A few months ago, I was speaking to a friend of mine who has a daughter a similar age to me. Your music video ‘Problem’ came on the TV and I turned to my friend and said, ‘God I hope Emily doesn’t like stuff like this when she’s older. This girl’s not exactly an empowering role model, is she?’.
You see, even before I was pregnant, I knew that if I ever had a daughter, I would raise her to be a kind, sincere and unapologetic feminist.
I wanted her to know that although she might face unfair disadvantages, and at times it might seem easier to shy away from her problems, she should always have an unfaltering belief in herself, and speak up for what is right.
I planned on giving her this encouragement by ensuring she knew how completely loved she was by her parents, and by her friends and her family. I wanted to reassure her that when something doesn’t go to plan, it’s OK; it can make her stronger and more determined. I wanted to surround her with positive, empowering role-models; our wonderful family, our fantastic friends, and the many powerful and determined women in our world today, and the ones that came before them.
But I did not want her to idolise you. I took one look at you, I judged you, and I dismissed you. I will try to explain now why I’m truly, utterly and completely sorry for doing this.
The events that took place after your concert in Manchester have changed many people’s lives. I know it has changed yours and it has changed mine too.
It has made me fearful for the future of our global society that is becoming increasingly fragmented. At a time when we should be showing unconditional love and understanding to all, there are those that still want to drive deeper divides and spread hatred and mistrust.
But in the aftermath of the attacks, there is also hope – and I want you to know that you are largely responsible for this national, even global optimism.
The manner in which you have conducted yourself in the days and weeks since that awful night have been nothing short of inspirational to me.
You have shown such unswerving devotion to your fans. You have shown strength, humility and courage well beyond your years. You could have walked away. You could have stayed away forever. But you didn’t.
Instead, you have worked tirelessly to create an event that has spread more joy, optimism and compassion than I could have ever imagined. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you to do this – to come out on stage and put yourself back in a position where you fear for your safety. But then over the past few weeks, I have come to learn that you don’t take the easy way out.
Fundamentally, I want to say that I am so sorry that I did not bother to learn more about you; who you are, where you’ve come from, what you’ve achieved, before I deemed you an ‘unfit role model’.
I am also sorry that it has taken something like an attack and the taking of innocent lives to make me have this realisation.
But if it’s any small consolation (I hope that it is but I’m sure it’s still not enough) I will tell Emily about your bravery as she grows up, I will tell her how you dealt with a situation so unimaginable with the utmost grace and compassion. But most of all, I will stop being quick to judge other people, and I will realise that inspiration can come in the most unlikely of places, and sometimes it can be right in front of you the whole time.
In these uncertain times, we need more women like you, Ariana. Thank you for teaching me this.
Charlotte & Emily (your two newest fans)