Ariana Grande is petite — so much so that I imagine that if you stood her up next to that hat, they’d be the same height. So I love that Vogue went for it here and put her IN that enormous lid, but even more so I am delighted that she’s still wearing it rather than it wearing her. I don’t understand why the dog is present, other than that dogs make people squeal almost as much as Ariana Grande does; even it seems to be glancing at the camera like, “I’ll do this, but just please know I’m confused and would much rather be digging a hole over there.” (He almost looks like they added him later. Nary a grain of sand on him, which feels like it’d be harder to achieve with a pup than with a person.)
I’m not totally sold on Ariana’s facial expression here. It’s the right direction — she needs to veer away from the whole Human Kitten vibe — but I’m not totally convinced by it. It’s like she looked at a bunch of photos of Jennifer Lopez and just tried to mimic her ferocity, but she’s not J.Lo, and so she hasn’t fully evolved into it yet. Also… just now I glanced back up at this photo and something about the angle makes her face remind me vaguely of Meghan Markle suddenly? This is not something I have ever thought before.
I do have one question, though, which is: The cover story deals a lot with her post-Manchester life (hence the word “grief”), and… I wonder if this was a difficult one to figure out how to style. If she is jumping around or dressed in bright colors and prints, does it seem dismissive of the aforementioned grief? But here, dressed as a dramatic widow on an episode of Grand Hotel, does it put too campy a sheen onto this serious subject? Honest question. I don’t think I envy the magazine the creative decisions here.
Interestingly, this topic has been covered twice in the last year — once by UK Vogue, which opted for this over-the-shoulder shot, and once by Elle, which also went simple. Accordingly, this story has a lot of the same bones. For example, in the Elle piece, there is an unsubtle reference to Taylor Swift’s political reticence, and in this piece we get a similar inference:
She is passionately pro-LGBTQ and passionately anti–Donald Trump at a time when many of her peers have chosen to remain silent about politics lest they alienate a segment of their fan base. “I would rather sell fewer records and be outspoken about what I think is some fuckery than sell more records and be . . . Switzerland. Am I allowed to say that? I love Switzerland. The fake wokes are waiting to attack!”
The stories also all mention her struggles with anxiety after Manchester, her Italian heritage, various different anecdotes about her family’s outsize personality (she made me laugh in this one with a crack about her mother dressing like Cersei: “Mom, why are you wearing epaulets? It’s Thanksgiving”). Nary a one of them mentions the donut licking, which is a victory for her PR. Here, she gets the most specific about the gut-wrenching feeling of how the most you can think to do still can’t be enough:
It’s tempting to think of Manchester as the inflection point in Grande’s career, though she shrinks from any narrative about the bombing that might place her at its center. “It’s not my trauma,” she says as tears fill her eyes. “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.” She pauses to collect herself. “I’m proud that we were able to raise a lot of money with the intention of giving people a feeling of love or unity, but at the end of the day, it didn’t bring anyone back. Everyone was like, Wow, look at this amazing thing, and I was like, What the fuck are you guys talking about? We did the best we could, but on a totally real level we did nothing. I’m sorry. I have a lot to say that could probably help people that I do want to share, but I have a lot that I still need to process myself and will probably never be ready to talk about.”
Each piece does build differently around that skeleton: The UK Vogue piece was first out of the gate; the Elle piece adds spice to its sourcing by talking to Ariana’s mother. This one adds an element to her grief with the loss of Mac Miller, plus gets a pretty frank quote out of her about Pete Davidson:
One of the more puzzling chapters of Grande’s public life was her short-lived engagement to Davidson last year, a kamikaze move made in the haze of her breakup with Miller. Her friends had convinced her to decamp to New York, to escape L.A. and her patterns there. “My friends were like, ‘Come! We’re gonna have a fun summer.’ And then I met Pete, and it was an amazing distraction. It was frivolous and fun and insane and highly unrealistic, and I loved him, and I didn’t know him. I’m like an infant when it comes to real life and this old soul, been-around-the-block-a-million-times artist. I still don’t trust myself with the life stuff.”
What I liked about this piece is that Ariana gives the interviewer so much of herself — of her own quotes. It’s full of Ariana’s voice and not of the writer’s, and that makes it a more worthwhile and engaging read.