Pop Cult

Stans and their One-Sided Love Story

Zainab Anjum and Maria Vargas

“I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it.”

Senior Christian Mira doesn’t just know these lyrics. They’re etched into his memory.  He listened to them over 1,000 times in the first week Ariana Grande’s hit single, “7 rings” was released. He can recite them anywhere, any time, any place, even with every other beat missing.

Mira says so himself: he’s an “Arianator.”

The first time he saw Grande, she had red hair and went by the name Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon show Victorious. But his real infatuation started when she dropped the act and started releasing singles with Mac Miller, Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj.

“I liked her as an actress first and then it transitioned when she got into music,” Mira said. “She’s not a shallow type of pop star.”

It’s the little things that set Mira apart from the typical fan. 

The $500 he dropped on Grande-related merchandise and tickets.

The dozens of fan accounts flooding his Instagram feed.

The hours he spends listening to her that make him a part of Grandes top 1% of fans on Spotify.

If anything happens in Grande’s life, Mira knows.

Take, for example, Grande’s 2020 Grammy’s performance. Within an hour of the video going live on Youtube, Mira had already memorized, screen-recorded, downloaded and converted the performance to an MP3 format. The audio now has a place in the files app on his phone, alongside a plethora of Grande’s unreleased songs, demos and studio sessions.  

But Mira isn’t the only one like this. 

He is just like the millions of other teenagers that follow celebrities’ every move. 

He is a stan. 


The year was 2000. 

American rapper Eminem had just released his hit single, “Stan.” The title — wordplay between a name and the terms “stalker” and “fan” — follows a fictional character who idolizes celebrity Slim Shady, Eminem’s alter-ego. Throughout the song, Stan writes letters to Slim, but he receives no response. 

Believing he’s being intentionally ignored, Stan stalks Slim and becomes violent towards him and others, culminating in him tying his pregnant girlfriend into the trunk of his car and driving off a cliff. 

Mira was aware that the term had come from an Eminem song, but he had no idea it came from such dark roots. 

From that time on, the term “stan” cemented itself into pop culture vocabulary. The term rose to popularity when people’s usage of social media increased. Social media adopted the term to describe obsessed fans of celebrities.
Although today’s stans can be obsessive, not all of them are stalkers. They are people who care deeply for their favorite stars.

“Being hateful isn’t what makes you a stan, it’s having a dedicated interest in an artist’s work and in their character,” Mira said.

Eminem’s song demonstrates a relationship that many psychologists call a “parasocial interaction.” Parasocial interaction is a one-sided relationship where an individual spends time idolizing another person who is unaware of the fan’s existence. 

For proof of this, look no further than the closest twitter thread. There lives Beyonce’s “Beyhive,” Taylor Swift’s “Swifties,” and BTS’s “Army,” and of course Grande’s “Arianators”,carefully constructing their compliments and defending their idols like no other. 

Stan comments can range anywhere from complimentary to plain creepy.

“How can a human be so beautiful,” 


“Drop Jay-Z and get with me.” 

 Mira doesn’t think that most stans make creepy comments like this. Instead, stans adore their celebrities in different ways, like reposting pictures of their favorite stars on their Instagram stories.

Not only do stans show their admiration through praise; they can also defend their idols when criticized. 

Reporter for the Medium, Haaniyah Angus, knows this all too well.

After criticizing Grande in a 2019 Twitter post, Angus described the ruthless backlash she received from Arianators in her article, “Why the Normalization of Stan Culture is Unhealthy.”

When she first listened to Grande’s “7 rings,” Angus noticed certain cultural issues with it. In her lyrics, Grande added elements of black culture in “7 rings,” with one line in particular raising concern: “You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it.” 

Grande’s references to wearing weaves made some black women feel that their culture was being misappropriated. In defending her own culture, Angus showed her disapproval of the song’s controversial line. Twitter threads burst into debate about whether or not Grande, a Caucasian woman, was misusing these elements for the song.

“The more I listened to ‘7 rings,’ the more I understood why it made people, specifically black women, uncomfortable,” Angus said. 

That’s when the chaos ensued.

Fans messaged Angus directly, threatening her to take down her tweet, “or else.” A day later, Angus woke up to find Arianators had falsely reported her and suspended her Twitter account. 

To Angus, it seems that any attack on a celebrity is an attack on their stans, which she feels could hint at their insecurities. 


But, for Mira, being a stan isn’t about seeking validation or covering insecurities, he would never drag someone just because they don’t have the same opinion as him.

For him, it’s always just been about loving Ariana Grande and being able to recognize the countless times she’s been there for him.

She was there when he discovered his love for politics.

She’s been there every Thanksgiving, playing on the speaker for his family and friends.

She’s been there as someone he can relate to and see as a role model.

“She teaches people to grow from all that negativity. She is the epitome of that lesson,” Mira said. “She’s such a big deal. The association I have with her is different than anyone else’s.”