By Michael Ricketson
Awards and praise have marked Ariana Grande’s rise to fame for her amazing voice and performances.
She’s only 28, and her award-winning music career is about a decade old. And she keeps going. She took a spot as a judge on the 2021 season of The Voice, one of the most popular shows on television. But her rise to stardom wasn’t exactly cushy.
She’s been accused of some shady things over the years, like canceling appearances without notice, cheating on her boyfriend, and walking off the set of a show.
You know, superstar stuff, but in the end, all press is good press and no matter what they say, she’s one of the greatest superstars in music! What most people don’t know is this young woman has seen tragedy and felt pain. She’s a survivor and she’s grown exponentially through a myriad of great hardships. A suicide bombing at one of her concerts forced her into therapy to deal with PTSD. Ariana Grande is on a mission now. And we’re all a part of it.
Ariana Grande-Butera, born June 26, 1993, in Boca Raton, Florida, to Joan Grander and Edward Butera, started her career at a young age. Singing and acting in local theaters around Boca Raton was just the beginning for this talented kid. They all have to start somewhere, and those early years of work paid off because in 2008, at the age of 15, she got her first big break by snagging the role of Charlotte in the Broadway show 13. Her performance was so well-reviewed, she snagged her first career award from the National Youth Theatre Association. She won her first award at only 15 years old! It is hard enough for an adult to deal with fame, but a fifteen-year-old? Now that’s talent and maturity!
In 2010 she went on to land a role on the Nickelodeon show Victorious as Cat Valentine.
The show only lasted two years, but all the while, Ariana Grande worked on her singing talents, which began her journey to stardom in the music business. She had the talent – it just needed to be brought to the surface. While on the show, she made her singing debut with the single “Put Your Hearts Up,” with a teen-specific sound that she later disowned. The show was canceled, but it created a spinoff, Cat and Sam, with her co-star Jennette McCurdy from Victorious. The show only ran for 35 episodes before it was canceled, but during that time Ariana was laser-focused on building her music career. And what a career it has been!
From teenager to superstar
During that time, she cultivated her voice and transformed into a superstar whose voice is compared to the iconic Mariah Carey. You know you’re going to be famous when they start comparing you to pop icons. In 2013 she released the single “The Way,” the first single from her debut album Yours Truly, and featured Mac Miller. The single gave us a glimpse into the maturing process of a young woman, leaving her teen pop sound in the past and embracing the future. The single shot to the top of the U.S. charts and would later be certified as TRIPLE PLATINUM. Her first single. That deserves a dayum!
When Yours Truly, produced by Baby Face, was released, it hit the charts at number 1 on the Billboard top 200.
With the combination of the R&B and Pop infusion of her music and her incredible vocal talents, many said she was the next Mariah Carey. In August of 2014, her second album, My Everything, hit the charts at number 1 worldwide. The impressive list of producers for the album includes Max Martin, Shellback, Ryan Tedder, and Benny Blanco. Along with the producers, Ariana collaborated with some great names in music that included The Weeknd, Iggy Azalea, and Childish Gambino. The album and the song “Bang, Bang,” which featured Jessie J and Nicki Minaj, snagged Ariana her first Grammy Award nominations and solidified her status as a superstar. In 2014, Ariana Grande had three songs in the Billboard Top Ten at the same time. Adele is the only other artist ever to do that. And by early 2015, she sold a mind-boggling 600,000 copies of My Everything!
Dangerous Woman, Ariana’s third album, and the title track hit the charts at number 10 on the Hot 100. That, my friends, is when this determined young artist made music history.
She is the first artist to have the lead track singles of their first three albums debut in the Top 10. That’s talent, Baby! The album, which included song collaborations with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Macy Gray, and Future, hit the Billboard 200 at number 2! In 2021, her star kept rising as she joined the hit show The Voice as a judge. This girl’s career is on fire and Ariana Grande has become a permanent member of music history!
In February of 2017, Ariana Grande launched her North American and European Dangerous Woman Tour. But no one could have predicted the tragedy that would befall that tour and send Ariana into a powerful Mental Health Awareness campaign.
A Concert Tour, Tragedy, and Advocacy Intersect
On the European leg of the Dangerous Woman Tour, an unimaginable and deadly tragedy struck the tour and the fans. At the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, on May 22, 2017, after finishing her last song on stage, while fans began to leave the arena, a suicide bomber detonated his bomb at the arena’s foyer.
The explosion killed 22 Ariana Grande fans, many of whom were children. The bomber was later identified, and his brother was charged in the attack for helping his brother construct the bomb.
The suicide bombing left the world stunned. Grande’s primary audience is young girls and the arena was filled with young people which made the bombing especially heinous.
This tragedy affected the entire world, but can you even imagine what Ariana went through? All of those fans, those that died, had been there for only one reason: to see her perform on stage. She felt it so profoundly and she knew her fans did too. This was so catastrophic, she needed help to process it all. If she didn’t, it would have consumed her. She went into therapy and got the help she needed to process the PTSD. Her entire career rested on getting over the trauma and her transparency inspired others to do the same. Ariana now was determined to help break the stigma of mental health issues. That’s why she got help and wants everyone who needs it to get it too. The terrorist attack on her music venue was an attack on humanity itself. People gathering to celebrate music is an act of celebrating life itself! Music is that thing that touches every person’s soul and forever attaches itself to some of our most cherished memories. Music is the universal language of the heart and reminds us of some of our most precious moments in life – sacred moments – moments that terrorists are attracted to destroying. Terrorism is an act of cowardice, not courage. But music is a powerful healing tool and as Ariana moved towards healing so did her music and her dedication to mental health awareness. The world mourned that day, but terrorists will never win.
So began her advocacy to remove the stigma of mental health.
Ariana has admitted to her struggles with anxiety her entire life, but after the bombing, depression and PTSD overtook her, she has not kept quiet about either.
She opened up to Vogue about her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller’s death, how grief had overwhelmed her over his death, and the break of then-fiancé Pete Davidson.
She spoke about how she was always drunk for those months and had no idea how she had managed to come up with ten songs on the board.
After the bombing of her 2017 concert and going through more trauma with the death of someone she loved deeply, she got help and didn’t care who knew. Here are nine examples of when she opened up mental health. She shared a Jim Carrey quote on Instagram stories and opened up about depression: During her 2018 BBC Music Special. When she performed at the 15th anniversary of Wicked. For an August 2018 Elle magazine interview, as well as for Paper Magazine. On Twitter when explaining to a fan how performing forces her to relive the bombing every time. Again on Twitter, she admitted that therapy had saved her life, and in her July 2018 interview with British Vogue, and when she shared her PTSD brain scan. So yeah, guys, she shared her brain scan image to show the differences between a normal brain and one who has PTSD. The caption: “no joke.”
She has spoken so much about mental health and uses her journey as an example. She wants people to experience what therapy has done for her. It’s a process, and it’s hard. She’s admitted that many times as well. But she’s not just a star who says things; she does things! On June 29, 2021, Arian Grande announced on Instagram that she would be giving away $1,000,000 for people who want to get help. She partnered with the online counseling platform betterhelp.com to reach those in need. https://www.betterhelp.com/
She wants you to get help if you need it. In that post, she wrote, “Healing isn’t linear, fun, quick or at all easy, but we are here, and we’ve got to commit to making this time as healthy, peaceful, and beautiful as possible. The work is so hard, but we are capable and worth it: Sending so much love and strength.”
Living, Music and Mental Health
Sometimes we can learn a lot from a celebrity.
We see them on stage or the screen and all of the pictures online. They have lavish parties and get to sing or perform for the President of the United States and other foreign dignitaries. Everyone wants to be them. Yet, it often seems like so many of us would rather be someone else instead of ourselves. Where does that come from? Is it the draw of the big stage with the lights and instruments? Is it the desire to stand there holding an Oscar thanking everyone you can think about? More often than not, we are dealing with hard things, and we feel hopeless.
Life is hard; It downright sucks sometimes. But, during those deep dark times in our lives, when we feel the world crashing down and the pain seems so unbearable, those are the times we need to know it’s okay to ask for help. My god, when I was a teenager trying to come to terms with my sexuality (being gay wasn’t as accepted as it is now), what I wouldn’t have given for a bunch of celebrities to open up about mental health. Back in the day, getting therapy was a taboo thing better left in the dark.
But thanks to Ariana Grande and other celebrities, the stigma behind mental health issues can soon become a thing of the past. Ariana Grande, that award-winning, mind-altering voice, a powerhouse of a performer, won’t rest until every last person knows that it’s okay to ask for help.
Ariana Grande, the music superstar, is now Ariana Grande: mental health advocate.
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Professional counseling with a licensed therapist. BetterHelp. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/.
Schaffstall, K. (2019, July 9). Ariana Grande on short-lived Pete Davidson Engagement: “I didn’t know him”. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/music-news/ariana-grande-talks-mac-miller-death-didnt-know-pete-davidson-vogue-1223168/.
WLS-TV. (2021, June 29). ‘it’s okay to ask for help.’ Ariana Grande offers $1 million for Free Mental Health therapy. ABC7 Chicago. Retrieved from https://abc7chicago.com/ariana-grande-mental-health-therapy/10843928/.
By: Michael Ricketson