The Evolution of Ariana Grande

Stan culture is one of those things that will forever be critiqued and may never go away, I’m realizing this more and more each day. No matter how many tweets and thinkpieces are written about how unhealthy and meaningless stan culture is, it goes on like the beat in The Whispers’ song. Being objective about things when it comes to someone you love and look up to is not the easiest but it’s necessary, it keeps us all in check when we need it the most and keeps us from looking goofy.

As a member of the Navy and Beyhive, I know what it’s like to be reluctant when it comes to acknowledging when your fave fucks up. Like when Rihanna defended Rachel Dolezal or when Beyonce continued making tracks on Lemonade past 6 INCH talking about redemption and foregiveness for that old bitch she calls her husband. I know, it’s hard but it must be done because really it isn’t just about you or your fave, it’s about the collective. The culture. The principle of it all. Folks expect celebrities’ friends and publicists to keep them in check but somehow think that as their audience who consumes their fave’s work and enabling problematic behavior, that stans are somehow exempt from holding their fave responsible. Why is that?

A simple co-sign can go a long way and when you give someone an inch, they will absolutely take a mile. Especially if they’re white. Especially if they’re a white artist working in an industry where Black people have always been the most popular and influential group. Especially if you’re Ariana Grande. I’ve always viewed her as a cute little white girl with a voice that would make a lot of these pop girls shake in their stilettos, which is what I love about her. She’s not one of these boring ass singers with lame, flat vocals and a voice that sounds like a clone of everything else on the radio. But what I don’t like about her is the subtle transition she’s been making into Black spaces in music as well as incorporating these influences in her image over the years. I’ve noticed for a long time which is why I’ve been reluctant to become a stan and today? She’s proved me right.

Pointing this out to people, especially her fans, makes them go berserk and turn into Hellen Keller because they refuse to acknowledge that someone they love and support is also with the bullshit. She’s now joined the unfortunate ranks of singers like Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Liam Payne, Christina Aguilera, and plenty more who use Black music, culture, and aesthetics as a means to reinvent themselves and crossover into a new audience and era. Ariana has always been known as the petite white girl who wears a curled ponytail, ultra feminine sweetheart prom-like dresses with a cutesy schoolgirl image.

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But now her look has become more reminiscent of the infamous niggerfish that you can find on your local explore page on Instagram. Super tanned skin, fuller lips, and a sassy attitude to match since she got her new posse of Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx by her side.

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Now don’t get me wrong, evolution of style as you get older and grow as an artist is especially inevitable and important even. But is there is line drawn when it comes to that? Are the limitations? Are we allowed to do a double take Missy Elliot style and go, “hmm…?” Ariana’s aesthetic progressing from Annie to JLO has been.. an interesting one, and super subtle. So subtle that I really don’t think people have noticed or even remember what she truly used to look like. I don’t expect anyone to look the exact same for 10+ years but I do expect you to stay true to yourself and not have to bite off other people while you experiment, with the end result looking like you’ve switched ethnicities. That’s just me though.

In 2009 when life was simpler and Nickalodeon wasn’t shit, we have Ariana as our favorite Victorious character (because Victoria Justice whom) Cat Valentine. The airheaded sweetheart who endeared us all with her high pitched voice and child-like nature.

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By the time the show had ended in 2013, she was already putting out music and performing at award shows for her Yours Truly era. With a team of producers like Babyface and j.Que Smith, she’s had Black people on her team and giving her the green light since the beginning which is important to note. Folks have pointed out that because of this, it makes her exempt from being compared to people like Justin Timberlake or Miley Cyrus when that’s just not true at all, if anything it’s the opposite because it shows that she was being co-signed from day one, that this little plan was probably years in the making. The appeal of having a cute white girl belt out (diet) R&B hits with a voice like hers is always going to intrigue people, especially Black people because niggas are easily impressed when white people do anything. So imagine seeing a girl like Ariana with a voice like that. Fascinating! Sensational! A wonder! And don’t forget that Scooter Braun is her manager and was a producer on this album as well, he’s notorious for creating the niggerfish that is Justin Bieber.

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From releasing Yours Truly in 2013, we move into the summer of 2014 when she drops My Everything. With this era, it became clear that she wanted to incorporate a sprinkle of sex appeal and convey a little more maturity with her image. Showing more skin with more legitimate stage outfits instead of sweetheart prom dresses. But with this new era, she balances out the sexy by still wearing cutesy outfits and cat ears, giving the girls Lolita teas. Grown, but not entirely.

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With My Everything we have double the rap features than before. Instead of just Mac Miller and Big Sean like on Yours Truly, we have ASAP Ferg, Big Sean, The Weeknd, Childish Gambino, and Iggy Azalea this time around. The momentum begins to pick up as she immerses herself more with rappers and the Black side of the music industry. Getting comfy and niggerin’ it up.

2015

By 2015 she is truly entering grown womanhood. Got a buhlack boyfriend and we’re tanning more!

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2016

Dangerous Woman drops and the gays are going wild. And so is her fake tanning routine.

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At this point she’s working with Black artists like Nicki Minaj, Future, Macy Gray, and Lil Wayne, and even Jamie Foxx. Aside from Mac Miller, Nathan Sykes, and Iggy, all of her features have been Black and mainly rappers. Having these Black features has given her an invitation to the figurative cookout. If she’s cool enough to work with a nigga like Future then she’s our people right?! But unfortunately I’m not Italian so no.

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Now, we get into how her facial features slowly begin to morph and aid in giving her more of an ambiguous look. Back in 2009 she was unmistakably white, but with the help of fake tanning, a little eye/brow and lip fillers, and a minor nose job she’s achieved more of an almond shaped eye and fuller lips to pump some exoticness into her look.

With this era, she begins experimenting with taking a new direction from romantic pop sweetheart to a rebellious and more independent image that’s seemingly a little more raunchy and sex-driven. She even let the ponytail down. Shook.

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Fast forward to her Sweetener era and we have this…

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Contemporary, modern, vulnerable and more sensual.

Contemporary, modern, vulnerable and more sensual.

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With all that being said though this isn’t an attack, I’m just simply stating facts and spelling it out for the masses. Obviously she’s not as bad as Miley during her Bangerz era or Katy Perry with Migos but it always starts somewhere, so let’s call a spade a spade and at least try to nip it in the bud now. These girls do this shit because they know they can get away with it, they don’t really care how wrong or offensive it might be if it’s making them money at the end of the day. Especially if they have Black people backing them and planning these moves with them, powerful and influential Black people. This always starts when nonblack women are under the full impression that they have permission to be in these spaces and do whatever they want. Because the gatekeepers (mainly Black men) aren’t checking them, as well as their fanbase which is ultimately where their checks come from. They’re giving the people what they want. And that’s just what it is. No one is really immune from this or too good to partake in doing whatever they can by using a Black Cool™ aesthetic to get ahead, no matter how genuine they seem because none of us knows this girl personally or any celebrity for that matter.

What’s tricky about her evolution throughout the years though is that it still feels odd to call it cultural appropriation, blackface. etc. because again, it’s been very subtle and it’s why people are so adamant that she’s completely innocent and that people who’ve taken offense are reaching. It’s not something you can take at face value, there’s been a tedious process behind this. If she was walking down the street you obviously wouldn’t call her Black but at the very least she began to adopt mannerisms and voice when performing to mimic Black women. If you’re a Black woman (with sense) then you know what I mean, we do things that no one else does so when they do it it’s like girl wyd. But with that, she subtly changed her facial features to mimic the infamous niggerfish as well. A base of whiteness with a few tweaks here and there to give a little mix of what most think makes a person look ethnic i.e the darker skin, smaller eyes, fuller lips. But her physical appearance has become racial ambiguity to some at best and that’s the goal really, to make people wonder if she could be Latina or mixed with Black because if you ask any Black person, she sure sounds like it.

This change in appearance adds another layer to her brand, making her seem and look more interesting to onlookers. The face is now beginning to match the sound that is a white girl with a voice fit for R&B, blending into Black spaces. Being able to move in and out of certain spaces with different looks without anyone blinking an eye. Ambiguous and exotical looking people don’t normally fit in one box, so they have the ability to move fluidly wherever and however they want to. Bonus points if they’ve already been building a fanbase of millions of teen girls for several years and have an established presence. To them, knocking someone like Ariana down for this is gonna take more than some light blackface and appropriation. It’s gonna take more for them to break their attachment to her and her music because she matters more than the issue at hand that really goes deeper than her.

With this new image, a team of Black people fueling her throughout her career, and a fanbase that acts as her Yes Man, this was probably inevitable. When she saw that Black people were really fucking with her and going as far as to call claim her as one of our own by constantly calling her Black and “african queen”, she figured she could get away with some more shit. Am I wrong? It’s truly been a collective effort. Give an inch, they take a mile. Always. I gave her a chance when she released Thank U Next despite being skeptical of her (yet still calling her out during the niggerfish argument on twitter) because I believe in holding my faves accountable. It’s no skin off my back. My issue is when the shenanigans continue.

While listening to 7 Rings I couldn’t help but roll my eyes the entire time. It’s a cute song and a bop, but I can’t enjoy it knowing a white girl is singing these lyrics that were written by a Black girl, with a trap house aesthetic that she has yet to actually experience.

 “My wrist, stop watchin', my neck is flossin'

Make big deposits, my gloss is poppin'

You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it”

Bitch huh?? Nobody asked you if you bought your hair, you’re literally white. It’s just so cringeworthy to me. What’s even more cringeworthy is the Black people that are defending her until they’re blue in the face, as if their next paycheck depends on it. Did you know that a critique and observation about your fave isn’t necessarily an attack on them or you? Perhaps if you learned how to be your own person and stop thinking you and your faves are conjoined twins that share the same body, this wouldn’t be such a problem but alas. If these critiques and observations offend you or make you feel some kinda way then maybe you should reevaluate why instead of making yourself look stupid.

How does a white pose cutely in front of a trap house with furs and diamonds while you rap about how much money you got to spend on your bitches and your nonexistent ass, and not feel stupid? Especially when they’ve never even been to a trap house in the first place. Let’s not even do that sis. Stick to the cat ears and oversized sweaters that you’re used to abeg. This whole video honestly annoyed the shit outta me cause for starters, I’ve never been one to even respect or entertain artists who try to fake some shit they’ve never been about, being something they’re not and never have been. It was all very Kream-esque from Iggy Azalea, and everybody knows she’s a walking caricature and full-time failed wannabe Black woman. So I’m not sure why Ariana would even go that route because they both look goofy.

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Viewing her 7 Rings video after seeing her come up in real time throughout the years has left a bizarre taste in my mouth and I’m not sure if there’s anything that can cleanse my palate of it. The video has quite literally glamorized a trap house (something she wouldn’t know anything about) while she raps in an airy voice about buying weave, being rich, and having a “stacked” ass (a lie). These lyrics and visuals aren’t fitting and belong to a Black woman, period. It’s inauthentic and corny to me that she felt the need to cherry pick from Black culture to make something that’ll sell and get clicks.

She’s taken the most popular elements from Black music and Black culture i.e trap houses, trap music, twerking background dancers, being braggadocious about wealth and being a “savage”, and not to mention her subtle blaccent she’s adopted, and blended it together because that’s what’s selling right now. And that is what cultural appropriation literally is if you wanna truly keep it a bean, but I’m not gonna do all that because hopefully you get the point by now. And if not then I implore you to take your head outta her ass.

Niggas will go on and on about bitches like YesJulz, Miley, Veronica Vega, Katy Perry, WoahhVicky, Bhad Bhabie, and the likes of them but ignore Ariana when she’s doing the same shit. She ain’t gotta call me a nigger and wear an box braids while eating fried chicken for me to get the hint. Appropriation is becoming more subtle and it comes in all different shapes and sizes, it’s not always overt. The same way y’all don’t fuck with the Kardashian/Jenner family and caught onto their antics is the same situation that applies here because it’s only a matter of time. I never thought Kylie Jenner would do what she did and yet she did it so, I’m giving no one the benefit of the doubt at this point and definitely not a white woman.

This is a case where people cannot separate the art from the artist, people cannot critique her and call it for what it is because they don’t wanna admit that they might look stupid for stanning someone who does that. That their fave is WRONG, despite the fact that you can drag and bop at the same time. But like I said, it ain’t about you and it’s not entirely about them, it’s the principle of the situation that needs to be addressed. Get out of your feelings for once, a full moon is coming.

Giving me sassy Black girl teas.

Giving me sassy Black girl teas.

I’ve already seen people claim she wouldn’t go full on Bhad Bhabie because her fanbase is majorly white and she doesn’t want to lose them but what does that matter when those same fans encourage everything that she does anyway? When those same allegedly white fans are the ones calling her Black? Why would she stop when she knows most of her fanbase doesn’t have a problem? Think. *Sister Patterson voice* What’s not clicking? What’s not clicking?

People have been calling her out all day and she sees it, yet this is what her favorites look like:

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The conclusion I’ve come to now is that she simply doesn’t care because like I said, she’s having fun and making her money, cultural critiques be damned. Offensiveness be damned because apparently “all she does is make bops and mind her business”. Accountability has never been stan culture’s strong suit which is really pathetic because accountability doesn’t automatically mean cancel, they are not one in the same. It’s literally informing said person of their wrongdoings and offenses, bringing it to their attention and other people’s attention as well, since we’re talking about celebrities. It annoys me how often I see this being done by white women but there’s nothing I can do besides pretend they don’t exist. A Black people can’t keep allowing things like this to fly under the radar then have the nerve to get agitated when their culture is being commodified, you are a part of the problem because you won’t even take the action to acknowledge the bullshit, let alone do anything about it. A lot of you helped feed these monsters but you’ll never starve them because you don’t have enough backbone and willpower to stop giving a fuck about an artist that doesn’t respect you or your culture. Ariana is no different from the aforementioned white artists who put on their oversized clothes and blaccent with their team of niggas behind them whispering in their ear. I guess this all goes to show that I really can’t trust no white bitch besides Jane Elliot and Margot Robbie.