Pop singer Ariana Grande this weekend tweeted a feminist manifesto of sorts deriding a culture that focuses on her dating life instead of her music and identifies her in terms of her relationships (she just broke up with rapper Big Sean — not that we care).
And amid the you-go-girl empowerment talk, the “Love Me Harder” singer also revealed a local connection.
The singer noted that she came from a “long bloodline of female activists,” including her Aunt Judy, who the singer boasted was the first Italian American female president of the National Press Club. “I think she would have been proud of me for speaking up about something that has been bothering me personally for so long.”
Aunt Judy, it turns out, is Judy Grande (so the surname isn’t a nom de stage), the sister of Ariana’s mother and a longtime Washington reporter who died of breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 58. Grande worked in the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Washington bureau and, according to her pals, was every bit the icon her niece remembers.
“She was as dogged a reporter as I’ve known in Washington,” says former colleague Keith Epstein. “And she was a wonderful person.”
Judy Grande was nominated for a Pulitzer in 1980 and was elected president of the NPC in 1990, becoming the third woman to lead the organization — which only began admitting women in 1971.
After leaving the Plain Dealer, she published the “Guide to Women Physicians in the Washington Area” in 1993.
Kay Vose, another former colleague who counted Grande among her best friends, recalled Grande’s penchant for poking at glass ceilings. “At the time, the Press Club was very male-dominated, and Judy felt very strongly that women should have leadership positions,” Vose said. “She was outspoken, but never in a way that was off-putting.”
Vose remembers “little Ariana,” and agrees with the all-grown-up pop-stress’s assumption. “I do think Judy would be proud.”
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the proper spelling of Kay Vose’s name.