Could a sugar doughnut be responsible for the downfall of a pop superstar?
Because after Ariana Grande's antics this week, the pint-sized singer seems to be on the fast track to becoming one of America's most disliked celebrities.
To her die-hard fans, her image has always been synonymous with sweetness, although not usually the carb kind. Her career made by becoming the star of a Nickelodeon show, she was cute and pretty with a smile that satisfied millions of hearts.
But unless you have been living under a rock for the past few days, you'll know that on Saturday, the 22-year-old walked into a bakery and licked the doughnuts on the counter, before making out with her backup dancer boyfriend and going into an anti-America tirade. In the security footage she can clearly be heard saying: "I hate Americans. I hate America! That's disgusting."
And all of this took place on July 4. Um...
This isn't the first time the "Problem" singer has found herself in hot water. Whether it's tales of her being icy around young fans who have won competitions to meet her, or a report that she once ended an autograph session by getting into an elevator and exclaiming about her fans, "I hope they all f--king die," scandal seems to have plagued her.
Licking doughnuts for someone else's consumption. Hateful language. Those actions were bad enough. But her first attempt at an apology…that made the whole situation worse.
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In her lengthy mea culpa, Ariana claimed: "I am EXTREMELY proud to be an American and I've always made it clear that I love my country…..What I said in a private moment with my friend, who was buying the donuts, was taken out of context….."
She later continued, "…The fact that the United States has one of the highest child obesity rates in the world frustrates me…… We need to demand more from our food industry."
Say what? I am not sure adding a saliva-topping to a stranger's food is a good nutrition lesson for anyone.
Which brings us to what may be Ariana's biggest problem. She doesn't seem to be able to relate to the world you and I inhabit. And that could be a big problem for her going forward.
It's been rumored Ariana prefers that people photograph her on the left side of her face, rather than the right. But, right now, she isn't coming across well from any angle. As someone who has worked with her explains, "She can be rude and because of that she has a bad reputation. She is very head strong and determined, and whether rightly or wrongly, she is seen as a diva because of that."
For a moment in June, we seemed to get a glimpse of a seemingly new version of Ariana. She wrote a very eloquent op-ed in response to breaking up with her boyfriend, Big Sean, and then being linked to Niall Horan from One Direction. She put pen to paper and wrote: "I am tired of living in a world where women are mostly referred to as a man's past, present or future PROPERTY/POSSESSION…. I...do not. belong. to anyone. but myself. and neither do you." It was a mature and brave essay and showed she was using her pulpit wisely. She made some empowering points and her personal plea came across as authentic, although arguably a little misguided.
I applaud her sentiment, but here's the reality check: Whether we're talking about your love life or what you get up to at midnight with a doughnut, there is a certain part of your private life that you often have to give up when you become famous. That's just the way it is. You can't have it all your own way. Becoming a celebrity makes you vulnerable and you have to accept that. There are perks and downfalls. When you are in the public eye, you can't dictate how the world sees you, no matter how much you'd like to. Everything is magnified so you might as well behave, be a nice person, be kind.
Because there are eyes everywhere. Aside from paparazzi and mainstream media, we now have cell phone cameras, security footage, and in some cases, drones. And the ways we disseminate these images is greater than ever before. Ariana should have known this before she started trying to kiss the pastries.
So, can she dig herself out of this hole she has got herself in?
I am not so sure. Last night, Ariana delivered her second apology for her bad behavior in Wolfee Donuts. This time, it was a four-minute video where she looked forlornly into the camera while explaining she is "disgusted with herself."
"I'm 22. I'm human. I still have a lot to learn."
The video is a page straight out of Justin Bieber's book. When his bad press got out of hand earlier this year, his camp advised he do exactly the same thing (and as we know, Ariana and Justin share the same team). Ariana's video copied his approach: unedited, raw, and meant to resemble a deep heartfelt confessional.
But the problem is, it lacks authenticity. Rather than coming across as an apology for her bad behavior, it translates into a forced admission because her first one failed so dismally. It's a response to the bad press, rather than the bad behavior.
In Ariana's world, we are wrong for reporting on who she is dating. We are wrong for reporting on her hateful rant, even though it took place in a public doughnut shop. We are wrong for criticizing her for licking donuts and being rude to store workers and fans (because surely we should have known this was a protest against junk food).
There's no doubt she's got bags of talent but she has to realize how you act in private reflects who you really are, whether you are caught on camera or not.
"She has a big ego," says a music industry insider. "The video from the doughnut store changed everything. It cemented everyone's worst fears. This is her time to change, if she is really serious about having a long and fulfilling career. She's not going to be given many more chances after this."
Twenty-two is old enough to know better, despite her pleas to the contrary. She needs to grow up. And fast. Because as an adult you can't dictate that people only view you from the angle that benefits you.