Ariana Grande got her start on Broadway before becoming a Nickelodeon star and launching a music career. Before the 21-year-old singer became famous, though, her mom feared for an alternative future.
"For my fifth birthday party we had a Jaws theme and all my friends left crying. I mean, I still am that way. But when I was little it was more concerning," the up-and-comer says in Billboard's Aug. 23 issue. "There was a stage, when I was 3 or 4, where my mom thought I might grow up to be a serial killer."
Grande, who lives in L.A., says she was "a very weird little girl" growing up in Boca Raton, Fla. Calling herself "dark and deranged," she says, "I always wanted to have skeleton face paint on or be wearing a Freddy Krueger mask, and I would carry a hockey stick around. I was like a mini-Helena Bonham Carter."
She's also hypoglycemic. "When I was a little girl, I would turn into the Tasmanian devil," she recalls.
Grande was raised Catholic but says she "departed from that and started practicing my own things when I was around 12 years old." Now, like her idol Madonna, Grande practices Kabbalah. "As a fellow Kabbalist, I know how hard it is to exercise those tools in your everyday life," she explains. "Especially in a world where everything is so egocentric and all you do is talk about yourself and promote yourself."
That being said, talking about herself in the press has made it easier for Grande to honor her vision.
When she moved to L.A. years ago, Grande hoped to make an R&B album—even if her managers worried that no one would pay attention to someone so young. "When I was 14, I wanted to make a straight-up, like, India.Arie record," the "Break Free" singer says, laughing. "Something really soulful."
The singer often felt older than she is. Is that why she loves soul? "I honestly think it could be a past-life thing. You know those things where you love something but you don't know why, or you're scared of something but you don't know why?" Grande asks. "I feel like all of those things are from another life."
With "Problem," "Break Free" and "Bang Bang" burning up the music charts, and an album due out Aug. 25, Grande shows no sign of stopping—and she's doing it all on her own terms. "I'm a micromanaging workhorse," she tells Billboard, nodding vigorously. "Absolutely an obsessive-compulsive workaholic."