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Remembering the First (and Best) Solo Female to Headline the Super Bowl Halftime Show!

The year was 1996 and it was the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl. In order to celebrate the momentous occasion the NFL knew they needed a superstar to headline. They turned to the one and only Ms. Diana Ross who, in my opinion, turned in one of the best Super Bowl halftime performances of all times and in the process became the first solo female to headline the Super Bowl halftime show. So what made it so great? Was it the five costume changes in 12 minutes? The hundreds of dancers spelling out her name on the football field? The golden robed choir who sang behind Ross as she stood basking in a perfectly placed fan gently blowing through her hair? Yes, it was all of this and so much more, particularly the following three reasons are why Diana Ross deserves the title for the best Super Bowl halftime show performance of all times.

  1. Diana was the First

While their had been female performers during the Super Bowl halftime show prior (Carol Channing, Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Labelle, Tanya Tucker, etc...) to 1996, none of these ladies were headliners but accouterments in multiple person lineups. In fact there had only been one prior solo headliner, Micheal Jackson in 1993. Just like so much of her career, Diana Ross was a trailblazer when it came to the Super Bowl halftime show. Unlike every other female headliner to follow Diana had no blueprint, she had to craft an amazing show all on her own! Costume changes, balloon releases, smoke, wind machines, choirs, hundreds of dancers in the field and the stands, Ms. Ross pulled it together in amazing fashion with the added burden of an outside stadium in daylight ( which limits lights and pyrotechnics). As you watch the awesome performances from later divas like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna and more, you can't help but see the influence of Diana Ross's prior awesome show. It wasn't limited to just the women even The Weeknd named Diana Ross as his favorite halftime show performer.

2. Diana was Truly Solo

After Diana many other females would headline the halftime show but all of them (except Lady Gaga) needed a little help to fill out their time on the big stage. Gloria Estefan needed Stevie Wonder, Shania Twain had No Doubt, Beyonce reunited with Kelly and Michelle, Madonna had a whole bunch of people while Missy Elliot nearly stole the show from Katy Perry. Diana Ross however didn't need the Supremes nor anyone else to share (or steal) her spotlight. In fact Ms. Ross needed extra time, so much so that NBC told her to cut her show by a minute and a half; she showed them who was the boss (see what I did there) and refused-the network eventually relented and she keep the extra time.

3. Diana's Exit

I challenge you to think about your favorite halftime show of all time. Now think about this, how did they leave the stage? I have watched every Super Bowl halftime show since 1991, I even watched many of those terrible ones from the 70's and 80's which were horrible, and I can't remember how any of them left the stage except for Ms. Diana Ross. While she entered in memorable fashion on a raised platform, in her sparkly dress surrounded by fireworks and flares it was her exit that really sealed her show. You see Ms. Ross was not going to simply walk off stage like a mere mortal, no that would never do, in pure diva fashion Ms. Ross charted a helicopter to land on stage and swoop her up high above the crowd as her song Take Me Higher blares through the stadium. Wow! No matter what you think of Ross's show you can't help but admit that exit was badass.

Take a look at the full performance below as you enjoy this year's halftime show:

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