PYD: Pretty Young Diva

Tracing the origins of the modern teen queen back to biblical characters and Egyptian love triangles

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Miley Cyrus didn’t invent the pop princess’ guide to fame and fortune, and that Lindsay Lohan isn’t the first young starlet to snort her way to the bottom. The modern teen diva has been around for some time now — storming onto the scene and coquettishly batting her eyelashes before eventually succumbing to some type of eating/drug/sexual/mental disorder, all while simultaneously craving and bemoaning the public spotlight.

Madonna may have been 25-years-old when she released her first album, but so many subsequent teen divas were cast in her image. Madonna propagated Britney; and Britney propagated Christina; and Christina propagated Lindsay; and Lindsay (God help her) propagated Hannah Montiley Cyrus. While these ladies have enriched our lives over the past few decades with their preening, scandals and lack of underwear, the rich tradition of teenagers attaining fame and power before they attend a prom goes back thousands of years. Now, there’s no way to recognize every pre-pubescent sassy bitch in history, but JERK would like to pay homage to a few of our favorites.

Long before Paris took us on a tour of her nether-regions, two white guys followed a teenaged Native American girl all the way across the country. Sacagawea may be revered as a feminist hero now, but just ask Lewis and Clark how they felt getting bossed around by a 16-year-old. To be fair, though, there is no way those two would have even sniffed the Pacific if Sacagawea hadn’t bitch-whipped them all the way there. Everyone knows that Merriweather Lewis wanted to sleep the whole way and William Clark kept asking to stop at a service center for some Cinnabon.

Speaking of desserts, only 30 years before Sacagawea started her trek, Austrian-born Marie Antoinette became Queen of France and tried to put her unappreciative subjects on an all-cake-diet — all at the age of 19. Antoinette ruffled some feathers as queen, due to the fact that she was known to overrule her husband, Louis XVI, on certain political decisions, and had to fend off rumors that she’d loosen her corset for anyone with an armada. Combine that with the fact that her life was bathed in opulence while the French people starved and it’s no wonder guillotine sales started booming in the early 1790s.

And, Antoinette wasn’t even the first teen diva to call Versailles home. Her husband’s grandfather, Louis XIV, a.k.a. the Sun King, became king when he was four-years-old, and his rule became synonymous with decadence, pomp and illegitimate children. The fact that he once decreed that only nobility could wear red high-heeled shoes — and that no one’s could be higher than his own, which sometimes reached five inches — is enough to earn him a place in the teen diva timeline in spite of his, um, crown jewels.

Traveling back another 1,700 years or so, we find the first teen diva of the first millennium — Jesus’ mom. The Virgin Mary was around 14-years-old when she and God decided to take their relationship to the next level. Of course, the next level meant planting one in her all the way from Heaven, as the story goes. Unfortunately for her, like with most teen divas, public interest in Mary and her magic womb began to wane with the arrival of her son The Messiah. But long before Mary’s chastity made headlines, a certain Egyptian biatch took the opposite sexual stance by screwing around with two of Rome’s biggest swinging leaders.

When Cleopatra was 18, she became co-monarch of Egypt with her 12-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII. Though she married that same brother, she avoided a major dose of cooties by spurning him for first Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony. Those affairs led to a supposed heir of Caesar, a major power struggle between the post-JC triumvirate of rulers that included Antony and Augustus Caesar, and a gruesome death scene involving snakes and promises of eternal love. Seriously, we don’t remember Hilary Duff ever dealing with that level of shit storm. And, Taylor Swift would need to screw around with all three Jonas Brothers, have Justin Beiber’s baby AND convince Taylor Lautner to take a silver bullet to even come close to those exploits.

So, remember, modern teen queens: You can flash the paparazzi, sport a shaved head and wake up covered in vomit and John Mayer, but you weren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

Tom Huddleston, Jr. is a regular web contributor of Jerk Explains it All.