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  • Wed, 3, Oct, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Ariana Grande is a woman not a symbol

Ariana Grande / Berisik / Wikimedia Commons

Ariana Grande has been called a diva, a symbol, a leader, and a killer. No link to that last one, because the trolls don’t deserve any free publicity, but it’s just about the most disgusting thing you can say to someone recently bereaved.

For someone who only wants to bring sweetness to the world, Grande has had some terrible luck in her life.

She’s also had some incredible luck (thanks to a hell of a lot of hard work). She’s the third most followed Instagrammer on the planet, the seventh most followed Spotifier, and her fourth studio album Sweetener went number one in the US, the UK, and right here in NZ.  

It’s the album’s success in the UK though that’s particularly meaningful, because in many ways the work serves as a response to the terror attack at her 2017 concert in Manchester. It’s not hard to see the connection between the tragic event and songs like No Tears Left to Cry and Get Well Soon, but the album is hardly doom and gloom. A 15-track mix of pop and R&B, the album is an effervescent light, a literal sweetener, for her heartbroken fans. And for herself.

Of course, when the album dropped the grief police came out on Twitter with assertions the album was a ‘missed opportunity’ to ‘really say something’, but it is not her responsibility to reappropriate the tragedy into art. With the One Love Manchester benefit concert Grande raised £17 million for the victims and their families. We know she stays in contact with those most affected. And when interviewers bring up the subject, Grande’s been known to burst into tears. It’s hard to listen to. Because Ariana Grande is not a symbol or a spokesperson or a business or ‘a career’. She’s a woman.

Then, in August, Grande was groped at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. It’s easy to imagine that, in the age of #MeToo, people would want her to make a grand feminist statement in the days after. But Grande has been silent on the incident. Because Ariana Grande is not a spokesperson. Before she speaks on it, if she ever wishes to, we have to allow her to process the strange incident for herself. She’s not a statement-making machine. Her life is not PR that needs to be navigated. Our ‘internet scandal’ is her lived experience.

Then, of course, there’s the most recent tragedy to come Grande’s way. The tragic death of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller has caused Grande to receive an insurmountable wave of vitriol. So disgusting was the abuse, she was forced to disable her Instagram comments. Can you imagine dealing with thousands of abusive messages while in the throes of grief? It’s just inhumane.

To explain, because Grande broke up with Miller, who suffered addiction issues, she was accused of being ‘responsible’ for his passing. It’s a garbage take, but unfortunately not an unoriginal one. Women have been held responsible for the men’s actions for centuries, and as Grande said herself after the break up; “shaming/blaming women [for a man’s personal issues] is a very major problem.”

From what Grande told us, she left a toxic relationship after years of ‘trying to support his sobriety and praying for his balance’. From what Miller told us, they truly wished each other the best.

Miller’s death is an unspeakable tragedy. Something that never should have happened. But people would do well to remember that he would not have wanted a woman he so cared for to be abused off the internet. They would do well to remember that Ariana Grande is a real-life woman. A human being. Not a statement-maker, not an internet amusement. She’s a person. Let’s let her live. 


  • Music /
  • Depression /
  • Ariana Grande /
  • Feminism /
  • Womanhood /
  • Personhood /
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