**Grande’s album, “My Everything,” was released on Aug. 22. Here’s the full story we ran in our July/August issue. Boca Raton was the only South Florida magazine granted an exclusive interivew with the Boca-born pop and R&B star.
Though her meteoric rise has turned her into a superstar on par with the biggest names in music, Ariana Grande remains a Boca girl at heart.
Granted, it took 37 minutes for the first single—“Problem”—off her new album to reach No. 1 on iTunes after its late April release. And sure, with 438,000 downloads in its first week, the song that also features Iggy Azalea became the fourth-largest digital debut of all time for a female artist. And yes, the new album, “My Everything,” reached No. 1 in 76 countries on the iTunes albums chart upon its late-August release. But just because Ariana Grande is blowing up so fast and so furiously that Perez Hilton can barely keep up with the blog-worthy buzz doesn’t mean that our home-town pop/R&B superstar has gone Hollywood (even if she does live in Los Angeles).
Asked during a recent phone interview what she misses about the community in which she was raised—and where her grandparents still live—the diminutive singer-songwriter waxed nostalgic about Boca.
“I miss the beach, I miss Town Center, I miss Cinemark—which will always be Muvico in my heart,” says Grande, who turned 21 in late June. “I miss Boomers, I miss the Kabbalah Centre in Boca, I miss the Boca Beach Club, I miss my grandparents … I miss my home.”
For the better part of three years, starting in 2010, home for the former student at North Broward Preparatory School was on the small screen, where she developed a following as Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious” and, later, its spinoff “Sam & Cat.” But in the life-altering span of a few months last summer, Grande went from teen sitcom darling to worldwide pop phenom. Her debut album for Republic Records, “Yours Truly,” topped the iTunes Store charts in 30-plus countries and hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week; Grande became the first female artist since Kesha in 2010 to reach No. 1 with her inaugural effort. The video for the album’s hit single, “The Way,” is approaching 150 million views on YouTube.
Over the past year, Grande’s dynamic, four-octave soprano voice has drawn comparisons to Mariah Carey—and earned kudos from contemporaries like Lady Gaga and Rihanna. She’s also played the White House already—twice.
In this exclusive with Boca Raton, Grande dishes on her soaring career, her style sense, how her mom keeps everyone on their toes—and why there’s no place like home.
At what point during your television run on nickelodeon did you and your team make the decision to pursue a solo career, or was that the plan all Along?
That was always the plan. I was in the studio and working on music [while still on television]. I took my time; nobody was rushing me. I was able to wait and create separation between my character and my solo career—I was able to introduce myself as Ariana, and not as Cat, in such a natural way.
Nothing was forced; everything happened at the right moment. And I’m very grateful for that. My team really pushed my patience and made me wait—but that [turned out to be] a great idea because everything happened organically from there on out.
You have such a powerful voice and such incredible range. Was there ever discussion about doing a different type of music than you’re doing now?
Thank you … No, I’ve always wanted to do what I wanted to do [when it comes to music]; I’m very pig-headed that way. … There was a moment where [my team] wanted me to do a slightly younger type of music. I tried one song and it didn’t go over well. I was like, “See, it didn’t work. Now I get to do what I want.”
It’s one thing to hope for instant success in music but quite another to achieve it. Were you surprised at all by the reaction to your first single and album? Yes, for sure. I never thought it would be that quick. But I have to thank my fans for that. My fans brought my first single to number one on iTunes, and then everybody started paying attention. It was like, “Who the hell is this girl?” Then, later, they were like, “Oh my god, that’s the same girl my kids watched on TV?”
It was such a cool thing for me to have people come up and say, “I love your music,” as opposed to “I love your show.” … It was very cosmic. I think the universe was more responsible for that than I was.
How is your mom involved in your career?
I have managers. I have agents. I have lawyers. I have all these people. But without my mom … she helps to run the ship. My mom [Joan Grande] has her own job; she’s CEO of a company [in Deerfield Beach] that designs and manufactures marine communication equipment. She already has her hands full, but she helps me in a tremendous way—and I’m super grateful for that.
My creative sensibility is right on point, but my business sense is still evolving. My mom is teaching me about the business; she helps me in situations where I’m about to be screwed over. She’ll look it over and get me out of it. She takes really good care of me. I don’t know that I would be where I am right now if she hadn’t [steered] me away from making some huge mistakes.
She’s the smartest person I know. I think my managers cower in fear of her, which is perfect. I don’t know who my managers are more afraid of, her or me. She’s laughing on the couch right now—she says definitely her.
Are you struggling at all with the never-ending gossip and constant chatter that comes from being a chart-topping star? No, I don’t read it. I only talk to my fans, so the things I see online are what I see on Twitter. I find out about the gossipy stuff if they bring it to my attention. Even then, I don’t want to make that important in my life. I want to focus on my family, my fans and the people I love. I feel like if I create that bubble for myself, then I’ll be fine.
You know, I get it. [The paparazzi and gossip outlets] have to do their job and make their money too. … But if there’s no truth behind a rumor, it just goes away. So why stress over something like that.
You’re part of a generation that is relying on social media in a way that prior entertainers didn’t have to think about. How important is it to you?
I love social media. I love Twitter. I love Facebook. I love Instagram—I’m an addict. It’s important because I love talking to my fans. I feel a very weird maternal connection toward them; it’s like they’re all my babies and I have to go say hi and take care of them every day. I just love my fans.
Not every entertainer is comfortable speaking out about social or, as you did, religious issues. Is that something, moving forward, that we’ll see more of from you? I stand up for what I believe in, just as everyone does—and everyone is entitled to an opinion. There are things that work for me and things that don’t. I’m a very loving, open and accepting person.
I couldn’t really [practice] my religion anymore because of who was running it at the time and his beliefs. But I found something that works for me, and I stayed with it. [Edi- tor’s note: Grande revealed in a 2013 interview with London’s Metro newspaper that she broke with her Catholic upbringing over comments by former Pope Benedict XVI. “He said Spongebob Squarepants is gay … And Harry Potter was a sin. And working women. I was like, Enough!’”]
That doesn’t mean that I’m saying, “Everyone should practice Kabbalah.” I’m not preaching; it just works for me. I’m never going to try and sell somebody on my path or my beliefs. Because I’m a vegan, I’m not going to stop being friends with someone who eats meat and dairy. And I’m not going to disown my friends who are Catholic.
You recently received the Anna Wintour stamp of approval at a charity event in New York. How important has cultivating a look and choosing the right style become as far as your overall persona?
It’s interesting because I never thought people would pay so much attention to what I was wearing. I’m a musician, not a fashionista! But as time went on, I was like, “Oh my god, people are [talking about] what I look like as [much as they are about] what I sound like. I better start paying attention to this.”
I’ve always loved fashion, but I’ve always loved the same thing—I’m drawn to very retro-, period-looking style. It’s funny, because I never thought I was on top of a trend. I’m always doing something that either will go over really well—or not at all. I don’t want to just do what’s trendy; I want to do what feels good.
These days, I always have a ’60s look going. … I would love to see girls all running around like Ann-Margret; that would be a dream come true.
Everyone from Lady Gaga to Rihanna Has been complimentary of your talents. Is there one contemporary whose words meant the most to you?
There was a little controversy at the iHeart Radio Awards because some people were saying that Rihanna was laughing at me while I was performing. But afterward, she asked me to come over and talk to her. She said, “You are the cutest … Please keep doing what you’re doing because you’re killing it. I’m so happy for you.” … It’s amazing to have the support of so many of my peers that I look up to.
How often do you get back to Boca?
I don’t get home as often as I’d like, probably every five months or so. I live in L.A., I have dogs there, a garden, my work—but no matter what, I always feel like Boca is my home.