Photo Credits: Elle
As time passes, we tend to forget everything that’s happened in the news in the last year. Let’s take Ariana Grande for example.
The 25-year-old superstar is deep into the promotional cycle for her upcoming album Sweetener (August 17). With all of the buzz around her new album and singles, it’s easy to forget the events in Manchester that left Ariana with no tears left to cry.
And, in the spectacular, fast-paced world of pop culture and entertainment, it’s easy to forget that celebrities have private moments at all.
For the first time since a terrorist bombed Manchester Arena during her concert last year, Ariana Grande and her mom Joan open up to Elle about the impact that day had on her life and the trauma she still faces today.
On May 22, 2017, an Islamist terrorist detonated a homemade bomb in Manchester Arena as people were leaving Ariana Grande’s concert that night. 23 people were killed (including the attacker), and over a hundred were injured. Hundreds more were psychologically injured, including Ariana.
“When I got home from tour, I had really wild dizzy spells, this feeling like I couldn’t breathe,” she told Elle. “I would be in a good mood, fine and happy, and they would hit me out of nowhere. 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.”
She’s hesitant to talk about the subject — mostly because she doesn’t want her experience to overshadow the victims’ stories and partially because the event is emotionally triggering. According to the interviewer, “the name Manchester alone triggers a huge teardrop to roll down her cheek.”
“You hear about these things,” Ariana said. “You see it on the news, you tweet the hashtag. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. It makes you sad, you think about it for a little, and then people move on. But experiencing something like that firsthand, you think of everything differently.…” She pauses, swallowing the lump in her throat. “Everything is different.”
Joan Grande, Ariana’s mom, watched that night’s stop on the Dangerous Woman tour from the audience. She was still in the crowd when tragedy struck.
“I was like a fish swimming in the wrong direction,” Joan tells Elle. “Everyone was leaving, and I was going toward the stage. The bomb went off, and I’m looking at these young adults with fear in their eyes. People were jumping from the upper seats to get out. I just started grabbing people. I could have been steering them…
“I didn’t know where I was going,” she continues. “I just knew I was going to my daughter. Not to be overly dramatic—I struggle with this every day—but I didn’t know what I would find when I got to her. I sympathize with every parent who was waiting for a child. Those minutes when you don’t know what’s happening… there are no words.”
According to the magazine (but we’re assuming the information came from Joan), Ariana cried “endlessly” and didn’t speak much for two days. The people around her were unsure if she would ever want to perform again. Then, one morning, Ariana knocked on her mother’s bedroom door.
“It was two or three in the morning; she crawled into bed and said, ‘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.’”
Ariana contacted manager Scooter Braun to let him know her decision. The end result was the One Love Manchester concert, a major benefit to raise money for the victims of the disaster. On June 4, two weeks after the attack, 55,000 people attended the benefit, which featured performances by Ariana and other stars such as Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry.
Video: Ariana Grande performs “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” at One Love Manchester
One Love Manchester raised $23 million that night, and she couldn’t have done it without her fans.
“It’s the most inspiring thing in the world that these kids pack the venue. They’re smiling, holding signs saying, ‘Hate will never win,'” Ariana said as she broke into tears.
“Why would I second-guess getting on a fucking stage and being there for them? That city, and their response? That changed my life.”
Ariana has received a lot of hate for speaking up in politics, especially about gun control, but nothing will stop her from using her voice after what happened in Manchester.
“Not everyone is going to agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to shut up and sing my songs. I’m also going to be a human being who cares about other human beings; to be an ally and use my privilege to help educate people.,” she said. “[Artists] not only help people and comfort them, but also push people to think differently, raise questions, and push their boundaries mentally.”
Ariana shared her trauma with friend and collaborator Pharrell Williams. They then partnered up for “Get Well Soon,” a song about her mental health after Manchester and the final track on the album.