It's been nearly a year since Mac Miller's tragic death, but his spirit continues to live on through his fans, friends, and family. And while the sting of losing someone so young and talented might dull over time, it never goes away entirely. Ariana Grande's memories of Miller from Coachella, as the pop star recently shared with Vogue, are proof of just that. Despite the fact that Grande headlined the festival for the first time this year, she still primarily associates the event with Miller — so much so, that it made the whole experience feel kind of confusing.
Grande and Miller first formed a connection back in 2012, and quickly became friends and collaborators. Their relationship took a romantic turn sometime around September 2016, and they'd go on to date for almost two years. While they were together, Miller made his on-stage debut at Coachella in April 2017. That marked the first time that Grande had ever attended the event at all. She told Vogue that she didn't really think it was her thing — but then quickly changed her mind.
"I never thought I’d even go to Coachella," Grande told the outlet during an interview for their August issue. "I was always a person who never went to festivals and never went out and had fun like that. But the first time I went was to see Malcolm [Miller] perform, and it was such an incredible experience."
The following year, Grande and Miller attended Coachella together yet again. This time around, Grande surprised fans by taking the stage to debut her track, "No Tears Left To Cry," during Kygo's performance. It was her first new song since the 2017 Manchester bombing, which undoubtedly made the whole experience that much more emotional.
"I went the second year as well," Grande told Vogue of her and Miller's second round at Coachella, "and I associate ... heavily ... it was just kind of a mindf*ck, processing how much has happened in such a brief period."
That being said, it's easy to see why Grande decided to pay tribute to Miller during her headlining slot at the festival in April of this year. After the singer was joined on-stage by *NSYNC — well, *NSYNC sans Justin Timberlake — for a performance of their smash 1997 hit, "Tearin' Up My Heart," Grande posed backstage with the group for a pic.
In the photo, Grande donned a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey — a subtle nod to Miller's favorite football team. The rapper was a native of the Pennsylvania city, and one of the franchise's biggest fans. He was such a huge fan, in fact, that after he passed, the team paid tribute to him with a sweet post on their official Twitter page.
Grande and Miller clearly had a profound connection, so it's no surprise that she's still mourning his loss. Her conflicting feelings about Coachella aren't really a surprise either, though — it's totally normal to associate people, places, and things with an ex, even long after you've broken up. At least her memories with Miller at the festival were positive, though, so she can always hold those close to her heart.