By Valeria Munoz
Palm Beach Post Intern
For many, Ariana Grande is just another pop star, a distant face on TV or magazines, but having grown up in Boca Raton and seen her rise to fame, I feel a certain connection to the star who shares my hometown.
Her favorite hangouts are the same ones my friends and I visit. Whenever she comes to town, it seems my school is the first to know. Many of my friends attended her Miami concert in April.
Thus, when tragedy struck during her Manchester, U.K., concert, it hit close to home.
Upon hearing about the 22 who lost their lives on May 22 and the almost 60 wounded, I remembered the concerts I had attended. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept. I thought about how most had been Arianators (Ariana fans, like me). I thought of all of Ariana’s dancers. And finally I thought of Ariana, who had grown up in the neighborhood a few streets from mine. And although I couldn’t imagine her thoughts, I felt overwhelming emotions.
Grande certainly considers Boca Raton her home, still. Since the attack, she sought the support of her friends and family in the very place she began her career.
While Grande was planning the benefit concert, her fan base across the world organized meetups, gathering in locations where they released light pink balloons in the memory of those who lost their lives in Manchester.
Allan Alvarado, co-owner of the Ariana fan account @yallneedbutera on Instagram, organized the meet-up in the artists’ hometown in Patch Reef Park on May 28. A friend of Alvarado’s, Randi Cass, 16, from Stuart, also created shirts with Ariana Grande’s ribbon that has become synonymous with Manchester. Her goal was to sell 50 shirts, but she has sold 750 thus far and raised $7,270.
Although some people criticized Grande for leaving Manchester, Y100 Miami reported that, at first, she and her dancers were distraught and confused as to what had occurred. Her mother, Joan Grande, took several fans backstage and as a result saved their lives. The team’s exit wasn’t an act of indifference or selfishness but rather of precaution and safety.
Like many fans, I expected Ariana Grande to go on hiatus to overcome the difficulty of the bombing. However, she handled the situation with such strength and grace by taking the stage only a week after the attack at the exact venue.
The performers who joined her did a sublime job, but nothing compared with Ariana’s entrance. Accompanied by her dancers, Grande and her team held hands to symbolize their unity with the Manchester crowd. There was so much courage and reassurance in that small act of community.
In that moment, as she sang “We’re Gonna Be Alright,” I could only imagine what the little girls sitting in the Manchester hospital felt, witnessing it on TV. It’s not easy to see an idol’s vulnerability, but it is events such as these that make us realize that celebrities are human.
To see her come back, standing tall and proud, singing her hits, I felt an indescribable amount of appreciation and respect for Ariana Grande. Through her performance in Manchester, Grande has demonstrated a level of grace, proving she has since matured from the donut mishap of a few years ago.
As she said: “The kind of love and unity you’re displaying is the medicine the world needs right now.”
For young girls who attend concerts all around the world, “we’re going to be alright” is just the message they needed to hear. Grande spread a message of love through music, a language that continues to be universal.
Valeria Munoz, a graduate of Boca Raton High School, is a journalism major and currently an intern with the Palm Beach Post.