Portraying Her Authentic Self
Grande’s career was launched on Nickelodeon, starring as Cat Valentine on the teen sitcom Victorious and later in its spinoff, Sam & Cat. Unlike other girls her age who were forced by their employers to portray bubblegum images both on and off screen, Grande had more creative freedom musically. During her time on Nickelodeon, she released her first album, Yours Truly, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It wasn’t until 2015 that her reputation began to be questioned.
Knowing When To Apologize
Grande’s image suffered when she infamously licked a donut and said: “I hate Americans and I hate America.” The singer, who was once a beloved role model for young fans, was suddenly the opposite. Q Scores, a company that polls Americans on their opinions about things like brands and celebrities, listed Grande as one of the most disliked celebrities that year. Ariana released an apology video admitting her wrong-doing and soon after, fans around the world were using #WeForgiveYouAriana to acknowledge their support.
Taking A Step Back
After starring in Hairspray Live! and releasing a few more hits, things seemed to be going well for Grande. Then, the unthinkable happened. There was a suicide bombing at her concert on May 22, 2017, in Manchester, UK. After the terrorist attack, which Grande said would be “impossible to recover from” (Dangerous Woman Diaries), she laid low for a while. Upon her return back into the spotlight, Grande’s public romances became the topic of conversation. When former boyfriend Mac Miller went down a dark path after their breakup, many blamed Ariana for his behavior. To make matters worse, the world had a lot to say about Ariana’s quick relationship and engagement to Pete Davidson, especially in relation to Miller’s feelings. Unfortunately, things continued to spiral out of control with the passing of ex-boyfriend Miller and Grande’s eventual break up with Davidson, forcing her back into a hiatus. Despite the public’s view, Ariana took time out of the spotlight to check in with herself in an effort to remain grounded and put her mental health first.
Shifting The Conversation
Ariana shifted the topic of conversation from her public relationships back to her music by releasing the hit-single “God is a Woman,” a song that pushed pop-music boundaries and uplifted listeners of all genders. In August, the Sweetener album dropped, breaking records in its first week. Grande performed “God is a Woman” at the MTV VMAs portraying a feminist version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” a performance that ignited conversation and showcased the need for women to be treated as equals in an industry dominated by men.
Building Hype and Anticipation
Keeping with the momentum of “God is Woman,” Grande used the single “thank u, next” to take control of what people were already talking about – her exes. While the topic of “thank u, next” was already interesting enough, what allowed it to break Vevo’s record as the fastest video to reach 100 million views was the build up behind the release.
Grande spent weeks teasing stills and photos from the video shoot on her social media platforms. As a 90s baby, she drew inspiration from four of the biggest movies to grace teens in the early 2000s: Mean Girls, Bring it On, 13 Going On 30, and Legally Blonde. Using nostalgia and star-studded cameos (the real Aaron Samuels!), fans were on the edge of their seats waiting for this music video to drop.
Currently, “thank, u next” holds the record for the biggest music video debut in YouTube history earning over 50 million views in the first 24 hours.
Engaging with Your Audience
Celebrities wouldn’t be who they are without a strong fan base. Grande spends most days online genuinely interacting with Arianators. While other artists log on to like a few photos or retweet a lucky fan, Ariana has full on conversations with her fans:
they coming, baby. i love u more. hopefully by this weekend. i’m sorry these things take so long. just trying to get the routing perfect for u. https://t.co/TCHgJ6r2Fu
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) December 10, 2018
yes but i keep writing things i want to add https://t.co/unnpd2PqbW
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) December 1, 2018
Grande has shown such an open and honest side of herself this year, bringing fans old and new along for the ride. This could be why she was the highest streamed female artist globally on Spotify, breaking records with more than 3 billion streams this year.
In her Woman of the Year interview with Billboard, she mentioned that there’s not much to be afraid of anymore, “when life tries you with such serious s@%& so many times, your priorities change. I just want to be happy and healthy— one day—and make music.”
Ariana Grande has spent a majority of 2018 crafting her image and serving as a source of happiness to those who admire her. Like any successful business, Grande knows that transparency, communication, and authenticity are what keep an audience coming back for more. We look forward to seeing where 2019 takes Grande, and we’ll be along for the ride.