With her signature ponytail and Nickelodeon pedigree, Ariana Grande has an international following that skews teen, meaning that if somebody deliberately targeted her U.K. concert Monday, that person likely was out to kill kids.
Amid a world tour that spans Europe over the next month before shifting to South America, the 23-year-old pop star behind such hits as “Problem,” “Side to Side,” and “Break Free” was wrapping up another show when an explosion rattled the area outside the concert hall.
As at so many of her shows, parents were waiting outside the hall at Manchester Arena to pick up their teenage daughters, who were out for a night of loosely chaperoned fun.
Witnesses reported they initially believed the loud noise was balloons popping, but the grim reality emerged that another terrorist attack – this one seemingly aimed at children – likely occurred.
“My husband and I were standing against the wall, luckily, and all of a sudden there was this thing. I can’t even describe it,” Elena Semino, there with her husband to pick up their daughter told The Guardian.
They found their girl, with a wound on her neck and cut on her leg. With the death toll initially placed at 19, Semino’s daughter could prove one of the lucky attendees.
Reminiscent of the 2015 attack at the Bataclan music hall in Paris, Monday’s bombing seemed to go even farther, if not in carnage, then in twisted intent. Early reports suggested a suicide bomber may have sent nails flying through a crowd of innocent girls out to cheer an idol.
“This is a shocking and horrific attack targeting children and young people who were simply enjoying a concert,” said Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron.
Grande, a Florida native who began her rise to stardom in the Broadway musical “13,” went on to play Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon television series “Victorious,” then starred in a spinoff, “Sam & Cat,” was branching out to an older demographic, performing duets with such older stars as Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea.
As she sought to cultivate a more sophisticated crowd, Grande dropped her trademark red dye job for extensions and began favoring short skirts and knee-high boots. In 2015, she penned an essay decrying the emphasis – and the double standard it implied – on female pop stars’ sex lives.
But despite increasing critical acclaim and an evolving look that tracked her age, Grande’s core audience remains young girls – like those who came to see Monday’s show and apparently were victims of the cruelest brand of terror attack imaginable.