A grown man may not be the first person that comes to mind when you think of an Ariana Grande fan. Nevertheless, I went to one of her concerts last year. Besides the pair of light-up cat ears, I walked away with something more precious: the privilege of seeing the most loving young people coming together and celebrate in a safe place.
That’s why the news of the Manchester Attack that took place at an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 were so heartbreaking. It was an attack on teens and young people. Kids, really. One of the victims was eight years old, and for a lot of the people in the audience, this was their first concert. It was supposed to be fun.
And Ariana Grande concerts are fun. Last year, she performed at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. Her voice was on point, and her personality sparkled. But the one thing I remember most vividly from that experience is the audience: Empowered young women with the audacity to have fun in public.
When you look into the audience at my shows, you see a beautiful, diverse, pure, happy crowd. This show was intended to be a safe space. A place for them to escape, to celebrate, to heal, to feel safe and to be themselves… This will not change that.
My fellow attendees also didn’t seem to care that I was part of a group of grown gay dudes dancing to pop music. In fact, they appreciated that we had the confidence (and the disposable income) to each buy our own $40 cat ears. How could we not? The lights were synced to her music.
There was a shared love and underlying respect for all so-called “Arianators” that night, regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation. It makes sense. Ariana, herself, took time during her set to talk about acceptance, support and inclusion.
In a time when most entertainers choose to tip-toe around important issues (or piggy-back on them for selfish reasons), Ariana is unafraid to be seen as a feminist. She has consistently spoken out against sexism and double standards in the music industry.
The pop star has also been a vocal supporter of the LGBT community. Quoting one of her most popular songs, she told her audience in 2015 to make some noise if they had “one less problem without” the Supreme Court Justices who were unsuccessful in voting against marriage equally. She even takes the time to share her advice to her fans on a one-on-one basis. To young women and queer boys at her concerts and all over the world, her message is loud and clear.
Ariana recognizes that her concerts have become safe spaces for young people from all walks of life. She highlighted this important aspect in her first note following the Manchester Attack.
“When you look into the audience at my shows, you see a beautiful, diverse, pure, happy crowd,” she posted on Twitter. “This show… was intended to be a safe space for my fans. A place for them to escape, to celebrate, to heal, to feel safe and to be themselves… this will not change that.”
In her Twitter message, Ariana also announced that she will return to Manchester to headline a benefit concert for the victims. Proving that she is not only fearless in her message, but in her actions. She will not be frightened away from continuing to be a source of inspiration for young people.
During her concert, I got the impression that Arianators are our best possible future – incredibly open and loving. That became evident this week. In the face of such terrible tragedy, her fans have rallied together and have even setup GoFundMe campaigns to help the victims’ families.
Ariana will continue to be empowering, perhaps now more than ever. Her fans will continue to spread her message, even against the most monstrous hate. And her concerts will be fun again.