Frankie Grande is contentedly sober, but two and a half years ago, after his controversial appearance as seemingly the token villain on Celebrity Big Brother, he was “very deep” in his addiction. It was an international but also extremely personal tragedy — the Manchester Arena terrorist attack at his younger sister Ariana’s concert on May 22, 2017 — that served as his jolting wakeup call and led him to finally seek help.
“On Big Brother I was sober the whole time, because I had already had a taste of understanding that when I drink I turn into a different person. So I already knew that was a bad situation,” Frankie tells Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume. “I was sober for the entire time I was on Big Brother — all four months, cold turkey, no help at all. The crazy happened afterwards; I made up for all of my time not drinking with all of my time drinking after Big Brother. That was the beginning of the end.”
Frankie, who is openly gay, explains that he was unprepared for all the “social media hate” that flooded his mentions after his appearance on the reality show. “Things like that, I'd never seen before. All of a sudden I was like, ‘Whoa, people are calling me a f***ot on Instagram. This is horrible!’ I was never bullied in high school, ever; I missed the whole bullying thing, which was wonderful — until I had to deal with it as a fully grown adult. And guess how I handled it? Badly. As I believe most people probably would. So, I started going down this hole of pills and alcohol. And then the Manchester bombing happened.”
Frankie, who is 10 years older than Ariana, had always been there for his little sister, but due to his state of mind in May 2017, he was no position to help. “That was a time when my family needed me most, and it was the time when I was the most checked-out. And I knew in that moment when everyone was having like their ‘war room’ meeting about ‘What are we going to do?’ — no one was looking to me. And I was always the problem-solver, always. It was always like, ‘Well, let's ask Frankie.’ We'd survived some crazy tragedies in my family prior to that, and I was always the one that helped, the one that fixed, the one that everyone turned to. And in that moment, no one asked me anything. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I'm part of the problem’ — in the time when I need to be part of the solution.
“And that's when I asked for help,” Frankie continues. “I turned right to my sister in that moment and I said, ‘I need help.’ And she said, ‘OK, cool,’ and she helped me get into the detox facility that I went to. And I've been sober ever since.”
Now, his desire to be there for his family, friends, and new boyfriend, actor Hale Leon, is keeping Frankie on track. “You're supposed to stay sober for yourself, and that's well and good because you should, but also it is also fine to stay sober to help the people around you,” says Frankie, who practices Kabbalah (he took up the faith after being inspired by Madonna’s Ray of Light album at age 13). “In Kabbalah, we learned that you draw upon the light source in order to give it to another person. That's the pure form of how you are supposed to be spiritual on this planet. You don't pray for yourself — you pray to have the strength to help another person, and that is the way that you keep the energy flowing. When you draw upon the light only for self, the Kabbalah calls it ‘evil.’ But when you pray… in order to help another person, that's how you're supposed to do it. And that's how I do it.”
Frankie’s positive mindset comes through in his upbeat new anthem, “I Got Me” — but ironically, the song was written before he got sober, and it took all this time for him to truly connect to its lyrics. Frankie, a trained dancer and actor who is currently reprising his Broadway role of Franz in a new Los Angeles production of Rock of Ages, collaborated on the single — “which is very much about inner strength and self-confidence and being able to stand on your own two feet” — with Broadway songwriter Jeremy Schonfeld three years ago, hoping that the song’s prophecy could one day come true.
“[Schonfeld] sat me down and wanted to know what it was that made me tick, like what the story and the message was behind the song. And I fed him some really great bulls*** at the time,” Frankie chuckles. “I was at a place in my life where I was kind of floundering. …I was really wanting to sing about something that I didn't currently believe in myself. So, looking back on it, it was kind of a prayer for what I wanted my life to actually look like. I wasn't sober yet. I didn't have this self-confidence. …I was codependent, enmeshed with the people around me. I didn't stand on my own two feet. I was people-pleasing myself into a hole, into an abyss. …So I recorded this song, and then I shelved it. I was like, ‘This is not genuine.’”
Now “I Got Me” is finally out, and Frankie can genuinely connect with every word. It even serves as the theme for the new Twitch gaming channel that he runs with Leon. “When we decided to launch our Twitch channel, I was like, ‘I wish I had like a theme song like Jordan Fisher’s.’ … And then I thought, ‘Oh my God, I already recorded a song like that!’ And then I listened to [“I Got Me”] and I started crying, because I was like, ‘I believe this now. It finally resonates true to me. It's time. We're releasing it. We're putting it out now.’”
Nowadays, the newly confident Frankie can stand on his own, but he still prays for others – even for the social media trolls who still sometime spam him with hate. “I always try to think what's going on in their life that makes them so angry and so miserable, and I find that the compassion in myself to pray for those people, instead of engaging directly,” he says. “And also then I'll usually tweet something publicly inspirational in response to hate. Like, I just tweeted something the other day because I heard so much complaining around me. … I took to Twitter and I was like, ‘Guys, I just would like everyone to write down three things that they're grateful for right now. Like, are you reading this on a mobile device? Cool. Then you should be grateful that you have one. Is there a roof over your head right now? Great. Then you should be grateful for that. Did you eat today? Amazing. Let's start our day with some gratitude.’
“And that's how I deal with hate or negativity in my life: I try to kill it with positivity and love.”
The above interview is taken from Frankie Grande’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.” Audio of this conversation is available on demand via the SiriusXM app.
Tonight on #VolumeWest -- @lyndseyparker sits down with @FrankieJGrande to discuss @RockOfAgesHwood, his new single #IGotMe, wanting to perform in a @U2 jukebox musical, and so much more! Listen live starting at 8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST or anytime on-demand via the @SIRIUSXM app! pic.twitter.com/3uVYxzHPmA— SiriusXM VOLUME (@siriusxmvolume) January 3, 2020
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