In advance of her upcoming album, Sweetener, coming out later this summer, Ariana Grande is on the cover of the July issue for British Vogue — and she's ready to open up about "the year that changed everything." But unlike a lot of her cover stories in the past (even her most recent Fader appearance), Grande is missing a few things... namely, her famous ponytail, winged liner, and maybe even her signature spray tan. In other words, the star got a major make-under. But what does it mean?
The new look could be a matter of art direction, as dictated by the A-list creative cast behind the scenes of the shoot. But the sudden change in appearance could also be intended to highlight the fact that Sweetener is set to be Grande's most personal album yet, particularly in light of her harrowing experience with the Manchester bombing last year, and the post-traumatic stress that followed.
In a lot of ways, a minimal beauty look can be translated as a conscious move for artists who want to show themselves in a more vulnerable light. Christina Aguilera, for example, debuted a bare-faced look on the cover of Paper Magazine to promote her new music earlier this year, telling the publication that she's "at the place, even musically, where it's a liberating feeling to be able to strip it all back and appreciate who you are and your raw beauty." Miley Cyrus had a similar shift last May in preparation of her album Younger Now; without a speck of glitter in sight, Cyrus was moving on from her Bangerz image to something more "normal." Even Taylor Swift took the same approach a year ago with her "Call It What You Want" music video.
Grande recently admitted to Fader writer Myles Tanzer that her new music is about her vulnerability, a side of herself she's finally comfortable revealing, thanks to her dedicated fans. But part of her appeal is that she is who she's always been, with or without her beauty calling cards, and this cover doesn't mean we're about to see a whole new version of the star — just another, more personal side of her.