It might be something of a blessing that when Elle spoke to Ariana Grande for the magazine's August cover story, it was before her whirlwind engagement to Pete Davidson—providing not only a break from the nonstop news about the couple, but also shedding light into aspects of her life that we likely would never have known about otherwise. Like, um, the role the butcher played in her childhood.
In addition to interviewing Grande, Elle also spoke with her 92-year-old grandmother, who prepped readers for the darkness to come with a bit of a warning about the Grande family: “It’s the Italian thing; we have the dark humor.” That becomes crystal clear when Grande’s mother, Joan, a CEO who happens to have more than 300,000 Twitter followers, and whom Ariana has previously described as “the most badass, independent woman you’ll ever meet," began talking on the record. (For her part, Joan described herself to Elle as “goth before goth was goth.”)
As it turns out, none of the three generations of Grandes were exaggerating. Joan celebrated Ariana's fourth birthday, for example, by throwing her a Jaws-themed birthday party. It was apparently Ariana's favorite movie, though it didn’t go over so well with the guests: “Most of the kids were running, screaming, because I had Jaws playing on a huge screen,” Joan reminisced to Elle. “The parents were like, ‘Are you crazy? Our kids don’t watch that!’ But it was [Ariana’s] favorite movie.”
That wasn’t all Joan did to, as Elle put it, “make the macabre fun” for Ariana and her brother, Frankie, while she was raising them in Boca Raton, Florida. True to Joan's celebration style, she held Halloween to even higher standards as a holiday than Christmas. Obviously, things went beyond candy—and even much further beyond, say, Jason Voorhees ski masks. Indeed, it sounds as if the Grandes didn’t just get to that level around October but all year-round: “I did the house up in things that would give normal children nightmares,” Joan added. For example: “I would go to the butcher, get heart organs or lungs, and then be like, ‘Ariana, Frankie, this is a heart.’”
Her trips to the butcher also allowed for the children to exercise their creativity. “The kids would paint blood on the walls,” Joan added, in what we promise is the last squeamish thing you’ll be reading here. Well, except for another rather heartwarming detail, blood notwithstanding. “I remember Ariana’s little handprints,” Joan concluded.