Ariana Grande‘s life has been quite the roller coaster ride.
Ever since the devastating Manchester bombing during her Dangerous Woman world tour, the “No Tears Left to Cry” singer has been trying to move past the heartbreaking event and find a new way of life.
Between creating and promoting her highly-anticipated new album called Sweetener, breaking records with late-night talk show appearances and finding true love with Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, the 25-year-old star is busier than ever.
Nonetheless, the pop sensation has dealt with more than a few critics along the way. In the relationship department alone, her breakup with boyfriend of two years Mac Miller was initially met with harsh criticism, while her sudden engagement to Pete faced severe skepticism from haters and fans alike.
But through it all, Ariana has kept her head high, and after taking time to recuperate from last year’s terror attack, she has officially made her comeback to the pop world fiercer than ever.
Before Ariana hits the stage during tomorrow’s MTV Video Music Awards, we’re taking a month-by-month look back at all of the highs and lows from her craziest—but perhaps most rewarding—year so far.
August 2017: One year ago, the “God is a Woman” singer adamantly continued her Dangerous Woman tour through Asia after the May terrorist attack. In August, the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund announced that the families of the 22 bombing victims would each receive $324,000 – $13 million of which Ariana raised during her One Love Manchester benefit concert.
September 2017: The ponytail queen triumphantly wrapped up her Dangerous Woman tour with shows in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Later that month, she joined Dave Matthews Band, along with guest singers Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Cage the Elephant and more for a benefit concert in Virginia following the violence in Charlottesville.
October 2017: At the start of the month, Americans mourned the deadliest mass shooting of the nation’s history in Las Vegas. The tragic event hit close to home for Ariana, and the blossoming activist tweeted the next morning, “My heart is breaking for Las Vegas. We need love, unity, peace, gun control & for people to look at this & call this what it is = terrorism.”
November 2017: As she worked hard on her latest album, Ariana stayed out of the spotlight throughout the month. Her longtime manager, Scooter Braun, opened up about the album to Variety saying, “She has such an extraordinary voice and it’s time for her to sing the songs that define her. Whitney, Mariah, Adele…when they sing, that’s their song. Ariana has big vocal moments; it’s time for her song.”
December 2017: December marked another low-key month for the pop sensation. Ariana took a quick ski trip to Telluride, Colo., before notably releasing an Instagram video on Dec. 31 hinting at her new music. Sadly for Arianators, the social media icon ghosted after the short clip and would not post on Instagram again until April 17.
January 2018: In January, one question was on the minds of the “Side to Side” singer’s fans: where is Ariana? While Twitter speculated that the star vocalist would drop new music at the 2018 Grammys, the pop star never showed up to the awards show. With no social media presence on Instagram or Twitter, the four-time Grammy nominee’s absence was felt more than ever.
February 2018: In February, Ariana was expected to perform at the 2018 BRIT Awards for a special tribute to the Manchester victims. When she fell ill, however, she was ordered by her doctor not to fly overseas. Liam Gallagher filled her spot with a rendition of the Oasis song “Live Forever.”
March 2018: Ariana made her way back into the spotlight for a performance at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. The pop sensation belted out her hit “Be Alright” and was joined at the rally by celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Kim Kardashian, George Clooney and Lady Gaga. This performance marked Ariana’s first major appearance since Sept. 2017.
April 2018: The millionaire singer made her comeback in full force, returning to social media and releasing a hit new song. After a nearly five-month long hiatus from Instagram and Twitter, Ariana tweeted a single teardrop emoji and posted three Insta photos reading, “NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY.” Four days later, she performed the new single during Kygo‘s set at Coachella, marking her second live performance in months.
“No Tears Left to Cry” was hailed as a resounding triumph for the pop princess. Laura Snapes, a writer for The Guardian, dubbed the song as “one of the most joyful, defiant celebrations of pop,” while Chris Willman from Variety called the track the “breeziest, most danceable kid of post-traumatic recovery anthem.” One thing was clear: Ariana was back and here to stay.
May 2018: As her comeback continued, Ariana made a record-breaking appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as the guest star of the late night show’s most social episode of the year. She performed the TV debut of “No Tears Left to Cry,” starred in a sketch called “NBD” and competed in “Musical Genre Challenge.” Later that month, the songstress appeared on the cover of TIME in the magazine’s issue about “Next Generation Leaders” and also opened at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards.
While May was marked with countless successes for the pop star, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. Ariana split from her longtime boyfriend, Mac, calling the relationship “toxic” when criticized for the breakup on Twitter. The “Bang Bang” singer publicly responded to the original tweet, writing, “I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety & prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course) but shaming/blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his s–t together is a very major problem.”
Soon after the breakup, the Florida-native’s romance with Pete took off, and the pair made their relationship Instagram official on May 30 with a photo of the two in Harry Potter robes. Pete fittingly captioned the surprise couple pic, “the chamber of secrets has been opened…”
June 2018: Surprise! After a month of dating, the singer-comedian duo announced their engagement. The lead-up to the couple’s unexpected announcement was marked with plenty of Instagram flirting, new tattoos and public proclamations of love. During a stand-up comedy set at Hollywood Improv, an eye witness recalled, “[Pete] started saying how he felt so lucky like he won the lottery and couldn’t believe he was so lucky… After that, he kind of got into more of a comedy act, but it was pretty sweet because that was the most genuine and happy he seemed during the whole thing.”
The lovebirds faced harsh criticism for their quick engagement, with many targeting Pete for his borderline personality disorder. In an Instagram Stories post, the SNL star defended himself, candidly writing, “I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘people with BDP can’t be in relationships’ talk. I just wanna let you know that’s not true. Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. It also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.”
In June, Ariana was also revealed as the cover star of British Vogue‘s July issue, where she spoke up about her struggles with PTSD after the Manchester bombing. When she returned home after the attack, the “One Last Time” singer said she experienced dizziness and anxiety—signs of PTSD.
“It’s hard to talk about because so many people have suffered such severe, tremendous loss,” Ariana said during the interview. “But, yeah, [PTSD] is a real thing. I know those families and my fans, and everyone there experienced a tremendous amount of it as well. Time is the biggest thing. I feel like I shouldn’t even be talking about my own experience—like I shouldn’t even say anything. I don’t think I’ll ever know how to talk about it and not cry.”
July 2018: In July, the “Break Free” star graced the cover of ELLE‘s August issue and spoke out about the importance of standing up for political and social issues. Over the past year, the celebrity activist took action in the aftermaths of the Charlottesville, Las Vegas and Parkland shootings, and said during her interview, “There’s a lot of noise when you say anything about anything. But if I’m not going to say it, what’s the f–king point of being here? Not everyone is going to agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to shut up and sing my songs.”
Later that month, Ariana and her beau continued to face overwhelming public attention and decided to take a social media cleanse. Pete deleted all photos from his Instagram account, and Ariana briefly disabled comments on her Insta. While the comedian’s IG is still down, the pop star has since enabled comments and returned to Twitter and the ‘gram as she promotes Sweetener.
August 2018: It’s finally here! On Friday, Ariana released her latest 15-track album, which also features singers Pharrell Williams, Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott.
In the week leading up to Sweetener‘s release, “The Light is Coming” singer appeared on The Late Late Show and showcased her vocal range in a less conventional way: by starring in a 13-song Titanic musical with James Corden. And most can agree that the results are phenomenal.
Whether killing it with “Better Off” on her new album or belting out Celine Dione‘s “My Heart Will Go On” on a late night show, Ariana has proven time and time again that she has what it takes to shine in the face of tragedy and criticism. And at tomorrow night’s MTV VMAs, we have a good feeling this resilient star will be shining brighter than ever.
The 2018 MTV VMAs air Monday night at 9 p.m. only on MTV.