How 'Dangerous Woman' Ariana Grande usurped Selena Gomez's throne to become #1
Ariana's brand has the perfect mix for both teen and adult audiences. On one hand, she's got the candy-colored everything and on the other, she wears latex and sings about some dangerously great adventures that leave you unable to walk straight in 'Side to Side'.
Ariana Grande is the new Instagram empress. She dethroned long-reigning queen Selena Gomez to become the most-followed woman on the social media platform, with an insane 146,258,213 followers. Selena, who still has 146,257,849 followers on Instagram isn't really that far behind, but clearly, millennials are leaning towards Ariana. So what was it that triggered the internet to swing from Selena's wholesome, cookie-cutter American dream persona to the edgy, bunny-eared 'Dangerous Woman' Ariana? If only the answer was simple.
While the two singers are a world apart when it comes to their brand image, they actually have very similar backgrounds. Selena, 26, is a former Disney starlet who kicked off her career with 'Barney & Friends' and then played the affable Alex from 'Wizards of Waverly Place'. The 25-year-old Ariana is also an ex-Nickelodeon star, whose claim to fame was her role as Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon's 'Victorious' and the spinoff show 'Cat & Sam'.
They've both had memorable 'Saturday Night Live' performances on their career graphs and have studio albums that have climbed to the top of the charts. They've even been huge supporters of causes on their social media and have also had highly publicized relationships and breakups, a lot of which, has happened on the internet. But when you think of Selena, you think sweet, god-fearing and kind. On the other hand, when you think of the 'Sweetener' singer, you think sweet too, but with a generous side of racy, outspoken and thigh high boots.
Rarely ever seen without her signature tousled towering ponytail and winged liner, Ariana's Instagram fame did not come overnight. She's been consistent. While Ariana has a total of 3,943 posts as of this moment, Selena has had just 1,473 posts so far.
Ariana also doesn't shy away from promoting her projects on the platform and makes sure to post multiple stories and photos every day. Selena, in stark contrast, has taken multiple internet sabbaticals since her turbulent time with her physical, mental and emotional health, as well as her troubled relationship with Justin Beiber.
Ariana's brand has the perfect mix for both teen and adult audiences. On one hand, she's got the candy-colored everything and on the other, she wears latex and sings about some dangerously great adventures that leave you unable to walk straight in 'Side to Side'. Don't be mistaken, this mixed bag of goodies isn't accidental. She's built it right from scratch.
After a brief Broadway stint when she was 13, Ariana was cast in 'Victorious'. The sitcom sketched her as a bubbly, cute and cheerful, but dimwitted Cat Valentine who suffered from separation anxiety when her phone was away. She was hilarious and undoubtedly the most noteworthy character on the show. She had red velvet cupcake-colored hair back then, far from the chic do we see now. The show premiered in March 2010 to the second-largest audience for a live-action series in Nickelodeon history with 5.7 million viewers — pretty clear why she got her own spin-off, right? However, she always had her heart set on music.
"I hate acting," Ariana once confessed in an interview with Rolling Stone, "It's fun, but music has always been first and foremost with me." It seemed that even when her breakout role got her fame (15 million Twitter followers), she was only interested in singing like her idols Whitney Houston and Destiny's Child, as she revealed. So she went ahead and did whatever a talented, young and eager aspiring pop star would do — sing covers on YouTube.
She started working on her debut album in 2010, around the time 'Victorious' second season was filming she started uploading her renditions of tracks by Adele, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. She landed a contract with Monte Lipman and Republic Records, thanks to her amazing voice, but it would still take her three more years to get her first studio album out.
She did, however, release a single just a year later called 'Put Your Hearts Up' which she later disowned saying that it was too "fake" for her. She also went out of her way to hide it on her VEVO. The song did incredibly well, however. It was certified gold by the RIAA.
She did a voiceover for the Italian version of Nickelodeon's 'Winx Club' the same year, along with a voiceover gig in the English dub of the Spanish animated film 'Snowflake, the White Gorilla'. She also starred in Greyson Chance's music video 'Unfriend You'.
Meanwhile, 'Victorious' was renewed for a third season. On a second soundtrack for 'Victorious', 'Victorious 2.0', released in 2012, Ariana sang the vocals for a cover of 'Don't You (Forget About Me)'. Her first one was for 'Victorious: Music from the Hit TV Show', where she sang 'Give It Up' that released in August 2011. She went on to sing for the final 'Victorious' soundtrack, as well and duetted with Victoria Justice for the song 'L.A. Boyz'.
All of 2012, Ariana was acting on the 'Victorious' spin-off and doing theatre shows. She did do one collaboration with singer Mika, but nothing huge happened with her music career. Thank you, next? In 2013, she dropped 'Yours Truly', her first studio album and it was an overnight success. It was number one on the US Billboard 200 albums chart, with 138,000 copies sold in its first week.
'Yours Truly' also debuted in the top 10 in several other countries, including Australia, the UK, Ireland, and the Netherlands. The lead single 'The Way', featuring late Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller, debuted at number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at number nine for two weeks.
This album also marked the shift in Ariana's brand. She went from a red-haired, tank top wearing tween idol to the petite pop star, who loved to mix and match between studded black bodices and sexy sheer stockings paired with a high ponytail.
"I think people see me as a little cutesy thing, but I’m literally the most sardonic person you’ve ever met," she said in an interview with Billboard just a year later when her second album, 'My Everything' released. "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. There was a stage when I was 3 or 4, where my mom thought I might grow up to be a serial killer," she said.
'My Everything', obviously, went straight to the top. Her single with Australian rapper Iggy Azelia, 'Problem' proved to be her first major hit. It debuted at number three (eventually climbing to number two) on the Billboard Hot 100, and debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Ariana's first number one single in the United Kingdom. The album's second single, 'Break Free', featuring Zedd, peaked at number four in the United States.
She went on to open the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards with 'Problem' and she and rapper Nicki Minaj went on to lend their vocals to Jessie J's 'Bang Bang' — 2014 was eventful. she also added one more feather to her rapidly growing cap — Ariana joined Adele as the only female artist with three top 10 singles simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 as a lead artist, thanks to the success of 'Bang Bang', 'Problem' and 'Break Free'.
Then came her third studio album, 'Dangerous Woman' that sealed her diva image. It was hugely successful, debuting at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and gaining Platinum status in Australia, Britain and New Zealand. 'Dangerous Woman' was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and the title track for Best Pop Solo Performance.
Dark, sexy and dripping with hypnotic beats, 'Dangerous Woman' was the foundation to 'Sweetener' and 'Thank You, Next', her two next albums. It was also around this time, in 2016, that she began her troubled relationship with Mac Miller. Just a year after releasing 'Dangerous Woman', Ariana decided to tour with it in 2017 when tragedy struck.
On May 22, after her concert at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in the foyer of the arena, killing 23 people and injuring more than 500. The tour was suspended and Ariana did her best to offer her love and support. She held a benefit concert for the affected called 'One Love Manchester' in June, helping to raise $23 million to aid victims and affected families.
The concert featured performances from Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus among others, and Ariana herself. She was named the first honorary citizen of Manchester. The tour resumed soon after and ended in September during its Paris leg. Her boyfriend Miller was also with her the whole way, supporting the cause. After recording 'The Way' with Miller in 2012, the two had been inseparable.
“She’s like the greatest person in the world. She’s like an angel, she’s very nice, she’s a sweet girl," he had once said. Ariana, just as gushy, had confessed on The Ellen Show, "This is so crazy. I’ve never had the relationship talk on a show before," she told the host. She blushed when Ellen asked if she was happy with Mac and she said, "Yeah." The couple also collaborated with each other for Miller's album 'The Divine Feminine'.
In the meantime, she also released five fragrances with Luxe Brands that grossed over $150 million in global sales by 2017. Just to compare, it sold 15 times more than Kim Kardashian's KKW Gardenia. Ariana was worth about $35 million by this time. She capped the eventful year with the title of 'Female Artist of the Year' by Billboard Magazine. She is currently estimated to be worth $80 million. She then dropped two of the most successful albums of the year, 'Sweetener' and 'Thank You, Next'.
All seemed well, but wasn't — Ariana and Miller parted ways in May 2018. After Ariana confirmed that she and Mac had split, Mac was arrested for drunk driving and a hit-and-run after crashing his Mercedes G-Wagon. When fans blamed her for the breakup, she snapped back on social media, "How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them, which btw isn’t the case (just Cinderella is ab me)," she wrote.
"I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety and prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course) but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his shit together is a very major problem. Let’s please stop doing that." This retort may have just been a personal defense, but the maturity with which Ariana handled the situation catapulted her to the feminist icon pantheon.
The trolling continued, but she didn't care. Soon after, in May 2018, Ariana began dating actor and comedian Pete Davidson and the whirlwind romance escalated quickly — the two got engaged in June 2018. They were splashed cuddling and sharing moments in every tabloid and it looked like it really was love. Just two months after putting a ring on it, Grande dropped 'Sweetener'. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and earned Ariana her very first Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
She was a sensation now, her voice gaining acclaim from the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Chris Martin, and Lady Gaga. In August 2018, she was invited to sing at Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin's funeral. She sang a moving rendition of 'A Natural Woman' on the televised event and something no one could have expected happened — Bishop Charles Ellis wrapped his arm around Ariana, pulled her close and pressed his fingers into the side of her breast. Right there, in front of God and millions watching.
The incident was relatable to many, and many other #MeToo stories about sexual assault in religious institutions came forth. For Ariana's brand, the result was clear — unintentionally, she had become a force to be reckoned with. If that wasn't traumatic enough, Ariana was hit with a massive tragedy next.
In September 2018, her ex, rapper Mac Miller committed suicide, shocking the world. If the backlash at the split was bad, this was a thousand times worse. Ariana was blamed for the incident and Ariana also publicly grieved the loss. Just a month later, she called off her engagement to Pete Davidson.
A lot has happened in her decade-long career, but she's built an image of herself that is the empowered femme fatale who may look adorable, but isn't afraid of speaking her mind. She has been a huge supporter of the LGBTQIA community even though she was raised Roman Catholic. In fact, she disagreed with Catholicism so much, she abandoned it because of its views on homosexuality. An avid supporter, she is also headlining at the Manchester Pride this year.
It's not hard to see why she's risen to the top on social media. She connects to her audiences in more ways than one.