Inside Ariana Grande's Complicated Relationship With Her Fans

The one connection she can always count on.

By Billy Nilles Oct 15, 2018 4:43 PMTags
Ariana GrandeDave Hogan/One Love Benefit

There's not a lot that Ariana Grande wouldn't do for her fans.

She puts it all out there for her Arianators, pouring her heart into her songs, allowing them into her world in hopes that their connection can be of service to singer and listener alike. She engages with them on social media in a way that few other stars do, propping them up and reminding them she loves them. She surprises them in heartwarming moments like the one during her May visit to The Tonight Show, as her way of saying thanks. 

"The thing that makes me feel OK with opening up and finally allowing myself to be vulnerable is that I know [my fans] feel the same feelings," she told The FADER in May. "I've talked to them about it. I have fans that have become friends of mine. I have their numbers, and we talk all the time."

They've become a family, something that was never more evident than when Ariana and her fans were forced to mourn together following the heartbreaking bombing at her Manchester tour stop in 2017. And as troll culture takes an even tighter grip on the internet and the real world in 2018 has been one personal tragedy after the next for the singer, Ariana has needed that family to have her back more than ever. 

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And each and every time, they've been there.

The troops, currently standing 58 million strong on Twitter and 131 million on Instagram, sprang into action on Sunday after news broke that Ariana and Pete Davidson had called off their engagement after a whirlwind courtship that began in June and had weathered not only trolling, but the devastating and untimely death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller just a month ago. "It was way too much too soon," a source told People of the split. "It's not shocking to anyone."

While the Twittersphere lit up with memes poking fun at the breakup, Ariana's fans began doing what they could to shield their fave from seeing the negativity in her time of need, flooding her mentions instead with well-wishes and messages of positivity. "i feel so bad for ariana right now. she's literally had so much shit this year none of which she deserved," one fan wrote. "if you even have the nerve to attack or joke about ariana and pete rn unfollow me."

"i don't how u r feeling rn but i want u to know that everything is temporary and it's gonna get better soon," wrote another. "i need u to be strong and don't forget i love you so so much, sending u hugs @ArianaGrande

BlayzenPhotos / BACKGRID

A quick search of Ariana's name on Twitter will yield tweet after tweet from fans expressing similar sentiments, all hoping to prop her up in her time of need. It's behavior that we've seen many times in the last year and a half, as Ariana's unfortunately been forced to endure more than any one person should. After the tragedy in Manchester, her fans swarmed the internet, sharing videos of her interacting with her fans, reminding her that the terrorist attack wasn't her fault. And when Mac died and trolls began to try and pin blame on her, the fan army shut that mess down, drowning out those hateful voices as much as they possibly could.

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There is, however, a dark undercurrent to stan culture—aka the diehard subset of fandoms who seem to eat, sleep, and breathe for their fave and nothing else—especially when it mixes with the relative anonymity of the internet, and that's an alarmingly unearned sense of ownership over that which one stans for. And as we've seen over and over again as Ariana claps back at those purporting to be her fans, the "God is a woman" singer tends to find herself targeted by her own support system with unusual frequency.

The most recent example of this brazen sort of behavior aimed at the pint-sized singer came when she released what she called the official video for new single "breathin'," a video that turned out to be nothing more than three minutes of her new pet pig Piggy Smalls wandering around a bed as the ode to self-care plays. While most fans picked up on the fact that the clip might not be officially official, one fan left a rather hateful comment on a now-deleted Instagram post, writing, "This era is a joke and lazy."

The spiteful comment prompted a response from Ariana, who wrote, "This era is beautiful to me but idk. Been thru hell and back and i'm doing my best to keep going. Thought this would make u laugh while u wait for the real one bc i took a break to take care of myself for a lil while. My b."

If it were an isolated incident, it would be bad enough. But at every turn this year, there's been at least one fan—usually with some variation of Ariana's name as their Twitter handle and one of her photos as their profile pic—to snipe at, second-guess, or just downright demean her.

Alexi Lubomirski/ELLE

When she and Pete went public with their relationship and Mac was arrested for a DUI pretty soon thereafter, there was the fan who took the time to tell her it was "heartbreaking," especially because the rapper had written songs about her.

When she revealed that she'd named a song on her new album "Pete," she was faced with a tweet from Twitter user @blazedbyari (a handle that's since changed to @givememadIove, but is still using, you guessed it, a photo of her as their avatar) that read, "'pete' girl we know you love him but you are dumb." Her response? A simple "Nah."

When she and Pete were caught by the paparazzi and Pete flipped the aggressive photogs the bird, some stans became riled up, floating a bizarre theory that he was aiming his intention at them. She was forced to shut that mess down, tweeting, "R u nuTS????? The PAPS..not YOU……???? ever…??? stop w this sh—. please. forreal. I love y'all too much for this. Enough w the ig / twitter war thing. It ends now [sic]"

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They've dragged Pharrell Williams, whose production on Sweetener seems to be her favorite parts of the collection, but wasn't entirely up to snuff for them. They've dragged her for the tattoos she's gotten. They've dragged her for which sorts of fans are selected as winners for her contests. They've dragged her when she celebrates her performance on the charts. They tried to start a flame war with her BFF Nicki Minaj and her fans when the rapper's album Queen was originally pushed back to the same release date as Sweetener. They've promoted a leaked version of her album and then dragged her when she dared to call out the fan promoting the leak. They've even dragged her ponytail.

More often than not, Ariana herself is quick to clap back at these so-called fans, shining a spotlight on the trolling coming from inside the house while putting them in their place, but she needn't ever waste her time because, without fail, her Arianators rises up to drown out the haters and remind her that there is always more love than hate.

When Ariana looks back on 2018, it's no doubt going to be remembered as one of the most complicated and tumultuous years in her life. But the one undeniable bright spot, the one thing that no amount of loss or heartbreak can take away from her, is the love and devotion of her fan base and the family she's formed with them. And as she spends the next bit of time understandably focusing on her own well-being, she can rest assured that the Arianators are standing by, ready and waiting for whenever she inevitably needs them next.