Chatting with Diana Ross about her Vegas residency, her legacy and more

Diana Ross resumes her Encore Theater residency on February 8.
Photo: Matt Sayles / AP

Diana Ross has a long and wonderful history of performing in Las Vegas. Her recent shows at Wynn have been a huge success—frequently selling out Encore Theater—because she’s forever giving the people what they want: all the hits, all the glamour and all the love she has to give.

“The venues I’ve performed in have changed, but for me it’s always been about that one-to-one connection with the audience,” she says. “Times and fashions may have changed, but my relationship with the audience hasn’t. I love seeing beautiful faces in the audience.”

She launched the all-new Diamond Diana concert series this week, switching up her soulful set to mark her 75th birthday this year (on March 26), and the Vegas shows are just part of the celebration. For two days in March, Fathom Events will launch a global theatrical release of Diana Ross: Her Life, Love and Legacy featuring Diana Ross: Live in Central Park, documenting an iconic 1983 concert. Ross spoke to the Weekly by email about her Vegas shows and more.

Since you’ve spent so much time here recently, what are your impressions of the current entertainment landscape in Las Vegas? Las Vegas is an exciting city. One thing I love about Las Vegas is people come from everywhere, all around the world. There is a lot of energy here, great energy. Everything is really about give and take. It’s you and me. It’s us together. It’s never me by myself. My musicians with me are my family away from home. It’s such a blessing doing what I love to do.

Which is the more difficult task: Choosing the songs for your Vegas shows or curating the incredible gowns and outfits you wear during the performance? There are many songs that bring so many memories for me and the audiences. We have fun singing and dancing each night. And I’ve always loved wearing beautiful clothing. I majored in fashion design and costume illustration, [and] it has always been a passion of mine. I love the beautiful elements of the show that everyone expects. It’s always my intention for everyone to have a good time with music and glamour.

Let’s talk about the birthday celebration plans. Your fans and followers can easily pinpoint their favorite moments from your career, but as you look back now, what are some of the moments that stand out in your mind? So many happy memories and moments. I’ve had so many blessings in my life, and I really, really appreciate the people who have made a path for me, supported me and believed in me. It’s been an incredible journey. But the concert in Central Park was really a magical experience in my life. Also, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama was a very special moment.

What was going through your mind at that show in 1983 when that huge storm rolled in and you had to help control the crowd while still performing? When I ran onstage in Central Park, I was stepping into a dream. I prayed a lot during that concert. I wanted only joy and fun for everyone. I was staying onstage on purpose, because when it started to rain we had no idea it was going to rain like that. There were a half million people out there, and it just went dark. The mothering part of me came out. I wanted everyone to be safe. I felt responsible. I wanted to stay there.

You’ve incorporated quite a bit of storytelling into your Wynn shows. Will your new series of shows incorporate more of that element of your performance? I really, really care about everyone that comes to the show. I like having conversation time in my shows. I want people to know I’m listening. I can hear more about them, and they can hear more about me.

Do you see yourself returning to Las Vegas in the years to come and possibly becoming a true resident? As I said in Central Park, “It took me a lifetime to get here, and I’m not going anywhere!”

DIANA ROSS February 8, 9, 13, 16, 17, 20, 22 & 23, 8 p.m., $91-$275. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers live ...

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