Ariana Grande Reflects On Her Journey From Teen Star to Pop Princess

"For a long time I was attached to a character that was nothing like myself," Grande tells PEOPLE

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

While other 21-year-olds might go clubbing on their nights off, Ariana Grande is more likely to be sitting with sand between her toes.

“I love going to the beach really late at night,” she says.

“That is how I make sure I don’t explode.”

Ironic, because that’s exactly what’s happening to this petite girl from Boca Raton, Florida, who has a chart-topping single in “Problem” and will drop her second album, My Everything, on August 25.

Grande hasn’t followed the traditional path to pop stardom.

After a couple of years on the stage, including a role in the Broadway musical 13, she nabbed the part that would define her to a generation: the sweet, quirky (and slightly ditzy) sidekick Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon hit Victorious.

“It was a blessing and one of my childhood dreams come true,” she says.

After Victorious wrapped in 2013, Grande landed her own spinoff, Sam & Cat.

“For a long time I was attached to a character that was nothing like myself,” she says. “It was a little frustrating.”

That dissatisfaction was short-lived when the series was canceled in July after one season.

In the meantime, Grande’s music career was skyrocketing.

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