Tragic details about Ariana Grande

The music video for Ariana Grande’s 2020 single “34+35” shows Grande in a white lab coat, waiting for her Rocky Horror-esque creation (also played by her) to come alive. It’s an inadvertent reference to the idea that, at first glance, Grande herself seems like she could’ve been grown in a lab to be a bubblegum-pop star. On a superficial level, the pop singer sports a shellacked ponytail, a spray tan, and a uniform of microdresses and thigh-high boots as she belts out horny hit singles inspired by ’90s pop radio and, as she said in a 2019 Vogue interview, “gay, divas, divas, gay, belting divas.”

But beyond her polished, caricatured surface — Pharrell Williams once called her “an R-rated version of a Disney character” (via Vogue) – and her past as a hammy theater kid and a ditzy Nickelodeon character, Grande runs deep. She has had to search inward, given the intense tragedies she has faced in recent years. “I’m a person who’s been through a lot and doesn’t know what to say about any of it to myself, let alone the world,” she told Vogue. “I see myself onstage as this perfectly polished, great-at-my-job entertainer, and then … I’m just this little basket-case puddle of figuring it out … I have to be the luckiest girl in the world, and the unluckiest, for sure.”

She has had a complicated relationship with her father

“One day I’ll walk down the aisle, holding hands with my mama/I’ll be thanking my dad, ’cause she grew from the drama,” Ariana Grande sings in her hit, “Thank U, Next.” According to Vogue, Grande’s parents, marine tech CEO Joan Grande and graphic designer Edward Butera, split when Ariana was eight years old. In 2014, Ariana told Seventeen that losing touch with her dad the previous year (for publicly unknown reasons) was the “toughest thing she has ever had to deal with.” As she explained, “It took me so long to be okay with it. The thing that got me there was embracing the fact that I am made up of half my dad, and a lot of my traits come from him … I had to accept that it’s okay not to get along with somebody and still love them.”

When asked, “Mommy or Daddy?” in a 2016 game of “This or That?” with Kiss FM, Grande said, “Mommy, but I love my dad. My parents are divorced. I never get to see my dad because he lives in Florida.” As the years rolled on, Grande appeared to be growing closer to her dad: She paid tribute to him on Father’s Day 2017 and celebrated her “first Thanksgiving with both of [her] parents in 18 years!” in 2019 (via People). When performing “Thank U, Next” at the 2020 Grammys, she changed her lyrics to, “I’ll be thanking my dad, ’cause he’s really awesome.”

Ariana Grande lost her 'favorite person' in 2014

In July 2014, Ariana Grande canceled multiple tour dates and flew to Florida to be by the side of her grandfather, Frank Grande, who was battling cancer. “love u grandps I need u please pull thru,” she wrote on Twitter. Addressing fans, she wrote, “wish you knew how incredible he is… humble, respectful, hardworking, polite, thoughtful, humorous, generous.” In a 2014 interview with Seventeen, Ariana discussed how Grandpa Grande was the original Arianator. “He was like, ‘You’re a star, I know in my heart you’re going to make this family so proud. You’re a blessing,'” she recalled. “And I was like, oh my god, and started crying, and I trusted it.”

Frank passed away from cancer on July 22, 2014. Ariana posted a string of tweets about the loss the next day: “thank you for your continuous love & light over the past few weeks,” she wrote, addressing her fans. “We did lose my favorite person to ever exist yesterday, my grandpa. if only y’all knew how amazing he was. my [heart] hurts so much. it’s beyond broken… but I got to hold his hand and watch him find his peace. this is the hardest thing imaginable but I’m so grateful that I got to spend this time with him and my family. taking care of him and loving him.”

'Diva' rumors about Ariana Grande kept her from doing interviews

Ariana Grande has been accused of acting like a “diva” since her Nickelodeon days. A flurry of reports, from her on-set behavior to her treatment of fans, to the 2015 “Donutgate” incident, added up to an unfavorable public image as Grande’s star rose. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1 in 2020, Grande defended her behavior while also recalling how the criticism led her to “quiet down a little bit.”

“[Being a diva] means [you’ve] got an opinion and a drive and artistic integrity. [You’ve] got something to say,” she said. “I stopped doing interviews for a really long time because … somebody would try to say something for clickbait or twist my words [and] I would defend myself, and people would be like, ‘Oh, she’s a diva.'”

The singer also highlighted the disparity between these views of women versus men, suggesting that the accusations were tied to sexism. “When men express their opinions or defend themselves … they’re brilliant, and they’re geniuses and, ‘Yeah, what a boss!'” she said. “It’s so not the same thing with women, which I hope we can work on fixing … I’m tired of seeing women silenced by it.”

Her 2017 Manchester show ended in tragedy

On May 22, 2017, Ariana Grande was finishing up her encore at a sold-out show in Manchester, England, when a suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb in the arena’s foyer. The bombing wounded approximately 800 people and killed 22 — some of whom were children. The next day, Grande mustered a message on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” According to Elle, the singer “cried endlessly and barely spoke for two days.” In the early hours of a morning shortly thereafter, Grande told her mom, “Let’s be honest, I’m never not going to sing again. But I’m not going to sing again until I sing in Manchester first.”

After visiting survivors and grieving families in Manchester two weeks after the attack, Grande braved the stage again to host the One Love Manchester benefit concert, which raised $25 million, according to Vogue. “It’s not my trauma,” she told the magazine. “It’s those families’. It’s their losses, and so it’s hard to just let it all out without thinking about them reading this and reopening the memory for them.” Though taking the stage again terrified the singer, she told Elle that her fans pulled her through. “It’s the most inspiring thing in the world that these kids pack the venue,” she said. “They’re smiling, holding signs saying, ‘Hate will never win…’ Why would I second-guess getting on a f*cking stage and being there for them? That city, and their response? That changed my life.”

Ariana Grande struggles with anxiety, depression, and PTSD

“You can work your way to the top/Just know that there’s ups and downs and there’s drops,” Ariana Grande sings in her 2018 song “Get Well Soon,” a mental health anthem that includes 40 seconds of silence for the Manchester bombing victims. “It’s not just about [the Manchester tragedy],” Grande said of the song in a 2018 interview with Beats 1 Radio. “It’s also about personal demons and anxiety, and more intimate tragedies, as well. Mental health is so important. People don’t pay enough mind to it … You’re trying to put on a facade, trying to keep up … People don’t pay attention to what’s happening inside.”

“Get Well Soon” — like much of the 2018 album Sweetener — is an uplifting song that sprang from the dark place she found herself in following the Manchester tragedy, which involved “wild dizzy spells, [and] this feeling like I couldn’t breathe,” as she told Elle. “I’ve always had anxiety, but it had never been physical before. There were a couple of months straight where I felt so upside down.” In 2019, she referenced her post-traumatic stress disorder when she posted a photo of her brain scan on her Instagram story (via CNN).

“The most important thing is to remember that…everybody has [emotional struggles],” Grande said in a BBC Music special (via NME). “Talk to your loved ones, reach out to people, especially your friends online. Reach out to each other.”

Ariana Grande was blamed for Mac Miller's struggles with sobriety

News of Ariana Grande’s split from rapper Mac Miller broke in May 2018 after they had dated for nearly two years. A month later, Grande got engaged to comedian Pete Davidson, and Miller was charged with a DUI after a car accident shortly after. Some fans pinned the incident on Grande, with one Twitter user writing, “Mac Miller totalling his G wagon and getting a DUI after Ariana Grande dumped him for another dude after he poured his heart out on a ten song album to her called the divine feminine is just the most heartbreaking thing happening in Hollywood.”

Outlets, including Vice, deemed this blame-placing as sexist, and Grande felt the same way. “How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them,” Grande replied to the user. “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 … but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his sh*t together is a very major problem.”

Ariana Grande felt deep grief over Mac Miller's death

On September 7, 2018, Mac Miller died of an accidental overdose at the age of 26. Ariana Grande posted a tribute to him on Instagram a week later. “i adored you from the day i met you when i was nineteen and i always will,” she wrote. “i can’t believe you aren’t here anymore … i’m so mad, i’m so sad i don’t know what to do … i’m so sorry i couldn’t fix or take your pain away. i really wanted to. the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved. i hope you’re okay now. rest.”

In the months following Miller’s death, Grande took to the studio to record her album Thank U, Next. “I don’t remember those months of my life because I was (a) so drunk and (b) so sad,” she told Vogue of the experience. In the album’s opening track, “Imagine,” Grande sings about an alternate world in which Miller is still alive and they are still together. “By no means was what we had perfect,” she revealed to Vogue of their two-year relationship. “He was the best person ever, and he didn’t deserve the demons he had. I was the glue for such a long time, and I found myself becoming… less and less sticky. The pieces just started to float away.”

Pete Davidson's social media message worried many, including Ariana Grande

One month after Mac Miller’s death, Ariana Grande ended her engagement to Pete Davidson. The most poignant track on Thank U, Next, “Ghostin,” references how her grief affected her relationship with Davidson: “I know you hear me when I cry/I try to hold it in at night … Every tear’s a rain parade from hell.”

Two months after the breakup, Davidson posted a disturbing message on his Instagram Story before deleting his account. “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last,” he wrote (per Variety). “All i’ve ever tried to do was help people. just remember i told you so.” In the past, the comedian had been open about dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder and experiencing suicidal thoughts. Grande tweeted that she was “downstairs” at 30 Rock, in the building where Davidson was working on Saturday Night Live. “I’m not going anywhere if you need anyone or anything,” she tweeted (per Variety). “I know u have everyone u need and that’s not me, but I’m here too.” Davidson reportedly alerted his security to keep her away from him.

The split appeared to have been harder on Davidson. Still, the fact that Grande’s ex-fiance was threatening to commit suicide shortly after her ex-boyfriend died of an overdose probably terrified her. Thankfully, Davidson found emotional support in his friends and family and was able to move forward.

Ariana Grande's pain has made her stronger

Despite the very real tribulations and tragedies Ariana Grande has endured, she doesn’t appear to spend much time wallowing in self-pity. Instead, she uses her experience to empower her fans through her music and appearances in the media (social and otherwise). When she was ready to return to music after the Manchester tragedy, Grande released her most uplifting album to date, Sweetener, which featured the lead single “No Tears Left to Cry,” the optimistic dance track “The Light is Coming,” and the mental health anthem “Get Well Soon.” While her fifth album Thank U, Next faced grief head-on, it also included girl-power hits like “7 Rings” and the title track, which presented a healthy perspective on breakups that are rarely heard in popular music and communicated a resounding message: that Grande had “learned from the pain, and turned out amazing.”

“Remember to protect your energy and do things that are good for you and that you’re loved and you’re not alone. You deserve the best there is,” Grande said while addressing fans in her Instagram Stories in 2019 (via Billboard). “Life’s beautiful if you allow it to be and if you put your energy in the right place … Life can be pretty heavy so if you’re going through it … everything is preparing you for something else or making you stronger or presenting you with opportunities for growth.”

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