If you don’t know who she is by now, you may at least be able to recall her as that wide-eyed, redheaded girl on Nickelodeon. Her character exhibits quirkiness and her dimples never fail to follow up with her cheeky smile… but yeah, you get the point. Despite the fact that she is not yet a household name such as Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande is quickly rising in popularity with an ever-increasing fanbase comprised of mostly young teenagers, also known as the Arianators. Having first made her debut in Hollywood as Cat Valentine of the hit Nickelodeon television series Victorious, Ariana is not only making herself known as a popular actress, but also as a talented singer with mainstream hits like The Way featuring Mac Miller and Baby I.
The 20-year-old has taken the world of social media by storm, most notably Twitter, with a following of over 10.8 million users. A brief glance of her Twitter profile, even just of her Twitter header and default picture, can lead one to assume that Ariana successfully exudes many girly and traditionally feminine aspects- but what necessarily defines ‘traditional femininity’? According to Amy Shields Dobson in “The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self presentation on MySpace,” traditional femininity is a term to “describe the stereotypical and socially prescribed aspects of young feminine representation and conditioning in 20th century Western culture, prior to the women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s” (Dobson 5). Aspects of traditional femininity include anything from pastel colors to exhibiting a cute and delicate image, as Ariana evidently displays in most of her pictures, such as this one that she uses as her Twitter default picture.
In “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,” Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd talk about how “like much social media, Twitter creates a ‘context collapse’ (boyd, 2008) in which multiple audiences, usually thought of as separate, co-exist in a single social context” (Marwick & boyd 145). This context collapse forces the celebrity to undertake a certain impression through the compromise of different audiences. In Ariana’s case, her Twitter followers include a combination of fans of her acting, music, or both. To longtime fans of her acting, Ariana maintains an image of a pure-minded and bubbly girl because that is the kind of character she has played for a number of years. Meanwhile, to followers of her music, she is a singer who has powerhouse vocals that defy her delicate appearance. She has also been able to claim a spot on the Billboard charts with songs about subject matters that other teenagers can easily relate to, such as innocent love. Thus, Ariana utilizes her Twitter to promote both her music and acting by tweeting to her fans in a way that she can gather a direct response from her followers while simultaneously making them feel as if they are personally interacting with Ariana.
Once again, Ariana’s fanbase mostly consists of a younger audience who associate Ariana with the feminine and quirky image that she has created for herself through mainstream media. In “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience,” Marwick and boyd state that
the tension between revealing and concealing usually errs on the side of concealing on Twitter, but even users who do not post anything scandalous must formulate tweets and choose discussion topics based on imagined audience judgment (Marwick & boyd 11).
Because Ariana has so many younger fans who look up to her as an admirable figure, she must constantly display a positive and authentic front-stage identity performance that remains consistent with that of the image she portrays on television and music videos (Marwick & boyd 11). She also often tweets about her friends and family, thus portraying a more personal and realistic side to her.
However, the way in which she writes her tweets closely resembles the way in which she usually talks, either as her TV show character or as her actual self when talking to her audience. Ariana has no choice but to present herself in this way because not only have mainstream and social media shaped her identity into a specific image, but she has also self-branded herself this way as a vibrant and innocent girl who has a liking for pink. Self-branding is “a practice that situates girls and young women ever more securely into the norms and values of hegemonic gendered consumer culture” as Sarah Banet-Weiser states in “Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube” (Banet-Weiser 10). Ariana has so far done a successful job in creating a self-brand for herself on Twitter, and just overall on social media such as Instagram, because not only is she receiving widespread recognition for her acting and vocal talents, but she is also starting to become a household name, and at a rapid rate at that.