I'm An Ariana Grande Bandwagoner, and Here’s Why You Should Be Too

If you would’ve asked me my opinion of Ariana Grande three years ago, I would’ve given you a flat, “No, thanks.” It wasn’t that I thought she wasn’t talented — she has always been blessed with a beautiful voice. But to me, that wasn’t enough. Today, I follow Ariana on all her social platforms, I stayed up ‘til midnight to be one of the first to hear Thank U, Next when it dropped, and I jam out any time her songs come on in the car — I know all the lyrics — so what changed?


Here’s the thing, Victorious was an unimpressive show. It came out when I was finally beginning to phase out of my love for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. This was post-Drake and Josh, post-Hannah Montana, post-Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and even post-Wizards of Waverly PlaceVictorious was just too little too late. For a show I wasn’t fond of, Grande’s character, Cat Valentine, was the absolute worst.


Cat Valentine represented everything I was slowly realizing as a teenager that I didn’t want to be. She was displayed as too cute to be smart. Her most comedic moments were at her own, oblivious self’s expense. Cat was naive, and it angered me because I think even then I knew I wanted strong, smart female role models, instead of the overplayed (at the time) narrative of the dumb, cute girl. It was hard to see my male peers idolizing a girl that in my mind I had nothing in common with: tiny, air-headed, and sexy, yet adorable. Admittedly, I don’t know how her character evolved as I never watched Sam & Cat, long past my days of Nickelodeon obsessions.


I hate to say I judged Ariana Grande for her character in Victorious, but I sort of did. However, in my defense, the way she presented herself publicly for those first few years afterward was similar to the character of Cat. She was young and dealing with the spotlight how many young people deal with the spotlight — badly. Ariana had not gone through the trials she has today that has helped her find her strength, confidence, and figure out how she needs to use her voice and platform.


Sure, Bang Bang and Problem were catchy tunes — but what did they really say about anything? Was there any further purpose to those songs besides to sell records? Ariana herself has even made comments hinting she’s not particularly proud of some of her earlier works. Her first few albums simply weren’t enough to turn me into a lifelong fan.


However, since early 2017, Ariana Grande has been through things in her life that I can’t even imagine having to face. On May 22 during her Dangerous Woman tour, there was a terrorist attack during her concert. A suicide bomber detonated explosives during her concert and 23 people died. I try to imagine the personal guilt one would feel for not being able to keep their fans safe, not that any blame should be put on Ariana, but it would be impossible not to blame yourself after that. Instead of shutting down due to fear or grief or anxiety, Ariana hosted a televised mega-concert One Love Manchester and raised $23 million in support of all those affected by the bombing attacks. Ariana put aside her own PTSD for her fans and those who were hurt, and it’s hard not to love someone as selfless as that.


Then, Ariana Grande broke up with long-term boyfriend Mac Miller. Publicly displaying her love for Mac, Grande said how she’ll always care and want the best for him but wanted to point out how difficult the relationship was on her too, not being able to help him when she wanted to so badly (Mac Miller struggled with addiction problems and “demons”). Only a few months later, Mac Miller died — and as if Grande wouldn’t already personally put blame on herself for not being able to help, the rest of the online world did it for her. I can’t imagine, only a year after suffering a terrorist attack also dealing with the guilt, blame, and grief that would come with your ex-boyfriend overdosing. I respect Ariana immensely for putting herself first for once. As women, it’s so easy to believe that we are in charge of making sure everyone is happy and safe around us, but as Ariana said in a tweet about their breakup, "I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety and prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course) but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his shit together is a very major problem. Let’s please stop doing that. Of course, I didn’t share about how hard or scary it was."


Unfortunately, Mac Miller’s death was the leading cause to a split between Ariana Grande and her new fiancé Pete Davidson. This is displayed openly in Ariana’s song Ghostin’. While their relationship was short, Sweetener does not fail to inform us how happy Ariana was for the time being as Davidson’s fiancé (just give pete davidson another listen). And I was seriously rooting for her happiness. Now, single again, Ariana Grande is conquering this unexplored territory. I can’t think of another female artist who has recently suffered so many tragedies in such a short amount of time. And while some blame Ariana for capitalizing on her pain, I think as an artist she is doing exactly what all artists do — taking her personal emotions and feelings and bravely putting them on display for the whole world to critique.


Ariana is a symbol for feminism. Her most recent album Thank U, Next displays so many complex sides of her, no one could argue she’s the naive Nickelodeon character she was in the early 2010’s. The first song that has really caught my attention from Ariana in recent history was God is a Woman. As Celia Almedia of the Miami Times wrote, “[O]f all of pop music's biggest stars of the past 20 years, Ariana Grande has made the most convincing and seamless transition from ingénue to independent female artist. ... She saves the celebration of the joys of liberated sexual exploration for her lyrics.”


Ariana embraces her sensitiveness, her strength, her sex appeal, her voice, her power, her sadness, her anxiety, her money, her fame, her love, her hurt, her hair, her body, her opinions, her freedom, her obligations, and the list continues. While she has indeed suffered more than anyone deserves to, Ariana Grande has risen like a phoenix from ashes and decided to not let herself be stopped. I look forward to seeing Ariana’s future as a female leader in Hollywood and as an artist. I have no problem admitting I joined Ariana Grande’s bandwagon. She deserves all the respect and love she has fought for through these last two years of hell.