identify jewels.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) – While the Paul Gallico novel has been made into a film before, I can’t comment on that one, having not yet seen it (although it stars Angela Lansbury, so it’s probably wonderful). This one, however – just fantastic. Mrs. Harris works hard doing the quiet work that allows her well-off clients to forget that their messes have to be cleaned up by someone and she wants One Supremely Beautiful Thing, in this case, a haute couture Dior dress. She charms everyone around her and, like a good Studio Ghibli movie, nothing bad ever happens. It’s just a solid, lovely movie without villains (oh, sure, some careless, selfish people, but it all comes out right in the end) and with gorgeous, life-affirming messages laced throughout.