It’s a known fact that Ariana Grande is an actual, real-life angel sent from heaven to cleanse this putrid world and save it from sin. This is common knowledge now. Your dad knows this. Your nan knows this. The bloke down the road who wears the same khaki shorts day in, day out, and who is almost definitely growing quite a staggering amount of week in his attic, knows this.
But how did this come to be? This wasn’t the obvious trajectory for a pop star who began her career in a Nickelodeon show about drama school kids. A more predictable career path might have involved a spell in rehab, some seriously misjudged tweets to a public figure, a sex tape, a few dodgy club singles and a role as a soon-to-be-murdered scream queen in a raunchy b-movie. But Grande was always going to be more than a Nickelodeon burnout.
Post-Manchester, the UK has woken up to the magic of Ariana, but let’s not forget that there was a time when the pint-sized popstrel wasn’t so popular. When she started hitting the big time around 2014, rumours began circling of diva behaviour. It was alleged that she was rude to reporters and fans, despite her protestations that this was untrue. Then came donut-gate, in which Grande was caught on camera licking donuts in a shop’s display case. As if this weren’t bad enough, she was recorded saying “I hate America,” while doing so, a hangable offence in the US of A. A backlash ensued and Grande fell out of public favour.
But a backlash is just a right of passage for a pop star. Remember when Beyoncé starred in Goldmember? Or when Lady Gaga was dogged by the ridiculous rumour that she was secretly a man? Or when Bieber was consistently a dick to, like, everyone? All the greats have to go through a period when they’re the public’s punching bag and Grande was no exception. Thankfully, she wasn’t down for long.
So what propelled Grande to the saintly status she enjoys today? Well, it was a number of things. Her support for the LGBTQ community has been unwavering throughout her career. She has spoken out on feminist issues despite having nothing to gain from doing so (take note, Taylor). She has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and is a keen advocate for animal rights. She has been involved in several philanthropic projects, including raising money for orphans in Malawi and launching a line of cosmetics with all profits being donated to people living with HIV/AIDS. The fact is, Ariana Grande was a saint long before we even realised.
But, of course, it was the attack on Manchester, or rather Grande’s reaction to it, that transformed her into the icon we know today. Her hospital visits to the victims were well documented, the families of the injured children singing Grande’s praises as she spent time talking to and joking with the kids. The ensuing One Love Manchester concert organised by Grande was a gift to a city that desperately needed healing. An emotional Grande delivered a series of speeches and songs to a humongous crowd, cementing herself as a symbol of resilience, courage and hope. Following the One Love Manchester concert, the city council decided to make Grande an honorary citizen. Amidst the public adoration, Grande’s transformation was complete. At just 23 years old, she reached a level of public approval that most will never achieve in their lives.
What’s interesting is that it’s often tragedy that promotes public figures to national treasures. It was Kylie Minogue’s cancer battle in 2005 that saw her transform from pop star into sacrosanct public figure. And it was arguably Princess Diana’s torrid divorce from Prince Charles, along with the rumours of infidelity, self-harm and mental illness, that saw her become the People’s Princess. Without triumph over adversity, the trajectory would be incomplete.
Judging from Grande’s talent and penchant for philanthropy, it was likely only a matter of time before she reached untouchable status – One Love Manchester merely accelerated the process. She was a national treasure all along, just waiting for a chance to spread her wings. In 2017, Ariana Grande got her chance. A shining light in an ever-darkening world and a symbol of strength and human kindness in the face of evil, Ariana was duly anointed the patron saint of pop. If only it had been something joyous, and not an atrocity, that gave way to her canonisation.