LOS ANGELES – They're both 20.
They have both been child stars.
They're both making big news with their new music.
But that is where the parallels start to run out.
Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus are the most talked about female pop stars of the moment (sorry Britney). But where Cyrus -- and Spears before her -- went trashy when they said goodbye to their teens, Grande is managing to attract attention without showing off an R-rated side. Or even a PG-13 one.
Last week her debut studio album, “Yours Truly,” shot to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts, making Grande the first female artist to debut at number one since Ke$ha’s “Animal” in 2010, and only the 15th to do so in history. And Grande did it without riding wrecking balls naked or dancing in a bikini with a boa constrictor!
Grande is the star of the new Nickelodeon series "Sam & Cat," a spin-off from the popular "Victorious," which she starred on after a year on "iCarly." The Florida native got her showbiz start when she was a teen, making her acting debut in “13” on Broadway in 2008. Over the years, the emerging superstar garnered acclaim as a soloist in various symphonies, and her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” marked the first-ever broadcast of the national anthem for the Florida Panthers
But it has only been in recent months that Grande has exploded nationally, and according to some experts, being a little older when starting her Hollywood journey may be the key to a long and clean career.
“Ariana’s talent speaks for itself, she doesn’t need bad publicity or gimmicks to sell her music,” said acting coach Donnie Klang, co-founder with Matthew LaPorte of The Loft Studio. “She is the current role model that we use while we are training these up and coming stars.”
Grande has already drawn vocal comparisons to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and is known for being savvy when it comes to social media. In December 2011, she earned her one millionth Twitter follower. Today, she has just under 10 million, in addition to over 7 million Instagram followers and over 5 million Facebook likes.
Another sign the entertainer has her head screwed on straight is the fact that long before catapulting to fame, philanthropy was on her mind. At the age of 10, Grande co-founded the youth singing group Kids Who Care in her home state, which performed for charitable fundraising events, and in 2009 she performed and taught music to children in South Africa as a member of a Broadway in South Africa initiative.
“This proves that Ariana is using her time to make a difference in the world. She’s not club-hopping or Instagramming her extravagant purchases of a Rolex like other famous young stars do,” said Diana Madison, host and founder of Hollyscoop TV.
Grande is also more than just a pretty voice, she’s also a sound engineer and producer. Her sophomore album is already slated for release in February, and perhaps the biggest concern for Grande, who is said to model her style on classy movie greats Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, is not ripping off her clothes and licking sledgehammers, but burning out.
“First day off in forever,” she tweeted last week on the very day “Yours Truly” hit No. 1 after canceling her promotional appearances due to a hemorrhaged vocal cord. “Vocal rest and watching movies with my best friend.”
And even though scores of parents are likely hoping Grande doesn’t start messing with foam fingers anytime soon, she has no qualms in carving her own, unconventional path.
“I don’t feel much pressure to fit in. I’ve always just wanted to do my thing," she told Rolling Stone. "I have really good friends and good family and if it don’t fit in somewhere else, I fit in at home."