15 Highlights From 20 Years of VH1's Legendary 'Divas'

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Photo: VH1

Patti LaBelle doesn't call herself a diva these days because "all these little heifers who can't sing are called divas," but the soul singer/pie maker/American Horror Story alum is back to reclaim the title in VH1’s latest installment of Divas.

Along with goddaughter Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, Vanessa Williams and Pharrell protégé Teyana Taylor, Patti -- we go by divas’ first names here -- will bring the divadom during VH1's benefit concert for the Save the Music Foundation, a special holiday-themed edition called Divas Holiday:Unsilent Night. (The show premieres Dec. 5 at 9 p.m. ET.) 

MORE: 'Mariah's World' Recap: Mariah Carey Recalls 'Great Moments' With James Packer

When the concert series first launched in 1998, the lineup was the stuff of dreams. Mariah, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Shania Twain and Aretha Franklin with special guest Carole King embodied every meaning of the word diva in lauded performance after performance. During its 11 iterations over the last two decades, the special eventually strayed from divas in the traditional sense to include up-and-coming songstresses, honorary queen Sir Elton John and, in 2012, Pitbull. Yes, Pitbull. 

With Unsilent Night promising to harken back to the show’s original prowess, we look back at these 15 memorable moments from Divas past: 

That Time Aretha Franklin Stole the Show… Literally 

Remember when Aretha warbled "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" alongside a once-in-a-lifetime lineup that included Mariah, Celine, Gloria, Shania and Carole King? (Most of) the ladies stood back as an impassioned Aretha took her time singing, shimmying and storming New York's Beacon Theatre stage, all the while suggesting her singing companions take a seat in the audience. That night, Mama Aretha was done babysitting. Carole recalls it happening just as it appears: "As Aretha will tend to do -- god bless her -- sort of taking over." But Celine (who Mariah may or may not be referring to in this video) decided there was room for more than one natural woman on that stage.

‘Divas Live 99’: Best Entrance Ever 

Can we just have an entire Divas special showcasing Tina Turner's strut? When the "Simply the Best" rock icon sashayed through the crowd with a friendly smile and a fierce step, taking the stage with her incredible gams on full display, Divas Live 99’sopening gave us life and new #leggoals. 

This Glorious GIF of Celine Getting Funky

Her Divas debut was so good to us.
Photo: VH1

Hello, It's Somebody Named Adele

The world at large had yet to kneel collectively at the altar of Adele, but it wouldn't be long after this performance during Divas 2009, when she performed "Hometown Glory" from her debut album. We have a feeling that even diva skeptic Patti would approve. 

Mariah's Hair...

As you can see, Mariah's not-so-elusive hair was very excited to be performing at 1998's Divas Live. (Note: Mariah is not a fan of her '90s hair.)

Photo: VH1

...And When She Dramatically Dropped to the Floor and Then Rose Like the Bravest Human Butterfly

Who said Mimi couldn't act?

Beyoncé Doesn't Need Her Earring 

What is it with Beyoncé and earrings? Thirteen years before the three-time Divas performer rocked a single earring and a bloody ear like it was NBD, her flailing hands -- because what else do you do with them when you're belting "Dangerously in Love"? -- caused another jewelry malfunction. Watch this whole 2003 performance from Divas Duets -- yes, it's that good -- and be sure to turn your attention to the 2:45 mark, when Queen Bey hurls her fallen earring into the crowd.

Aretha Performed 'Chain of Fools' With the Backstreet Boys in 2000

#NeverForget.

Ciara's Killer M.J. Dance Tribute 

During a show that also paid tribute to the late Whitney Houston and Donna Summer, it was Ciara who came to slay -- and walk the moonwalk -- while honoring Michael Jackson. The pop star eventually got to her single, "Got Me Good," but it was her fancy "Billie Jean" footwork during Divas 2012 that set her apart from the other budding divas that night.

Whatever Patti and Cyndi Lauper Are Doing Here 

It wasn't the first time gal pals Patti and Cyndi sang Lauper’s beloved classic “Time After Time,” but hearing them revisit the song nearly 30 years later was sweeter than a piece of Patti's sweet potato pie. Divas collabs are either hit or miss -- or in the case of this rendition, somewhere in between. Patti appears to be reading Lauper's lips, seemingly trying to recall the lyrics (hey, 30 years is a long time!), but more importantly, let's talk about that knock-you-over note Cyndi unleashes at 3:28. Patti follows her lead, of course. Then Lauper, who makes an "I just lost all sense of time and place" look, is surprised by what just happened. 

Ellen DeGeneres Raps Salt-N-Pepa 

The talk show host threw down during her rendition of Salt-N-Pepa's hit "Shoop" while hosting 2002's Divas Las Vegas. No one was complaining as a swarm of hot male dancers got bootylicious, even as Ellen hysterically pretends to be interested in them.

Young Bobbi Kristina Watching Mother Whitney Sing 

Try not to collapse into a weepy mess while watching Whitney power through her career staple, "I Will Always Love You," during the ’99 show. The moment was moving not merely because she's feeling every word, but moreover that Bobbi Kristina (at 7:18) was looking on. It was sweet then and bittersweet now. 

Paula Abdul Dressed as Ellen

If you’d ever wondered what Paula Abdul looks like as Ellen DeGeneres, after 2009's show you wondered no more. Wearing a short blond wig and pantsuit while draped over an oversized chair a la the daytime talk show host, the host and performer amusingly joshed Ellen for replacing her as a judge on American Idol.

Cher, Tina and Elton Rock 'Proud Mary' and We. Are. Dead. 

Nice and easy. True to the song, that's how it started. But then, after Tina got things warmed up with Elton on piano, Divas Live ’99 had us basking in a delicious diva trifecta once Cher -- surprise! -- whirled on out. 

And, Yes, Another Clip From 1998

Because the original Divas Live is legendary and nothing can compare. 

Plus, This Aretha Hip Swivel
Photo: VH1