The notion that media pits women entertainers against each other more explicitly and extremely than it does men is tried and true enough to be a cliche. The supposed bad blood between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj immediately comes to mind, as does Ryan Murphy’s 2017 limited series Feud, which examined how powerful men profited from the publicized acrimony between screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. There are countless examples of comparisons that seem to imply there’s only so much space in pop culture for women, and that maintaining the amount of space one takes up is nothing less than a fight to the death.
But external pressures that foster cattiness are only part of the story; the full picture also includes the agency of the women involved, as well as the frequent praise that comes up in public discussions of one’s fellow superstars. At best, such conversations operate as an unfiltered peer review system. Whether good or bad, given the stakes, they often come across as uncommonly honest in the overall softball/disingenuous medium that is the celebrity interview.
This is why I’ve become recently obsessed with a series of videos on the YouTube channel Cliporama, which strings together excerpts from interviews, sometimes spanning decades, of one famous woman talking about another. If you’ve ever wanted to watch 15 minutes of Celine Dion gushing about Barbra Streisand, well, today’s your lucky day:
Sometimes the arcs are surprising—take for example Cher’s early impressions of Madonna (“There are a lot of things I respect about her...and there’s something about her that I don’t like: she’s mean” in 1991 to “I’m totally good with Madonna” in 2013).
Some devolve, like Lady Gaga’s own take on Madonna, which went from awe to disappointment, as familiarity (and open competition) bred contempt:
(Madonna’s own words on Gaga have also been collected on the channel.)
Whitney Houston started off cool on Mariah Carey, but that changed in 1998, when they worked together—there is, in fact, a clip in this compilation of the two of them on Oprah discussing the way the media had pitted them against each other (“Sexist, but what are you gonna do? It’s pretty standard,” says Mariah):
Some of these arcs only developed with death—it wasn’t until Bea Arthur died, per these clips, that Betty White started discussing the extent to which she felt disliked by her Golden Girls co-star, whom she maintained she loved nonetheless:
“I don’t believe in talking about people you work with,” says Bette Davis in one of the interviews on this reel of her eviscerating Faye Dunaway:
Bette’s expressed belief notwithstanding, here’s 14 minutes of her talking about Joan Crawford, but TWIST, there are more than a few kind words in there:
There are so many more: Patti on Diana. Cyndi on Madonna. Aretha on Whitney. Whitney on Aretha. Raquel Welch with horror story after horror story about Mae West on the set of Myra Breckinridge. These clips spanning years and evolving attitudes make for viewing that is sometimes dishy and often feel-good; they may even revise your view on what we talk about when we talk about celebrities talking about celebrities.