How Ariana Grande’s Life Has Become A Pressure Cooker

In the last 18 months, Ariana Grande has experienced a terror attack on her fans, the death of her ex-boyfriend and a whirlwind romance that she ended last week. Nick Levine reports on the singer’s private turmoil.

Ariana Grande

by Nick Levine |
Updated on

Last week, news broke that Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson had called off their engagement after just four months. Their whirlwind romance, which the singer had celebrated by calling Pete her ‘soulmate’ in a song she named after him, had started intensely and taken some increasingly strange twists and turns.

Three weeks ago, for instance, comedian Pete raised eyebrows when he made a creepy joke on Saturday Night Live, saying of Ariana: ‘Last night I switched her birth control with Tic Tacs. I believe in us and all, but I just want to make sure that she can’t go anywhere.’

According to reports, Ariana, 25, has returned her engagement ring to Pete, but kept Piggy Smallz, their teacup piglet. Well-placed insiders say Ariana and Pete’s passionate relationship had become a ‘ticking time bomb’ since her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller tragically died on 7 September following a long battle with substance abuse.

In the wake of his death, which came after he spoke publicly about how hard it was to watch Ariana move on following their two-year relationship, she wrote on Instagram, ‘I’m so sorry I couldn’t fix or take your pain away. I really wanted to. The kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved.’

‘When Mac died it was like a wake-up call that she needed to get out of the relationship and address some serious issues of her own,’ an insider reveals. ‘She’s still dealing with the fact that Mac found her and Pete’s relationship really difficult to watch, and she needed space from everything.

‘Pete also felt insecure sharing her $16 million New York City apartment and struggled with the fact that he earned little in comparison to Ariana. He has also spoken about alcohol and marijuana use, which friends thought was a toxic environment for her to be around.’

That ‘toxic environment’ was no place for Ariana after an incredibly difficult 18 months. In July, she revealed that she experienced PTSD after the Manchester Arena bombing of 22 May 2017 claimed the lives of 22 fans. Yet at the time, she refused to show the strain: less than a month after the attack, she was widely praised for organising the One Love Manchester benefit concert, with some fans tweeting that she should be made an honorary Dame.

Her resilience in the moment came as no surprise to me. In August 2014, when I interviewed her for gay magazine Attitude, I was struck by what a caring person she was, particularly when it came to her ‘best friend’ – her brother, Frankie, who’s gay. She was friendly, funny and answered each question thoughtfully – I never got the impression she was trotting out answers she’d given to journalists a hundred times before.

A few days after we spoke, Ariana’s publicist told me that she’d said the interview was among her favourites ever. I think it was because I’d treated her like the credible recording artist she was becoming, not the child star she started out as (she began her career aged 13 on a Nickelodeon show). That talent was proven when she released her first album after the tragic attack, Sweetener, which debuted at number one in June. For fans and music critics, the album confirmed her rise to become one of the most respected pop stars of her generation. But behind the scenes, Ariana has struggled.

‘When I got home from tour, I had really wild dizzy spells, this feeling like I couldn’t breathe,’ she said earlier this year. ‘I would be in a good mood, fine and happy, and they would hit me out of nowhere. I’ve always had anxiety, but it had never been physical before. There were a couple of months straight where I felt so upside down.’

Yet despite everything Ariana has faced since Manchester, there’s concern that not everyone is giving her the space she needs. ‘Her record label and manager Scooter Braun are frustrated that she’s not touring to promote her new album, which they feel could be selling better if she was promoting it,’ says a well-placed source. ‘But friends worry that her life has become a pressure cooker.’

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us