Before you read this blog, you need to understand my potential bias. My idolization of Ariana Grande goes way back, further than I care to admit really. Back when I was seven years old (well actually, in the words of Blood Brothers’ Mickey, “nearly eight!”) I was going through a pretty rough period. I’d been living with my alopecia diagnosis for nearly two years, and having moved miles from my friends and my childhood home I felt well and truly lost. More than that, I felt unwelcome. I was so low, so frightened, so convinced that everybody hated me for so much of my life that I wanted to end it all. Aged seven and a half. Yikes.
I was dealing with my very first identity crisis – this would be the first of many – and I spent the great majority of my time outside of school withdrawn. I didn’t talk to my family, my friends, even the petting zoo my parents seemed to gather as they suddenly fell in love with taking in as many rescue animals as possible. The latter was adorable, and certainly a story for another time, but I digress. YouTube was my saviour. After people indoctrinated me with the idea that I was gay (this actually happened twice in my life, the second time I’ll return to in a paragraph or so), I fell into an infinite abyss of self-loathing. I was naive, I believed them, and I hated it. True, this all faded in time (for a couple of years anyway…) but at the time, I wanted to die. Sorry, I would sugarcoat it but there’s really no point. This has to be confronted.
And that’s exactly what Ariana does. She confronts. I discovered her YouTube channel “osnapitzari” in mid-2008, specifically a home video of her’s entitled “Shoes”. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it, simply a parody video of herself and her friends dancing and lip-syncing to Liam Kyle Sullivan’s “Shoes”, but that’s what I loved about it. It was honest. At that point I didn’t know how to be happy, or rather I was afraid to be happy when my “friends” so clearly didn’t want me to be. This video, along with so many others of Ariana’s over time, showed me that I could – no, should be happy. I should be expressing myself for who I am, who I want to be, and I should be doing it in a way that makes me feel comfortable. So, I started writing.
History repeated itself in 2011. By this point I was in my first year of secondary school (that’s 6th grade in other regions, if I’m not mistaken), and people were vicious. My alopecia was worse than ever, and people hated me for it. So much in fact that my best friend (ahahaha k) began a rumour that spread like wildfire.
“She’s contagious,” she said. “Do you really want to risk your hair falling out too?”
Of course they didn’t. How could they have known that alopecia is not contagious and is, in fact, an autoimmune disease that affects around 1/100 people? They weren’t scientists; they were ten. It’s needless to say that this rumour was the flame that lit the fuse of the bomb which was – is – my mental health. Suddenly the gay rumours started (again), I grew to believe them (again), and I hated myself (AGAIN).
This time, my thoughts became much darker. In fact, it wasn’t until late 2011 when they eventually stopped. The bullying was physical by this point (I’m about to start a new bought of PTSD therapy for that, by the way) and I was just about ready to end it all. Then Ariana released Put Your Hearts Up. Wow, if I could somehow meet her and hug her for hours and hours on end to thank her for this song, I would. I almost did, actually, but that’s another story. The lyrics are so strong, so important, that I cried every time I heard it. I still do on occasion. It’s pretty safe to say that this song saved my life, just as her YouTube channel had so many years ago. Alas, I can feel myself sinking into a pit of emotion and nostalgia. I love Ariana Grande.
And then, low-and-behold, history has repeated itself once again in the best way possible. These past few weeks, months even, have been though. Really tough. I’m back in therapy with a shiny new diagnosis (yet another story I’ll tell when I’m more comfortable), I’m currently under so much pressure to succeed at school, and all that under the watchful eye of my brain who, by the way, I’m not really getting along with too well right now. It’s tough, really tough. Yes, I have managed to come to terms with my sexuality now. In fact I pride myself on it: realizing and accepting at last that I am gay has taken soooo much stress and self-consciousness away. But even that hasn’t stopped me from falling into an all-time-low. I’m depressed.
Then, like one of God’s angels come to lift some of that weight from my shoulders, Ariana released her video for Everyday, and oh my goodness it is perfect.
And here, my friends, is where I explain that the previous seven-and-a-half paragraphs of bias are unnecessary, because I’m allowed to be biased at this point. In the Everyday video, Ariana has achieved what so many artists are afraid to even attempt. She shows the world that everybody is entitled to express themselves for who they are, no matter their age, gender, appearance, sexual orientation, nationality… the list is endless. See for yourself, if you haven’t already:
(via YouTube; ArianaGrandeVevo)
As far as I am concerned, this video is perfect. I mean, what is there to dislike? The music is brilliant, nothing less than what I’d expect from Ariana; it is technically flawless, with clearly great directing on Chris Marrs Piliero’s part; the narrative… well, don’t even get me started. You know I love it! And of course let’s not forget that both Grande and Future look amazing as ever.
Yes, I love the video. That was always going to be inevitable. So here’s why you should love it too.
From the very beginning, this video is empowering. Ariana has always been a feminist, and with everything that’s happening in the world of politics right now it was pretty clear that she’d make some kind of statement through her music. This, however, is so much more than that. We’ve seen the masterpiece that is her Dangerous Woman Tour (and the utter devastation when I couldn’t make either of the London shows…), and the step forward it is for gender equality on a global level. Everyday, however, doesn’t simply empower women. It empowers everybody. You, me, your friends, that guy next door. Everybody, everyday, for as long as the internet exists to stream the video.
I remember once when Ariana, having been body-shamed an uncountable number of times, said something which really stuck with me: “Diversity is sexy! Loving yourself is sexy! You know what is NOT sexy? Misogyny, objectifying, labeling, comparing and body shaming!!!” This was part of a comment she wrote on her own picture on Instagram, and it’s a moral I’ve lived by since. Aged 16 (well, nearly 17 now), I’ve grown up in a society in which it is normal to judge each other on our image. It is normal to feel bad about ourselves if we don’t look like living Barbies or Kens. It is normal to slut-shame, to put each other down, to encourage one another to hide our true selves because we like the wrong sex or identify as the wrong gender. Why is that?
I realize that I’m getting super preachy, and perhaps that’s not what you want to read. Why is that? The truth is, we’ve been afraid to talk about this for so long. Too long. President Trump’s inauguration has lead to some great things, namely the Women’s March and the sudden desire to talk about what we believe in (or rather what Trump does not). Ariana, like so many stars at the abundance of award shows that have taken place recently, is talking. She is not being passive aggressive, nor is she downplaying the views of those who may disagree. Instead, she made a music video, and a damn good one at that. She, alongside Future, has used her platform as an internationally known superstar to speak out against the risk that Donald Trump (and of course the cult of bigots that can be found scattered around the Earth’s population like rats – too far? Not sorry.) poses to our community, our very way of life.
As a lesbian, especially with my desire to pursue my film-making dreams in the US, I am afraid. I am afraid of what could happen – is happening – to people like me all over the country. I’m afraid of the violence and discrimination that so-called minorities face, even more so now that politicians, America’s very own president in fact, seem to deem it okay. I can’t say that I hate Trump, because I’ve never met him. I am, however, afraid of the threat that he very openly seems to pose against humanity, not just to me and those like me but to the huge community of people who are considered minorities. Black, foreign, gay, trans, bi, pan, female. I’m afraid. Videos like the one for Everyday take some of that fear for humanity away, because it shows that people are willing to fight. Through her video, and of course through her social media and work in general, she stands hand-in-hand with every single one of us, and I am so grateful for it.
More so, the video is encouraging. I’ve always been a storyteller: it was always my escape back in those dark days when I was afraid to leave my room, and it still is to this day. If you read my blog frequently (and I sincerely hope that you will, because I really do enjoy writing it), you’ll know that I’m already writing a novel, but Ariana’s video has made me want to do so much more. I want to act. We need to act – for humanity’s sake. Over the next few months, I’m going to make a start on this campaign of sorts, and you can help. As a community we need to stand as one. Think of that moment in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. You know the one, where all the tributes hold hands and send the entire game-making team into turmoil for a good evening or so. Let’s take a leaf out of their books, out of Ariana’s book, and show the bigots of the world that we are not a force to be reckoned with.
Let’s continue to do what Ariana has started.