“This feels like a slumber party,” Ariana Grande quips — signature high ponytail intact — sitting comfortably in a small circle of women gathered at a vacant art gallery in Hong Kong. “I don’t do a lot of things like this, so it’s very exciting for me,” Grande said, setting the tone for what would be an exhilarating few days where fashion editors and Reebok team members would become immersed in her life.
The singer — the latest superstar to team up with the brand — joins Gigi Hadid, Future, Teyana Taylor and Machine Gun Kelly, who have all recently put their star power behind Reebok’s burgeoning resurgence.
To consummate its newest partnership, Reebok met up with the “Side to Side” singer in Asia for the last show of her 7-month-long world tour for an up-close and personal “day in the life” experience.
“I love what Reebok stands for,” Grande said. “I’m a huge advocate for self-expression, being yourself and encouraging people to embrace who they are and the things that are different about them. I’m always trying to instill that [in] my fans, so partnering with a brand that stands for all those things [lets me share that message] in a whole new way.”
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The Boston-based athletic brand is betting on Grande — who brings a bevy of devoted fans, including 113 million followers on Instagram alone — to spread its message and help it resonate with younger women.
“Ariana is unquestionably the voice for a new generation, particularly in how she speaks to and inspires young women,” said brand president Matt O’Toole.
Grande — who has used social media to share messages about feminism and to rally the troops for a Women’s Day March this year — has leaned on authenticity to build a connection with core fans.
Joining Reebok, which has been an advocate for the body-positivity movement, is in line with Grande’s broader mission of female liberation.
“It’s all about inclusiveness and celebrating beauty in fitness and all that comes with it,” she said. “Celebrating each other and not being afraid to be who you are is something I talk about with my fans all the time.”
The star became emotional as she reflected on the bond she feels with her followers. “Thinking about [my fans], I can cry,” she said. “I just want them to love themselves so much. I feel a maternal responsibility toward them, and the thing that I want to instill the most is the message that you are loved. There are so many different kinds of beautiful. You’re beautiful because of who you are.”
Grande’s Reebok partnership links her with several peers in the music and entertainment industries — Rihanna, Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid among them — who have aligned themselves with athletic brands at a time when the women’s fitness market is primed for growth.
But what sets Reebok apart from other labels, O’Toole said, is its long history of filling that niche. “We got our start as the first brand to make athletic footwear specifically for women, and quite frankly, the sports industry hasn’t historically served women well,” he said. “There have been too many barriers for women in sport and fitness, in general. We are working to break down those barriers, [and] Ariana is our partner in helping to make that happen.”
For her part, Grande said she’s attracted to the athleisure side of the business. Still, with more than 70 energy-packed shows under her belt during this tour, dancing has provided an intense workout plan. And her trainer, Harley Pasternak — also with her in Hong Kong — pushes a “12,000 steps” system; on average, fitness programs recommend 10,000 steps a day.
“Harley is obsessed with steps,” Grande said. “I can do a really hard workout and then sit around all
day and not feel as good as if I am moving, dancing or getting my steps in backstage at an arena and running around in loops like a maniac.”
Grande, who is media-shy, let her guard down during a day of dancing, fitness and fashion in Hong Kong.
Her stylist, Law Roach — who is responsible for all the onstage looks from Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” tour — was also on hand to offer a mock styling session with Grande, mirroring a personalized “backstage” experience during the junket.
“Ariana is a genius,” he told Footwear News. “Until you’re around her personally, you don’t really see the facets of who she is. There is something so special about [her]. She’s very humble and caring, and she’s not affected by this industry. She doesn’t give a damn. When I dove into the ideology of Reebok and what the brand stands for, I was like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ It’s about women, individuality and self-love. That’s the way Ariana lives.”
Grande said working with Roach has helped her to enhance a high- fashion look with nods to gender bending. “I don’t believe clothing has any sort of gender specifics — I want to shop in the boys’ section,” she said, noting that Adidas collaborator Pharrell Williams is a major fashion influence. “I literally buy everything I see him wearing. He’s like Regina George, and I’m Cady Heron [from ‘Mean Girls’],” she laughed.
All jokes aside, Grande, who recently faced life-changing tragedy — a terrorist attack at her Manchester, England, concert in May — is focused on pushing through hardships. She hopes her legion of female fans, in particular, will hear that message loud and clear. “We have to lift each other up, not claw each other down,” she said. “It’s a sisterhood, and there’s no competing in that.”
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