Faith Hill on the CMAs: Mad diva or misunderstood comedienne?

15519__faith_lThose of us in the press room backstage at last night’s Country Music Awards in Nashville never had a more burning desire to be back in the land of Tivo, or YouTube, than when Faith Hill had her silent, blink-and-you-missed-it "freakout." It was a little like Nipplegate — did we just see what we think we saw? What Faith was exposing here was either one of the great televised diva tantrums of all time, or a really fantastic sense of humor marred by a seriously unwise sense of comic timing.

If you were watching as the nominees were announced for best female vocalist, you saw anticipatory reaction shots of Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride, and Carrie Underwood in the audience and Sara Evans and Hill waiting backstage. From her body language, Hill seemed loosey-goosey and high-spirited… which I guess is my code phraseology for "possibly had a glass of wine in the green room to wind down after her performance." When Underwood’s name was announced (as most pundits had predicted), Hill raised her arms and flashed that huge grin of hers, as if she’d misheard her own name as the triumphant one — followed within a split second by her exaggeratedly mouthing the word "What?" and angrily immediately storming off-camera.

Or should we say mock-angrily? It seemed clear enough to me that this was a gag, albeit a disastrously ill-timed one. That was the party line put out the following morning: Manager Gary Borman said, "I’ve worked with Faith for many years now and the idea that she would ever insult or undermine another artist, let alone another human being’s success is absolutely preposterous. Those who know her know that she’s incapable of such actions. She was being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after." Faith herself was quoted as adding: "The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me. For this to become a focus of attention given the talent gathered is utterly ridiculous. Carrie is a talented and deserving Female Vocalist of The Year."

Ask anyone who knows Hill and they’ll tell you she is not the WickedWitch of the West, is not prone to diva tantrums, and might even bedescribed as gracious. Plus, she couldn’t have had any sane expectationof winning: She’s never been a favorite of the CMA voters, despite herimmense popularity; this category has almost always gone in recentyears to her good friend Martina McBride, though this year Underwoodwas heavily favored. Either way, there was no way Faith figured shewould win. It seemed like she was doing an impression of a diva, notactually being a diva, and trying to make some sort of self-deprecatinghumor out the idea that she could even have had a hope of winning.

But judging from the reactions I’m seeing from fans online, I wouldsay that the vast majority of telecast viewers (or YouTube armchairquarterbacks) are taking the reaction at face value. If you’reexperiencing some deja vu, this might be reminding you of John Kerry’srecent joke about the president’s intelligence, which was understood bymany, not unreasonably, as a putdown of the troops. It’s hard toimagine that Faith won’t eventually end up apologizing, just like theinitially unrepentant Kerry. Because if, as I suspect, Faith was notfeeling a tremendous amount of pain last night, you can be sure she’sfeeling a lot today.

Even some of her defenders didn’t get that it was a joke. On herwebsite, LeAnn Rimes briefly posted a message that said: "She was justbeing honest and emotional like every other person sitting at home withan opinion. These awards shows are SO political and we all get fed upwith them. We all work very hard and have for many years so to seesomeone come in and win Female Vocalist that has been here for a VERYshort time is a little disheartening. That is why we have the Horizonaward and Carrie had an incredible year, enough to sweep that one. Idon’t think Faith was angry about her loss, she probably felt, as I didthat Carrie has not paid her dues long enough to fully deserve thataward. As artists and public figures, we have to keep our feelings sorepressed so we don’t get called ungrateful as Faith has on this boardmany times now. She is a very sweet and gracious woman, whom I adore.Please cut her some slack!" Yikes. With defenses like that… Sufficeit to say that Rimes withdrew the posting after Hill issued thestatement about the whole thing being a gag.

Hill wasn’t the only one mouthing something potentiallycontroversial at the CMAs. Miranda Lambert premiered "CrazyEx-Girlfriend," the fun first single from her second album, which isdue out next spring, and, in playing the song’s title role, shedefinitely meant to enact a tantrum. One of the lines of the song endsin "…bitch," which is a little strong by CMA standards, so she agreedto mouth the word off-mike… though, at least over the monitors in thepress room, I was pretty sure I could hear it anyway. Plus, she smashedher guitar against the stage at the end, which was planned, and knockedover her microphone stand, which she told me wasn’t. "When you’ve gottwo minutes and 30 seconds, you’ve got to make an impression," sheexplained to me at the SonyBMG party — and kudos to her for having thediva fit of the night that everyone could tell for sure was a joke.Miranda’s manager, Simon Renshaw, was kiddingly chiding Miranda forgiving in to the producers and not saying "bitch" into the mike — butthen, he’s also the Dixie Chicks’ manager, so he would say that.

So what do you think, readers? Does Faith deserve to be slurred withthe same B-word that Miranda used in her new song? Or do you agree withme that she’s in the process of being unfairly crucified for the lessmortal sin of misguided comic timing?

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  • Karen

    Actually, word is from real people that Faith Hill IS a diva. And that outburst last night came as no surprise.
    Karma finally showing its true colors.
    She’s been on Tim’s coattails for the last year and a half.
    Oh well.

    • Erin Lane

      Faith Hill has the potential for losing her temper; like when a woman at one of their concerts, reached up and grabbed Tim’s crotch. She blew a gasket, and she was justified in doing so. If a woman came and grabbed my husband’s crotch she would be in the hospital. I believe she was kidding at the CMA’s.

  • Jellybean

    Hmm…in interviews, Faith Hill seems like a sweet person (and probably is). But methinks she WAS indeed bitten by the green-eyed monster and frustration. And your evidence points to that fact:
    1) she’s never won that award and b)LeeAnne Rimes is basically confirming (in a roundabout way), that these established female artists have discussed amongst themselves Carrie’s “newness”.
    Faith must be feeling SO embarrassed (coming soon, her explanation to Oprah!). Seems even with all her MANY years of experience (compared to “hasn’t paid her dues” Carrie) she still managed to greatly miscalculate the power of a live camera!

  • Kyle

    Faith was totally kidding, and it was really funny if you consider what Kanye West did last week. I’m almost positive that if the camera hadn’t cut away when it did, we would have saw Faith walk back on camera smiling. This whole thing is being blown way out of proportion. And Faith HAS won this award before, FYI.

  • Stacey

    I knew when I saw it, it was a joke response. Because basically as much as I love Faith, she wasn’t going to win…if Carrie didn’t. Sara Evans, Martina or even Gretchen Wilson probably would have. I don’t think Faith had the year to get the win, no matter how much she deserved it for her long career. I am not mad at Faith, she knew the camera was there. She was playing to the camera. As you said, almost everyone predicted Carrie to win. So I doubt she was surprised.
    And now to the ill-advised LeAnn Rimes posting. I hope she was outraged when Gretchen Wilson won for her first CD. Carrie maybe young, and only been out for a year in the industry. But she’s sold almost four million CDs, and I believe her CD is one of the top selling for all country artists in the last year. She is a fantastic artist and while an arguement, Female Vocalist should go to someone who has been in the industry for awhile and worked hard at her craft could be made. Carrie is very deserving and to say she isn’t, is even more unprofessional than the original “Faith Hill display”. JMO! Considering LeAnn was once a young upstart in the business, how would she feel if she won award and people sniped that she is too young for the reward and hadn’t done enough for the award. Carrie has had a very successful year, and shouldn’t be penalized for it…because it’s been only a year.

  • Mary Ann

    Give Faith a break. Besides being beautiful, talented, and married to Tim McGraw, the woman is human!!! I don’t believe it was a prank, I believe it was an honest reaction and not to her not winning but to the fact that this young girl who comes off of a tacky TV show actually won. I remember years ago a co-worker of mine who was a good friend received a “superior performance award” and before I could get the foot out of my mouth, I said, “For WHAT!!!”. Needless to say, it was very uncomfortable for a couple of months but it was also a very human reaction. Do I think Faith should apologize? No – she was probably more upset about her friends like Gretchen Wilson getting shut out. Carrie gave a speech about how two years ago she was “watching” this show on TV and dreaming about it – two years ago, the rest of those ladies were probably working every honky-tonk in the country. I love ya Faith. Please don’t give in and apolgize. The thing we all love most about our country artists is their ability to be human.

  • Jillness

    She wasn’t goofing around before they announced the winner…she was standing there listening. She didn’t laugh or grin after her big “WHAT” to show that it was a joke. She just did it, and then walked away.
    It doesn’t seem like a joke to me.

  • dma69

    After seeing it on YouTube, it was definitely a diva moment. God Bless the cameramen to capture it.

  • Denise

    TOTAL joke………Faith wasn’t expecting to win and was jokingly having a “Kanye” moment. Everyone needs to move on. It’s crappy (oops, I mean COUNTRY )music, y’all!

  • Jillness

    Mary Ann, just because a person was discovered on a “tacky tv show” doesn’t mean that they, themselves, are tacky. I recognise that those are your words, and not Faith’s.
    However, if Faith was seriously outraged as you say…I do think she should be ashamed. These awards are not that significant. If this was sincere, she insulted a person who was just as deserving of that little trinket as she was.
    To think that she is above someone else is just conceit. Not a the quality of good character.

  • Jane

    Years ago, back when Kathie Lee Gifford was still working with Regis Philbin, Reege was talking about the Daytime Emmys that had occurred the night before. He said that he and Kathie Lee had made a pact that when they lost the Emmy to Rosie O’Donnell, they would both get up and storm out the door. Regis went through with it, but Kathie Lee bailed on him and ruined the joke. So this isn’t the first time a nominee thought that would be funny.
    Faith made a joke and had the misfortune of the director pulling out of the shot to feature the winner, so she couldn’t reveal that she meant to be funny. Diva or not, her body language seems to suggest she was kidding, and I’d rather believe the best of a person than the worst.

  • Kat

    Poor Carrie. She had a fantastic night, a big accomplishment. The fact she had such a wonderous introduction to the industry, and now it’s being lessened due to controvery. She may have been watching the show two years ago, and now she’s winning awards. But it proves that you can get discovered. You can win big in the industry, you can have a brilliant career. Just because it’s been two years. And “her discovery” was through American Idol doesn’t make her any less deserving. The Best Female Vocalist shouldn’t be about the “The best, longest career.” It should be about who in the last year was the best vocalist, and if they only have one CD, and it’s only been a year…it shouldn’t matter. Carrie has accomplished majorly alot in the last year. She should praised not condemed because she won.

  • JillyRo

    I honestly think it was a natural reaction. No way, not a “joke” as she now claims. She should just admit to being upset. Yes admitting to being a sore loser is not great for her image either, but if she had said “I’m human and I was just upset” that would have been a better PR strategy, made her more “real” to people.
    Actions speak louder than words and Faith fans will deny it, but she does look pissed. Plus a joke would be followed by a smile and there was no trace of a smile or that this was in jest

  • kitt

    Don’t believe the YouTube edit — I saw on tv as it happened, and it was definately meant in a joking/funny way (now, whether it was an appropriate joke . . .)

  • ¡JB!

    I love Faith Hill, but I have to think that was a diva moment. There are few actresses who could pull off that big of a switch of emotion, and if you’ve seen “The Stepford Wives,” you know Faith’s not much of an actress. Plus her saying that she didn’t know the camera was there weakens her argument considering she was looking directly into the camera. Come on, Faith, just admit it was an unfortunate outburst and you’ll come out looking more respectable than if you keep trying to deny it.

  • AnthonyCW

    Wow, so many people freak out over so little nowadays. I didn’t see the show, but even when I heard about it I didn’t think Faith was serious, from what I’ve seen of her. Then I saw it on YouTube, and the whole thing looks like an act anyone would pull pretending to be upset over losing.
    I guess it’s time to start printing the “Team Faith” and “Team Carrie” shirts…

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