Everything but the diva

Everything but the diva

TOKYO - For her vocal prowess, American pop sensation Ariana Grande has been compared with Mariah Carey, one of the original power divas of the previous generation.

Unfortunately for her, the diva label, as is often the case, does not stop at her performances on stage. It is an albatross around the neck that furthermore indicts personal behaviour and character.

Indeed, Grande has been slammed by the international press in recent weeks for being a demanding diva and being brusque to her fans.

To her credit, she meets such negativity head-on and swats it away with the panache of a bona fide diva.

When a singer enters the pop diva league, it comes with extra attention, both good and bad, she says.

"You want to defend yourself and stand up for yourself, but then you have to sort of realise that those sort of things are just little fake blips on the road. They're just sort of momentary, possible distractions. The biggest challenge is not to let them distract you.

"In an industry like this, the media builds you up to tear you down and to build you up again. But I feel that knowing that, going into all of this, is a very key thing. So I'm fine."

Life! met the petite entertainer last weekend at a group media interview in Tokyo, where she went to promote her second and latest album, My Everything (2014, above), and to perform a half-hour showcase at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.

Without mentioning specific incidents, the 21-year-old singer acknowledges that her meteoric rise to fame since her debut album became No. 1 last year has meant every hiccup in her career comes under media scrutiny, "even bumps and hiccups I don't even have".

Speaking to journalists from Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, she says: "Some of them came out of nowhere. Some of them were completely fabricated because someone was having a bad day. That wasn't me - that was them having a bad day and putting that hate out there and sort of make something up about somebody."

She was probably referring to the recent slate of negative press she has been receiving, including behaving like a diva during a press photo shoot in Australia, and being icy cold towards fans who had won a contest to meet her at the MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood, California, last month.

At this interview, there was no sign of a Grande-sized diva attitude.

Instead, reporters encountered a bubbly singer who offered them high- fives mid-interview and called fans her "besties" while taking selfies with them.

Her relationship with her fans is "intimate" and more like a "friendship", she continues. "I go through my DMs (direct messages on Twitter), I see what they tweet every day, every night. They make me laugh, we talk about things and I help them with problems. Sometimes, I feel like a life coach."

She might have learnt her lesson or maybe her management has made her see the light, but Life! found her to be self- assured and ready to speak her mind.

It is a trait she has shown even as a child. She recalls the time she performed for the first time in front of a live audience, when a four-year-old Grande took on the role of a bumble bee in the play, Three Billy Goats Gruff, in a day camp in Florida.

She recounts: "I was supposed to sting the billy goat. I remember I wasn't supposed to do this, but I ripped the stinger off my costume, poked the billy goat in the nose and walked off stage. The audience was laughing."

Seventeen years later, she still has the audience in the palm of her hands.

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