The music video for Ariana Grande's latest single thank u, next is a dream come true for fans of teen movies, and is absolutely packed with cameos - both from the original movies' casts, and Grande's celebrity pals. The music video broke YouTube's record for the most number of views garnered within 24 hours of release, with 46 million views in its first day. It's little wonder, given the overwhelming nostalgia of homages to movies like Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, as well as cameos by popular YouTubers like Gabi DeMartino and Troye Sivan.
In addition to recreating the great teen movies of the early 2000s, the thank u, next video also references real-life gossip and drama. The song is a thank-you note to each of Grande's ex-boyfriends - with rapper Big Sean, comedian Pete Davidson, and footballer Ricky Alvarez all making appearances in her "Burn Book," and the late rapper Mac Miller remembered fondly as an "angel." There are also some serious deep cuts - like Troye Sivan saying he heard a rumor that Grande was dating a girl called Aubrey. This was actually the result of a misheard lyric in the song, when Grande says she's in a new and lasting relationship with Ari (i.e. herself).
That's a lot to keep up with, so we've helpfully broken down the thank u, next music video with a handy guide to all of the references and cameos we could spot in the thank u, next video.
- This Page: Mean Girls and Bring It On
- Page 2: 13 Going on 30 and Legally Blonde
Mean Girls Cameos & References
The thank u, next music video starts out with perhaps the most immediately recognizable of the four movies featured: Mean Girls, with Grande herself cast in the role of definitive mean girl Regina George. The big cameo in this segment is Jonathan Bennett, who played dreamboat Aaron Samuels in the 2004 movie. In the video's opening - a recreation of a Mean Girls montage in which high schoolers breathlessly repeat rumors they heard about Regina George - Bennett references a quote from the original movie in which Regina tells him his hair looks sexy pushed back. There's also another familiar face from the original Mean Girls in this portion of the video: Stefanie Drummond, who is perhaps most famous for her character's lament about having "a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina." Playing Stefanie's best friend is Grande's back-up dancer Scott Nicholson (in drag).
Now let's move on to Grande's posse of plastics. On the far left is someone who looks a lot like Lindsay Lohan, but it's actually Elizabeth Gillies, who co-starred with Grande in the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious. In the role of Karen Smith and Gretchen Wieners are Grande's friends Alexa Luria and Courtney Chipolone, respectively. The blond guy who gushes breathlessly about the rumors of Grande dating a woman, and later gets shoved into a locker, is Troye Sivan, a South African singer and YouTuber. Also featured in the music video's opening is another YouTuber, Gabi DeMartino, who is (rather fittingly) most well-known for her impersonations of Grande.
When the girls recreate the "Jingle Bell Rock" dance number, Kris Jenner fills in the role of Amy Poehler's overly-enthusiastic "cool mom" from the original movie, and even gets the last word in the video.
Related: 17 Crazy Secrets Behind Victorious
Bring It On References & Cameos
Next up is an homage to the 2000 film Bring It On, which originally starred Kirsten Dunst as the newly-crowned leader of an elite high school cheerleading team. In this segment, Grande plays the role of Dunst's character, Torrance Shipman, and recreates three key scenes from the movie: the "cheer-off" with rival team the East Compton Clovers; a cutesy scene in which Torrance brushes her teeth with the movie's love interest, Cliff (originally played by Jesse Bradford); and a scene in which Torrance listens to a tape Cliff made for her and dances around on her bed, wielding pom-poms.
The "cheer-off" scene once again features Chipolone and Luria as members of Torrance's cheerleading team, the Toros, and also includes the heavily pregnant YouTube star Colleen Ballinger, better known by her online persona Miranda Sings. Another of Grande's Victorious co-stars, Daniella Monet, plays another member of the Toros. The Clovers are played by Grande's back-up dancers, Nekai Johnson, Luz Remigio, and Patience Aquart, as well as her fellow musicians and thank u, next co-writers Tayla Parx and Victoria Monét.
The Bring It On portion of the video also features one more Victorious actor: Matt Bennett, who plays the role of Cliff in the tooth-brushing scene.
13 Going on 30
Grande's homage to 13 Going on 30, the 2004 movie in which Jennifer Garner played a teen who finds herself suddenly aged up, comprises the shortest amount of screen time. Here, Grande recreates a scene from towards the end of the movie, in which Garner's character tearfully watches her childhood friend and love interest, Matt (played by Mark Ruffalo), get married to someone else. The dollhouse was a gift from Matt and was sprinkled with magical wishing dust, which is what causes the magic overnight ageing and ultimately causes her to turn into a 13 year-old again.
There are no cameos here, but Grande's hair and outfit are an exact recreation of Garner's look in the movie. Garner responded to the video on social media, saying, "Every now and then something comes along that just brightens your day. @arianagrande you're adorable. Thank you, pretty girl."
Legally Blonde References & Cameos
The final movie homage introduced in the thank u, next music video is Legally Blonde, with Grande playing the role of Reese Witherspoon's character, Elle Woods. In the first recreated scene from the movie, Grande arrives at Harvard Law School wearing a hot pink outfit and accompanied by her precious pet dog, Bruiser. We also see "Elle" consulting a heavy pile of law books, having decided to take her academic career seriously rather than simply chasing after her ex-boyfriend - a particularly fitting scene for this song.
The action then moves to a salon and to some frank girl talk. Here, the music pauses for a moment and we get to enjoy another great cameo: comedic actress Jennifer Coolidge, who reprises her role as Elle's friend Paulette Bonafonté from the original movie. Once they get done talking about Grande's ex's huge... front tooth, the music returns and Grande launches into a recreation of the "bend and snap" scene from Legally Blonde. Just like in the original movie, the whole salon then joins in with their own attempts at the move that can supposedly win over any man, and a UPS guy arrives to deliver a "package" to Paulette. We also see Grande recreate a scene of Elle using an elliptical workout machine.
And as a final note, look closely at the UPS guy's shirt and you'll see it actually says "BDE". This is a reference to the recent popular term "Big D**k Energy," which was first used to describe the general aura of Grande's ex-fiance, Pete Davidson. Big D**k Energy is exactly what it sounds like.
Those are all the cameos we could find in the thank u, next music video! Let us know in the comments if there's anyone we missed.