Ariana Grande for Billboard Magazine

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Ariana Grande is easily mistaken for an old-school good girl. The singer wears Audrey Hepburn-style strapless gowns, travels everywhere with her mother and trades lovey-dovey messages with on-again, off-again boyfriend Jai Brooks (of Internet comedy boy-troupe The Janoskians) over Instagram. Last year, she implored fans to boycott SeaWorld after the damning documentary Blackfish came out. “I think people see me as a little cutesy thing,” she says, looking, in fact, demure and adorable, seated with her feet tucked underneath her on a giant leather couch. “But I’m literally the most sardonic person you’ve ever met.”

Proud oddball Iggy Azalea — Grande’s collaborator on “Problem,” the song-of-the-summer contender that has elevated Grande to superstar status — allows that Grande, while “very sweet,” is definitely “quirky.” Last year, bloggers simply had her pegged as a “mini-Mariah” for the lush, unabashedly ’90s R&B sound of her debut Yours Truly, which went to No. 1. On Aug. 25, Grande presents her follow-up, My Everything, and three huge singles released in the run-up to the album have already redefined her as a state-of-the-art pop diva: Besides “Problem,” a super-catchy, not-at-all-smooth, kiss-off track, there’s the Ibiza-ready “Break Free” and the woman-power anthem, “Bang Bang,” featuring Nicki Minaj and Jessie J.

Grande, who now lives in Los Angeles, says she was “a very weird little girl” growing up in Boca Raton, Florida: “Dark and deranged. 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.” Sitting in the cavelike lounge we’ve retreated to in downtown L.A., she looses a throaty, almost maniacal laugh. “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.”

Instead, Grande embarked on a show-tunes-inspired career. She started acting in community theater a few years after the creepy birthday party, and by freshman year in high school, she auditioned and scored her first casting in a Broadway show, 13. That led to a supporting role on Nickelodeon’s teen musical sitcom Victorious and a starring part in the Victorious spinoff, Sam & Cat. Republic Records chairman/CEO Monte Lipman signed Grande when she was 17 and little-known beyond Nickelodeon, after a friend excitedly sent him YouTube videos of her covering Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Sam & Catonly lasted one season; the final episode aired in July, amid much drama. But two weeks later, “Break Free” placed No. 1 on iTunes. 

Making a hit record was always the goal. “I remember when I first came to L.A. to meet with my managers, I was like, ‘I want to make an R&B album,’ ” recalls Grande. “They were like” — she drops her voice a few registers –” ‘Um, that’s a helluva goal! Who is going to buy a 14-year-old’s R&B album?!'”

Grande’s restless ambition is accompanied by a twitchy energy: She’s hummingbird-tiny at just five feet tall, often walking with a stutter step thanks to her giant high heels. She makes dramatic arm gestures as she talks, with the words tumbling out of her mouth. “I am hypoglycemic so sometimes I’ll get anxious if I forget to eat,” says Grande. “When I was a little girl, I would turn into the Tasmanian devil.”

“Because she is a perfectionist, the one thing I’ll say to her every now and again is, ‘Ari, perfect is not always about being perfect — it’s those flaws that people can relate to,'” says Lipman. “I don’t want you to get to the point where you’re gritting your teeth and your fists are all balled up.”

Grande agrees. “I’m a micromanaging workhorse,” she says, nodding vigorously. “Absolutely an obsessive-compulsive workaholic.” Even as an 8-year-old kid playing Annie, she didn’t want to stop working. “I just wanted to do every single show,” she remembers. “However many there were in a year, I was in every one, whether I was a chorus girl or the lead or doing the lighting.”

At that time, Grande’s older half brother Frankie claimed star status in the family. “My brother was always the one in the spotlight and I liked that,” she explains. (Frankie’s a performer and producer currently working his outsized personality and dyed Mohawk on the deathless CBS reality show Big Brother.) “It was like he was the entertainment for me.” Grande’s mother is Joan Grande, who runs a telephone and alarm system company and moved with Ariana’s father from New York to Florida when she was pregnant with their daughter. Grande’s father, Edward Butera, owns a successful graphic design firm in Boca Raton. “My brother and my mom and my grandparents were always there,” she recalls. “And my dad, until my parents split up when I was 8 or 9.”

The week I spoke with Grande was a rough one. Her beloved grandfather had just passed away at the age of 90, and she was posting photos of him — as a dashing young man in a fedora; on his deathbed, Grande smiling by his side — in online tributes. Like everything else, Grande shares her grief with her fans. In person, though, she struggles to articulate it. “It’s just so fresh and I’m still mourning,” she says in a whisper. “I don’t even know what I would say to be able to encompass what an amazing man he was.” She wipes her forefinger delicately under each eye and smiles. “I mean, how much time do you have?” While in Florida caring for her grand­father, Grande met up with her dad, whom she hadn’t seen in a while. “It was good,” she says. “I love my dad.” But she’s made no secret of the fact that her parents’ divorce and relationship with her father have been tricky. “Everybody with divorced parents knows what it’s like to be in the middle. Even years later I’m still in the middle.”

Grande responded, in part, by cultivating interests from her grandparents. “I have an obsession with all things vintage and classic and old-school, everything from Marlene Dietrich to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons to Connie Francis,” she says. “My grandpa was always telling me I should sing songs from the Great American Songbook.” But her most towering influence may be Madonna. After hearing Grande easily harmonize to Madonna albums all afternoon, I half joke that the two should do a song together. “Oh my God, my heart would stop,” she gushes. “She is strength, she is freedom, she is wisdom beyond anybody’s comprehension.” Grande was raised Catholic but “departed from that and started practicing my own things when I was around 12 years old,” she says. Now, like Madonna, Grande practices Kabbalah. “As a fellow Kabbalist, I know how hard it is to exercise those tools in your everyday life,” says Grande. “Especially in a world where everything is so egocentric and all you do is talk about yourself and promote yourself.”

Of course, Grande has had to be a tireless self-promoter — even after making it onto TV, she was posting homemade videos online. Her pleasures now are simple, even sparse: “The most relaxing thing to me is going to the beach at night,” she says. “I mostly do it in Boca.” She’ll rehearse with her dancers, even when there’s no event coming up, for the company. And sometimes she’ll fly out her best friend Alexa Paige, a pal from Florida now in college, for fun. But she’s closest with her mother, who she calls “fierce,” and her brother. They’ll play Heads Up! when a few free minutes open up. Frankie being away on Big Brother “is excruciating, because I have no communication with him, and he’s missed so many things.” The afternoon we spend together, Grande is surrounded by functionaries, but instead of a combination assistant-slash-best friend, it’s Joan who makes sure to bring her two bottles of water — one cold, one at room temperature.

Grande’s also remarkably good at keeping her own counsel. “When she sent me ‘The Way’ featuring Mac Miller,” Lipman recalls, referring to Grande’s first big single, “she goes, ‘I just made a record that is a smash.'” When Lipman asked to start planning the video, she said it was already done. (It’s a sweet, simple clip in which a radiant Grande chastely flirts with Miller.) “That video, which cost virtually nothing, is the only video we ever made for that song,” says Lipman. “It’s got 100 million views, and at the end of the day, that was her.”

In scaling up her sound for My Everything, Grande needed to sacrifice control. “Everything that I was terrified to try and was absolutely positive I would hate, I tried,” she says, explaining that at first she was “intimidated” by “Problem” and wary of recording straight-up dance tracks.

“It’s not like, because Ariana has a huge range, she can only do that kind of music,” says her “Break Free” co-writer Anton Zaslavski, aka Zedd. Grande wasn’t so sure. “I hated it at first,” she says, describing her vocals on “Break Free,” which she sings ahead of the beat. Co-producer Max Martin convinced her to sing in what she calls a “more forward placement.” “I was like no, no, no! Please just let me sing it how I would sing it,” she mock-whines. “But he was like, ‘Just try it. Trust me.'” She loved the results. “I was so pleased when I tried something that I thought — no, that I knew I would hate.”

“Problem” was also a difficult sell. “I loved the idea of it, but the chorus, the whisper was so shocking to me,” says Grande, referring to the unexpected, intimate refrain sung by Big Sean — “I got one less problem without you” — which co-writer Savan Kotecha first dreamed up in an airplane bathroom, and completed for Grande after he was brought in to work on My Everything. (“I sang it into my phone,” he remembers. “I had that voice in my head for a year.”) In the main part, she wanted to show off more of her range — her “normal, I’m-not-screaming voice.” But “what makes an Ariana song an Ariana song is that it’s a song no one else can sing,” says Kotecha. “She’s probably one of, if not the best, technical singers of her generation.”

“When I was 14, I wanted to make a straight-up, like, India Arie record,” remembers Grande, laughing. “Something really soulful.” Is it her inner Bonham Carter that pulls Grande toward what she calls “the bittersweetness” of soul music? “Maybe,” she says, sighing. “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? I feel like all of those things are from another life.”

Obviously there’s more to Grande than a shrill, tightly wound diva in training —Election’s Tracy Flick with a four-octave range. She displays a thoughtfulness and a weirdly sane-seeming mysticism that suggest true depth.

Balancing real life as a person and unreal life as a famous person is a big part of what Grande works on these days. “I never thought it would be a thing for me to go out in my pajamas,” she says. Does she feel pressure to hide aspects of her private life? “I do and sometimes I don’t. I vacillate between saying, ‘I need to keep some things private’ and ‘I should be able to be myself, and I need to share what I love and everything with the world!'”

Grande’s also hard at work planning live shows to support the new album. “I did a tiny tour, but it was very small and intimate and on not much of a stage,” says Grande of the shows she played last year, opening up for Justin Bieber. “It’s new, very new. It’s going to be a big shock for me. Here’s the thing,” she says, leaning forward and speaking in a conspiratorial whisper. “I have to launch this album, and I get to do a tour, which all sounds fine and dandy…but I just love being in the studio. I could start a new album right now, tonight. That sounds the most enticing to me. I love it.”

Check out Ariana’s Billboard Shoot: Behind The Scenes!

Ariana Grande Interviewed by Ryan Seacrest

After the official launch of “Problem” on iTunes, Ariana Grande was at 102.7 KIIS FM radio to join the program On Air with Ryan Seacrest, where she talked about her new single “Problem” her duet with Chris Brown, her celebrity crush Jim Carrey, and more!

Check out the photos + videos of the interview!

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Ariana Grande Defends Justin Bieber on MIX 104.1

Ariana Grande will present at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, but before she takes the stage at the Staples Center, she sat down to talk with Gregg Daniels, Fast Freddy, and Salt.

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First order of business, get the “big news” of her hair and hair extensions out of the way. Ariana explained to the guys that with her television role and having to dye her hair repeatedly, it all broke off and has become a bit of a pain to manage.

“I’ll switch it up eventually. I just have to wait for my hair to grow. It’s like little pieces of hay,” Grande lamented. “It’s not cute. I’d love to wear it down, but I’d look like the scarecrow.”

Balancing her television and music careers, Ariana Grande has been compared to former teen star Miley Cyrus, something that she has no problem with.

“I think she’s dope, I think she’s a rock star, I think she’s expressing herself, and there’s nothing wrong with adding a little fun into pop culture,” said Grande. “I wish I had enough confidence to get naked and sit on a wrecking ball. If y’all had her body, you’d be on that ball right with her.”

With news of Justin Bieber’s arrest in Miami this morning, Salt wanted to know Ariana’s thoughts on what her fellow pop star is going through.

“I think it’s really serious. I’ve seen tweets of people making fun of the mugshot and all this stuff, and it’s so ignorant,” said Grande. “It’s gotten to a point where I just want him to be okay. It’s this very serious thing. It’s not just like a kid who’s, you know screwing around, it’s dangerous. It’s very serious and upsetting.”

Gregg Daniels wondered if there is any advice that Ariana would want to pass along to Justin.

“I just want him to be okay, that’s all. I just think it’s a serious thing,” Grande said. “And I don’t think it’s something to make fun of anymore. I don’t think it’s funny anymore.”

“I mean you could throw an egg at a house. Who the hell cares. Just shut up. That was annoying – don’t search somebody’s house,” Grande continued. “But it’s just the health part that is concerning to me, because he’s a great person and a very talented boy, and I want the best for him, so I just hope that he’s okay.”

When describing Justin in a sentence, Ariana makes what Freddy believes is a comparison to Michael  Jackson.

“He’s the most visible and yet isolated human being I’ve ever met.”

Heat World Interviews Ariana Grande

HeatWorld

It’s really lucky Ariana Grande doesn’t have globophobia, because the task heat set for her to pop balloons to answer readers’ questions could have turned into a nightmare for the singer.

She and boyfriend Nathan Sykes out of The Wanted nipped in for a chat and ended up chucking balloons at each other’s heads. Aww, young love.

Anyway, here’s what we learnt about Ariana:

  • She has a tiny little heart tattoo on her toe.
  • LOVES dark chocolate but is massively allergic to it – apparently it affects her brain.
  • She wants to work with Imogen Heap and Bruno Mars.
  • Has already met Nathan’s family and loves them!

Thanks to HeatWorld for having the chance to interview Ariana Grande! Check out the video!

Ariana Grande Interviewed On Entertainment Wise

EntertainmentWise

Ariana and Nathan’s Relationship

Ariana Grande has revealed that it took some time for things to hot up between her and The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes.

The 20 year-old actress-singer admitted that she noticed the hunky boyband star months ago, however it took a while for her to pluck up the courage to act on her feelings.

“I saw him in March on a red carpet, and we locked eyes with each other all night. I thought, he was cute as hell. Nothing happened obviously and then, the duet came about,” she recalled.

It wasn’t until the opportunity arose for the pair to duet together on the song ‘Almost Is Never Enough’ featured on the ‘Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’ soundtrack, that Ariana summoned up the courage to get to know Nathan, 20, better.

“We hadn’t met really still, until we shot the video,” she said. “It was a really fun day – he was very sweet and cute. We started talking and then it just went from there. No, actually we didn’t really start talking until we met again at Justin Bieber’s tour in August.”

The couple later announced their relationship on Twitter in September, after weeks of speculation about their romance.

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“So, I guess it’s obvious now… thanks to everyone who is being so lovely. I’m so happy #butweareterrified #pleasedontkillme #orariana,” Nathan wrote.

Ariana added: “We hesitated saying anything as people can be a bit insensitive but thank u we value all of your happiness, thank you for valuing ours :).”

Ariana explained to EntertainmentWise this week that the cute couple wanted to wait a while before making any announcements about their burgeoning romance.

“We were still trying to figure it out, we both have really open relationships with our fans so we wanted to tell them when there was something to know because we didn’t want them to find out through some outlet or some weird source.

“So we just felt like it would be more honest to tell them straight up because if there’s something to be said I’d rather it come from me and him and we felt the same way.”

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Music & Acting Career

The Almost is Never Enough singer chatted to EntertainmentWise this week and was more than happy to discuss rumours she might be trying to ditch her tween star image – something that she insists isn’t true.

“I’m not trying to escape my Nickelodeon persona,” Ariana explained, “It’s still a massive part of my life. I’m still filming Sam and Cat and Cat’s still very important to me and holds a very special place in my heart.”

While some child stars change their image in order to attract a more mature audience, the 20-year-old reveals that adjusting her image is not something that she can herself do consciously. Instead, Ariana would like to think that these changes will happen naturally with time.

“As far as the whole transition thing, I don’t really ever see myself thinking or doing something to make the statement. I think I just want to let my music be separate from my television persona,” she revealed.

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“I want there to be a Cat and an Ariana,” she says, referring to the American teen sitcom she stars in alongside iCarly star Jennette McCurdy. “I’ve done a good job of separating that and then whatever happens from there happens from there.”

Although she might not be in a hurry to ditch her teen star image, Ariana – who is currently dating The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes – does admit that she is growing up but, luckily for her, this hasn’t come with any reckless side effects!

“I’m growing up but I don’t have any crazy impulses yet.” She admitted. Hopefully it’ll stay that way!”

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Thanks to EntertainmentWise for having the chance to interview her!

Ariana Grande Raps To Big Sean On Capital XTRA

Ariana Grande – or Ari G as she should now be known – went in on Big Sean during an interview with Max on Capital XTRA, freestyling along to the rapper’s hit ‘I Go Hard’. The singer, who has collaborated with the rapper on a track called ‘Right There’, showed off her impressive rap skills during her version of the hip-hop record.

You can tune into Max every Saturday on Capital XTRA between 4pm and 6pm.

Check out the video!

Nathan Sykes Talks About Ariana’s Twitter Drama

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During the 2013 Pride Of Britain Awards, Nathan and Jay stopped by the Red Carpet to talk to interviewers and answered their questions.

The interviewer asks Nathan about the Twitter drama about Ariana Grande.

I think it’s such a massive compliment that people have to lie so viciously about her for there to be anything said bad about her. She has such class and sophistication and that’s why I adore her.

– Nathan Sykes

The interviewer also asked about the long message that Jai Brooks tweeted for him. Jay ended up picking him up while Nathan replies “Dignified silence.” and they walked away ending the interview.

Check out the video!