Ariana Grande's Most Controversial Moments: Alleged Cheating and More


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Ariana Grande
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Ariana Grande‘s on-set romance with Ethan Slater is far from her first brush with controversy.

Since her rise to the top of the charts, Grande’s career has been plagued by scandals. In July 2015, she sparked outrage online after a video of her licking donuts — and later calling them “disgusting” and saying she hates America — went viral. She issued several apologies about the incident, asserting in a statement to Us Weekly that she would “strive to be better” after the public took offense to her “poor choice of words.”

Along with allegedly feuding with former costars and being accused of plagiarism, Grande’s personal relationships have raised eyebrows over the years. Naya Rivera once claimed the pop star’s romance with Big Sean may have overlapped with her own — and some fans have allegedly found evidence that the pattern continued in more of Grande’s relationships.

Following her whirlwind engagement to Pete Davidson, Grande attempted to keep her love life on the down-low. She exchanged vows with Dalton Gomez in May 2021, but the couple called it quits after two years of marriage.

As news broke of Grande’s divorce, Us confirmed her relationship with Slater — and fans quickly tried to piece together their dating timeline. “Ariana’s determined to move forward,” a source exclusively told Us of the scandal in July 2023.

Keep scrolling for a breakdown of Grande’s biggest controversies through the years:

The ‘I Hate America’ Donut

Grande sparked backlash in July 2015 when footage went viral of her and then-boyfriend Ricky Alvarez at Wolfee Donuts in California. In the clip originally posted by TMZ, Grande licked pastries she didn’t appear to have purchased when an employee’s back was turned. When a tray of fresh donuts was brought out, she teased, “What the f—k is that? I hate Americans. I hate America! That’s disgusting.” (The incident took place on the 4th of July.)

The video was immediately met with outrage, and Grande issued a statement to Us apologizing for her behavior. “I am EXTREMELY proud to be an American and I’ve always made it clear that I love my country. … As an advocate for healthy eating, food is very important to me and I sometimes get upset by how freely we as Americans eat and consume things without giving any thought to the consequences that it has on our health and society as a whole,” she explained, acknowledging that she should have had “more discretion with my choice of words.”

During a Good Morning America appearance in September 2015, Grande apologized once again. “I think one of the biggest things I learned from that was what it feels like to disappoint so many people who love and believe in you. And that’s an excruciating feeling,” she said.

Ariana Grande's Biggest Controversies: From Donut-Licking to Alleged Cheating
Todd Williamson/January Images/Shutterstock

Calling Out the Grammys

In February 2019, reports surfaced that Grande canceled her planned performance at the 61st annual Grammys due to production disagreements. Producer Ken Ehrlich later claimed to the Associated Press that Grande “felt it was too late for her to pull something together.”

Grande swiftly clapped back via Twitter, writing, “Mhmmm here it is! I’ve kept my mouth shut but now you’re lying about me. I can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken. It was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you, that I decided not to attend. I hope the show is exactly what you want it to be and more.”

Grande was reportedly told she couldn’t perform “7 Rings” unless it was part of a medley. In her string of tweets, Grande claimed she offered suggestions for different songs. “It’s about collaboration. It’s about feeling supported. It’s about art and honesty. Not politics. Not doing favors or playing games,” she wrote. “It’s just a game y’all.. and I’m sorry but that’s not what music is to me.”

That year, Grande was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album, winning the latter. She returned to the Grammys stage in January 2020 to perform.

Jennette McCurdy Fallout

After her stint on Victorious, Grande teamed up with iCarly‘s Jennette McCurdy for a Nickelodeon spinoff titled Sam & Cat. In her 2022 memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, McCurdy claimed that she wasn’t allowed to pursue other opportunities while working on the show — but Grande was. She alleged that Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 to not discuss her experience at the network publicly.

“What finally undid me was when Ariana came whistle-toning in with excitement because she had spent the previous evening playing charades at Tom Hanks’ house,” she wrote. “That was the moment I broke.”

She added: “Ariana misses work in pursuit of her music career while I act with a box. I’m pissed about it. And I’m pissed at her. Jealous of her.”

Before the series was canceled in July 2014, it was put on a production hiatus amid reports that Grande was earning a much higher salary than her costar. Grande shut down the “absolutely ridiculous and false” speculation via Twitter.

“Jennette and I agreed upfront that we would be treated equally on this show in all regards (as we should be, considering we each work just as hard as the other on this show),” she wrote. “I don’t know who’s putting these idiotic quotes out there but I thought I’d straighten it out and try to end this nonsense.”

McCurdy fueled rumors of a feud between her and Grande with her web series What’s Next for Sarah? after Sam & Cat’s cancelation. The show featured a pop star named Gloriana who rocked a high ponytail — Grande’s signature style.

Ariana Grande's Biggest Controversies: From Donut-Licking to Alleged Cheating

Naya Rivera Caught Her With Big Sean

Grande dated Big Sean in 2014 after his split from former fiancée Rivera — but the Glee alum claimed there was some overlap in the two romances.

“On the one day that he was back in LA, [Sean] said he didn’t want to see me. But since she had a key, she let herself in to his house,” Rivera wrote in her 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry. “I walk in, go downstairs, and guess what little girl is sitting cross-legged on the couch listening to music? … It rhymes with ‘Smariana Schmande.’”

Rivera remembered feeling blindsided by her and Sean’s breakup. “I learned that I was no longer getting married from the internet, and at the same time as the rest of the world,” she alleged. “Not only were we not getting married, we weren’t even together anymore.”

Grande never responded to Rivera’s claims. Rivera, meanwhile, died in a drowning accident in July 2020.

‘Wicked’ Romance With Ethan Slater

Us confirmed in July 2023 that Grande and Gomez were separated after two years of marriage. Shortly after the breakup made headlines, Us confirmed that Grande had already moved on with her Wicked costar. (Slater was married to Lilly Jay at the time, with whom he welcomed a son in 2022.)

According to a source, Slater informed Jay about his relationship with Grande “days before” it became public. (A source close to Grande denied the claims.) While Grande and Slater didn’t immediately comment on the scandal, Jay shared her side of the story with Page Six.

“[Ariana’s] the story really. Not a girl’s girl. My family is just collateral damage,” she claimed. “The story is her and Dalton.”

Slater filed for divorce from Jay in July 2023. An insider exclusively told Us that Gomez, meanwhile, wanted to give Grande “space” but hadn’t “given up hope that they can make things work.”

Ariana Grande's Biggest Controversies: From Donut-Licking to Alleged Cheating
Annie Wermiel/NY Post; Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/MEGA

Cultural Appropriation Accusations

Grande has been criticized for Blackfishing — or seemingly making her skin darker — and other instances of appropriation through the years. In 2019, she was accused of exploiting Asian culture by using Japanese characters in her visuals (and in a misspelled tattoo).

“I can’t read or write kanji obviously. What do you want me to do? It was done out of love and appreciation,” she wrote in a since-deleted tweet about her ink at the time. “What do you want me to say? U kno how many people make this mistake and DON’T care just cause they like how it looks? Bruh… I care sooooo much. What would u like me to do or say? Forreal.”

Grande was also selling merch with Japanese characters on it that was eventually taken down from her site. “People on this app really don’t know how to be forgiving or gentle when someone has made an innocent mistake. No one considers feelings other than their own,” she wrote amid the backlash.

Around the same time, Grande was accused of plagiarizing “7 Rings.” Princess Nokia claimed in a social media video that Grande’s hit sounded similar to “Mine” from her mixtape 1992. “Ain’t that the lil song I made about brown women and their hair? Hmmm… sounds about white,” she hinted.

In response, Grande posted — and subsequently deleted — via her Instagram Story: “White women talking about their weaves is how we’re gonna solve racism.” She later apologized for the “out of pocket” quip.

Alleged Diva Behavior

Since the beginning of her career, Grande has been accused of making outrageous demands and demonstrating unprofessional behavior. In 2014, rumors swirled that Grande’s team had a list of off-limits topics prepared for interviews and that Grande only wanted to be photographed on her left side. (She called the reports “nonsense” in a radio interview at the time.)

Grande opened up about being labeled a “diva” during a 2020 sit-down with Zane Lowe. “I stopped doing interviews for a really long time because I felt like whenever I would get into a position where somebody would try to say something for clickbait or twist my words or blah, blah, blah, I would defend myself. And then, people would be like, ‘Oh, she’s a diva,’” she said. “I was like, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’”

While she felt like her “opinions” were often “manipulated” for a headline, Grande didn’t see the same thing happening to men in the public eye. “It’s like when men express their opinions or defend themselves or are directing something and making notes on something, they’re brilliant. And they’re genius at it. And yet, it’s just so not the same thing with women … It’s not always that way. But it does make you want to quiet down a little bit.”

Grande confessed that it hasn’t always been easy to approach negativity with a “f–k that” attitude.

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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