Ariana Grande could probably use a nap. She just opened the MTV Video Music Awards, dropped her sophomore album, My Everything (out Aug. 25), and starred in the new video for her Jessie J and Nicki Minaj collaboration, “Bang Bang” — all in the span of two days.
Earlier this summer, TIME caught up with Grande to get an explanation for the nonsensical lyrics of her summer hit “Break Free.” Now, read the rest of our interview with the pop star as she chats about her favorite emoji, her love of the ’90s and what people just don’t understand about her.
TIME: Did you and Iggy Azalea cause any problems on the set of the “Problem” video?
Ariana Grande: There was no mischief or pranking, but it was definitely a fun experience. She’s a lot taller — I had to stand on a box for our shots together. I [was] like, “I need a ladder over here.”
You both have signature pony tails, it must have been dangerous on set with all that whipping around.
Absolutely. There was lots of hair involved.
So what are you breaking free from in “Break Free”?
It is a great breakup song, but for me, personally, I didn’t have a boy to sing it about because I’m not breaking up with anybody. I sang it about my personal things that are holding me back, my fears, certain negativities in my life that were holding me back. Things I was afraid of like, ego and fear and all of that. I wanted to break free from all that I felt like was making me enjoy my life a little less.
It shows off your dance-diva side. What are your go-to moves in the club?
It’s hard to describe it. There’s a lot of strutting to the beat. There’s a lot of sitting down and leg-kicking and voguing and posing and hair flipping involved.
You talk to your fans a lot on Twitter. What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve had?
Oh my God, we don’t have the time, there are so many.
Please describe the emoji that best represent you.
There’s a brunette, severed head with the driest expression of all time on her face, and I really like that one. I feel like I relate to it. After that, I put the thinking bubble emoji followed by the boy emoji so it’s girl-thinking-of-boy. I really like that combination. There’s a navy blue square with stars in it, and it’s supposed to look like the universe. I really like that one as well.
Wow, you’ve actually given this a lot of thought.
Yeah, those are my go-to.
Important question: When you go Starbucks, do you always order a grande size?
No, sometimes I get that venti, you know? Some days that’s what you need in your life.
So you’re a big coffee drinker?
Yeah, I love soy lattes. Obviously I don’t have dairy because I’m a vegan, but they taste out of this world to me.
People called your last album a ‘90s throwback, but you were born in 1993. Do you even remember the 90s?
Of course I do! I wasn’t dead!
Not everyone your age does!
No, I remember so much. That was such a vivid time. I was obsessed with Missy Elliott, TLC and Eminem. Everything was so great. Nickelodeon had the best shows and the toys were dope and at P.E. time we had all the right things. I was a ‘90s kid, but I was alive, I remember things. Cartoons were great, music was great, the trends were mortifying.
Do you have a favorite ‘90s trend?
Oh my God, I don’t know. For me, the hair was so bad.
So bad it’s good? Aren’t the ‘90s back in now?
Of course. Maybe it’s more the early 2000s that are really shockingly embarrassing, fashion-wise. People had weird cornrows and light blue eyeshadows.
One reason people you love your Broadway covers of rap songs is they like hearing you swear. Do you curse a lot?
I absolutely do. I’m Italian! I wish I could less. But I don’t know why people are so shocked by me. I guess it’s because of the character I played so long being such a goody two-shoes. But I also think that people have a misrepresentation of me as a person because I’m friendly and I like to meet people and I like to talk to people and make people laugh. Sometimes people can confuse my niceness for weakness in a way — or ditziness or stupidity. But it doesn’t go hand-in-hand in that way, you know what I mean?
Yeah. What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
Probably that. When people are shocked when they see me curse, I wish they knew my sense of humor. I have the sense of humor of a 14-year-old boy. It’s very crude. When I was 7 years old, my mom took me to see Rocky Horror. That’s just how my family is. We’re just this Italian family that loves slightly raunchy humor. Everyone sees Frankie on Big Brother, they get the idea.
More Must-Reads From TIME
- Inside the White House Program to Share America's Secrets
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- Long COVID Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Does
- Column: The New Antisemitism
- The 13 Best New Books to Read in March
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time
Write to Nolan Feeney at email@example.com