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Talking to my role model

My experience reuniting with Ariana Grande

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If you’re passionate about something and it brings you joy, my advice is to go for it.

It wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I realized this valuable lesson.

It may sound silly, but Ariana Grande has been a driving force in making me who I am today.

I’ve been a fan since her early YouTube days and have grown up watching her become the star that she is today. Her fame has given her an outlet to speak up for those less vocal, which she has done so passionately. For myself and others, she is the ideal role model.

To many, aspiring to meet your favorite singer isn’t a plausible short term goal. But at 15 years old, I knew that being able to talk to Grande would be a dream come true. So, I went out and did it.

With the help of my family, close friends and an album promotion in New York City, I was able to find Grande for a selfie.

It may have just been a photo and a hello, but it meant the whole world to me at that age. Meeting her opened my mind to the possibilities of fulfilling dreams. If I could meet my role model on the streets of New York, I could make anything happen.

That was 2013. I’ve seen Grande three more times since, but with no luck of reuniting. Since 2013, Grande has been nominated for Grammys, gained international fame and ventured on world tours.

If I ever wished to talk to my role model again, a New York City selfie stop was an unlikely route.

Meeting Grande again meant investing in a VIP experience, which became more and more expensive as the years progressed. The experience that shaped me became something that could be purchased by just about anyone with money, rather than something achieved by fan dedication.

When I found out her Dangerous Woman Tour would be making a stop in Buffalo, I was ecstatic. This would finally be my golden opportunity to thank my role model for shaping me into the man I am today.

I’m not an advocate for spending large amounts of money. I buy most of my clothes thrifting, I love to explore garage sales and sometimes I just grow my hair out because haircuts can get a little pricy. I knew I had a difficult financial decision to make if I wanted to talk to her again.

After much contemplation, I decided to purchase my meet and greet ticket.

Feb. 21 came sooner than I expected.

After arriving at the Key Bank Center and checking in to the VIP booth, I ventured on a backstage tour and attended her question and answer event.

Finally, it was time for the meet and greet. I lined up backstage with other fans, who all were going through the same emotions.

When it was my turn to speak to Grande, I froze up. I didn’t realize the girl in front of me had already finished her session, so I just kind of stood there in disbelief.

She and the security guard gestured for me to enter the room. I walked right in, introduced myself and gave her the biggest hug.

Before my photo opportunity, I made sure to let her know just how much she’s done for me. She thanked me, smiled and we hugged again.

For our photo, she pressed her face up to mine, I smiled bigger than I ever have and the photo booth’s timer went off.

My picture was over with. Before leaving I looked at my role model, said “good luck tonight,” and prepared to make my way out of the room after she thanked me.

Before I opened the curtain to head out, Grande added, “I like your hair. It’s so awesome!”

Needless to say, it will not be going near a pair of scissors anytime soon.

After my meet and greet, I made a turn down the hall and ran into her videographer and Justin Bieber’s best buddy, Alfredo Flores.

Flores stopped me and asked to interview me about what I expressed to Grande in the photo booth. Having someone that I’ve known of for years interview me just added to the night’s surreal feeling.

After all this went down I still had a fourth-row seat for Grande and had the time of my life at the show.

I learned a few very important lessons from this meet and greet experience:

The first lesson I learned is to never get a haircut again. If Ariana Grande loves my hair, I refuse to let a single soul touch these curls.

The second, more genuine lesson is that there is no better feeling in the world than telling those you appreciate how much you love them. It’s such a simple concept, but showing gratitude is one of the most fulfilling feelings imaginable.

Finally, the most important of the bunch – I will always allow my passions to have a say in my decision making. Talking to my role model brought me so much joy and since I was passionate enough to go for it, I’m never doubting those instincts again.

Brenton J. Blanchet is an arts staff writer and can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com


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