If you couldn’t tell from my constant Instagram Stories, the posters scattered around my childhood bedroom, or my top artist list on Spotify, I am a huge Ariana Grande fan. Ever since I found her YouTube channel back in 2012, I was absolutely blown away by her vocal talent, and was shocked that she had not gotten more recognition for it.
Flash forward to today, where she is now one of the most notable pop stars in the world, having five Billboard Hot 100 #1 debuts, two grammy wins, and over 58 million monthly listeners on Spotify. Practically everyone knows her name, but to me, she’s still simply Ari.
Seeing her growth over the years both personally and professionally has been incredible to watch. Truly I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully express the effect she has had on my life, but I’m hoping through writing this I can shine a light on the things I’ve learned all thanks to her.
- How to Be True to Yourself
Another thing you should know about me is I’m an Aquarius, and if there’s one trait from that Zodiac sign I have embodied throughout my life, it’s being original. Whether through my fashion choices (seriously you should have seen what I wore in middle school), interests, or overall personality, I’ve never been one to follow social norms.
While now I love and admire this quality within myself, at many points in my life it wasn’t necessarily accepted fully by others. This led me to be insecure about bringing my full personality to light around new people or those who would critique things about me they didn’t like.
Though one person I could always relate to was Ariana. We had a lot in common, both of us loving Harry Potter and theater, while also being raised on classic films, TV, and music. As she started to rise to stardom, she never left these parts of herself behind and continued to keep them in the forefront, doing things like having Harry Potter-themed birthday parties, singing Broadway karaoke with friends, and dressing up as a Twilight Zone character for Halloween.
While these might seem like simple things to some, for me it was validation that I could fully embrace my quirks and passions like she did. If people had problems with who I was, that was their issue, not mine, for you should never have to hide parts of yourself to please others.
So as I grew older, I became more comfortable with letting my true self out. It’s still something I struggle with from time to time, but without Ariana, I’m not sure I would have ever been truly okay with standing out from the crowd.
- How to Support the LGBTQ+ Community
Ariana was one of the first people to ever expose me to the LGBTQ+ community. Her brother Frankie is openly gay and she has been a key ally not only to him but also to all her LGBTQ+ fans and the community as a whole.
While she has shown her ally-ship in a number of ways through the years, there are many moments that stand out to me. These include calling out the supreme court justices who voted against gay marriage at NYC Pride, performing at Manchester Pride, addressing her gay fans on National Coming Out Day, and giving advice to those who are bullied for being gay. Not to mention, her song “Break Free” has become an anthem for those in the community to celebrate coming out and being free to be themselves. Most recently during the second leg of her Sweetener World Tour, she used a pride flag visual during the song in celebration of pride month, while also ending the show proudly waving pride flags with her dancers.
Her constant support and admiration for the community has always been so inspiring to see, and pushed me to get involved to be the best ally I possibly could. In result, I joined GSTA in high school, which led me to walk in the Boston Pride Parade, volunteer to get signatures on a petition to end conversion therapy, and support my LGBTQ+ friends the best I can. While there’s still so much for me to learn as an ally, I certainly would not have been inspired to be as involved in helping the community if it wasn’t for Ariana.
- What the Feminist Movement Is About
Additionally, Ariana introduced me to the feminist movement, having said many prevalent things in response to the notion that feminism is about ‘boy bashing’. These statements shaped my view of what the movement was all about at a very young age, especially when she said, “I love boys, but I love women. It’s equality. It’s not about being above men, it’s about being equal to men.”
She has also never been afraid to call out sexism when she sees it, like in this radio interview (you have to watch, it’s iconic), when being referred to only as someone’s ex, or discussing the double-standards set for male and female stars in society. Not only has she just discussed the movement, but she has also stood by other female stars through tough times, such as Miley Cyrus, Kesha, and Selena Gomez just to name a few.
Using her platform to speak out about things like LGBTQ+ rights and feminism is something she strives to do because she feels she would be doing a disservice to the world if she didn’t. “I want to speak out about things I’m passionate about because it affects everyone. Not just women, not just me, but men and everyone… If I don’t, why do I have this voice?”
For this reason, I try to do the same whenever I can in my life. While I don’t have the platform she does, I do my best to educate others on these topics and continue to educate myself as both movements evolve. Without her influence, I’m not sure I would be as aware of the issues affecting women today.
- You Can Overcome Challenging Times
It is no secret that throughout the past couple of years Ariana has gone through some truly traumatic experiences; most notable of all the Manchester Terrorist Attack during her Dangerous Woman Tour, which killed 22 concert goers and injured over 800. As a fan, I’ll never forget sitting in my bedroom, devastated after receiving the heartbreaking news. Knowing how awful I was feeling, I couldn’t imagine how Ariana was dealing with the loss and tragedy. Even more so, I was sure she wouldn’t be able or want to perform again after experiencing such a horrific event.
Less than two weeks later, however, she returned to Manchester for the One Love Manchester Benefit Concert to raise over £17 million for the victims, something that I was and still am so unbelievably proud of her for doing. To be able to come back so soon after experiencing something you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy is the epitome of courage and bravery. Not only that, but she decided to continue and finish out the remainder of her tour that year as well. Even with the strength and resilience, she showed so soon after the attack, I knew there was a lot of healing she still needed to do and that those may have been the last times she would ever perform in her career.
While I will get into more of her healing process specifically, later on, it is important to acknowledge that Ariana proved me and many others wrong; she did not let this event put an end to her career. Although she took a bit of a pause, entertaining people and making music was her passion. Since that day, she has released three albums and has gone on to do another three-legged world tour, something even she herself wasn’t sure she would be able to do again.
Her spirit to push through such a hard time and continue to do what she loves has encouraged me to believe that whatever challenges happen in my life, I will be able to overcome them. They may take time and effort to get through, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
- Creative Outlets Help with Mental Health & Healing
Following the Manchester attack, Ariana was pretty open about her mental health struggles, saying, “I’ve always had anxiety, I’ve had anxiety for years. But when I got home from tour it reached a very different, intense peak. It became physical and I was not going out at all, and I felt like I was outside my body. I’d have these spells every now and then where I felt like I was having déjà vu, but like 24/7 for three months at a time. It was really weird, and all that was on my mind. (Pharrell) was like, ‘You have to write about it. You need to make this into music and get this sh*t out, and I promise it will heal you.’ And it definitely helped…”
Her album Sweetener, which she made with Pharrell, was very much centered around overcoming the hardships she had experienced over the past year. Songs like “Breathin”, “No Tears Left to Cry”, and “The Light is Coming”, all addressed her mental health and healing journey, but “Get Well Soon” further explained how her anxiety after Manchester made her feel. In an interview with Beats 1 Radio, she got emotional after they played the song. “[The song] is just about… being there for each other and… helping each other through scary times and like anxiety…we just have to be there for each other as much as we can, cause you never f*ckin know…”
After the release of Sweetener though, more tragedy struck Ariana’s life, when her long-time boyfriend Mac Miller suddenly passed away and she broke off her engagement with Pete Davidson. This caused her to be even more upfront about her feelings and thought process with her album Thank U, Next. Not only did she address all her past relationships and how they helped her find herself in the title track, but songs “Imagine” and “Ghostin” were specifically about her living in denial of Mac’s death and mourning him. To be that vulnerable in not one but two songs had to take enormous amounts of strength, and I will forever applaud her for it.
What I have taken away from the creation of both these albums is that creative outlets are essential for everyone to help process things going on in their lives, and it doesn’t have to just be music. It could be journaling, dance, poetry, painting, among other things.
For me, it’s writing articles, which I have been able to do through Her Campus. While I don’t often open up about my inner struggles through them, when I do it’s nice to release some of my inner feelings, and otherwise writing about my passions is a great escape from the stresses of daily life. Regardless of your outlet, expressing yourself through a creative medium can not only be rewarding but allow you to mend and restore your mind and soul in a way you never thought possible.
These are only just a few things Ariana has taught me. She has affected my life in numerous other ways, bringing forever friends (you know who you are) and memories I would never have without her. I am beyond proud of the person she has become today and cannot wait to see how she continues to impact others like myself in the future.