Ariana Grande Just Showed the World Why We Should Never Underestimate the Power of Girls

Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande share a tender moment during the Manchester tribute. Photo by Getty Images/Dave Hogan for One Love Manchester

Up until a few weeks ago, Ariana Grande was the most childlike of the nation's pop talent. Even amidst broad attempts to sex up her image (the "Side to Side" video even pulled off the feat of making exercise bicycles seem sexy), she's never quite been able to shake off an overwhelming air of innocence. Maybe it's the doe eyes and the ponytail; perhaps it's just been impossible for us to forget about her Nickelodeon background; but even in the midst of singing a song titled "Dangerous Woman," clad in nothing but lingerie, it's been consistently difficult to see Grande as a bonafide grown up -- somebody worth taking seriously.

The media, broadly speaking, has contributed to the infantilization of Grande. At the end of 2014, Jezebel asked "Is Ariana Grande Actually a Baby?" During that same period, The New York Daily News ran a story titled "Ariana Grande demands to be carried like a baby when she's tired," and TMZ queried "Ariana Grande Gets Carried Like a Baby?" In USA Today's report on the matter, they also called her "pint-sized." Grande's habit of indulging in this particularly unusual method of backstage transportation is less note-worthy than the fact that multiple news outlets compared her to an infant because of it. If it was, say, Rihanna being lifted off her feet after a show, she would surely have been called a diva, not a baby.

There has been much speculation about why it was Grande's show in Manchester Arena that was singled out by a suicide bomber, and it's possible that her girlie image was a factor. Across the board, the conclusion reached by pretty much everyone -- Rolling Stone, Ms., Slate, Salon, The Atlantic and many more --  was that this was an attack specifically designed to target young girls and women. Ms. in particular noted: "Ignoring the overwhelming evidence of the Manchester Arena bombing as gender-based prevents progress from continuous oppression against women and girls alongside other marginalized groups."

It is impossible to predict how artists who experience tragedy at their shows will respond after the fact. In 2000, nine people were killed and 26 people were injured during Pearl Jam's set at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. In the wake of the horror, the band almost broke up, wrote a song about the accident (titled "Love Boat Captain"), and said they would never play a festival ever again. In 1979, when 11 people were killed in a crush at a concert by The Who, they forged ahead with the rest of their tour, at the behest of guitarist Pete Townshend who told his bandmates, "If we don't play tomorrow, we'll never play again.

Most recently, after 89 of their fans were murdered by terrorists at the Bataclan venue in Paris, Eagles of Death Metal found healing in returning to the city, first as special guests at a U2 concert, then at their own show for survivors of the attack, three months after it happened.

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When Ariana Grande canceled the remainder of her tour in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing, it was easy to imagine that this young woman was probably irretrievably broken by the horror of it all. How on Earth would Baby Ariana and her bunny ears cope with 22 dead and 119 injured fans? Nobody would have been surprised, or begrudged her a break, if Ariana Grande had decided to go into hiding for a year.

In reality, the way that Ariana Grande has responded to having tragedy thrust upon her audience and herself has not only been a shining example of how to heal an entire community, it has also undoubtedly shifted the world's perception of her (including Piers Morgan's) and, in turn, that of young women. Grande didn't cancel the rest of her tour to mourn or to hide, as we might have expected from a woman so young, she canceled just a few dates to focus on trying to heal Manchester. It started on a personal level -- visiting survivors in the hospital, as well as victims' families -- and culminated in the One Love concert over the weekend.

It is an undeniable feat to put together a concert for 50,000 people with a line-up this incredible -- Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, and more -- in a matter of weeks, but Grande and her team managed just that. Just as astonishing as the $13 million raised for the victims and their families, Grande's performance hit all the right notes: respectful and heartfelt without once making it about her.

From her performance with a local school choir, to talking about the victims between songs, to even her wardrobe (the singer dressed down in jeans and a bulky Manchester One Love sweater), Grande was about as close to perfect as any star has ever been, displaying a strength most of us had no idea she had and, in turn, allowing her predominantly young, female audience to demonstrate their own bravery by showing up. If all of that wasn't enough, Grande has just re-released "One Last Time" as part of her ongoing fundraising efforts.

Thanks to the fact that the One Love Manchester concert had the biggest British TV audience of 2017 so far (14.5 million people, to be precise), it succeeded in uniting not just Manchester, but the entire country, in the wake of yet another terror attack over the weekend. “I think that the kind of love, the unity that you’re displaying is the medicine that the world really needs right now,” Grande told her audience on Sunday, apparently unaware of the fact that that was exactly what she was doing.

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In her overwhelming show of both strength and class, Ariana Grande has demonstrated that, not only have many of us been under-estimating her this entire time, in doing so, we have been under-estimating the awesome power of girls.

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