Three months ago, Christina Grimmie hunched over a table in New York's Irving Plaza, where she had opened for Rachel Platten two nights in a row. The concert was over, and fans with confetti in their hair and adrenaline from the show still in high gear, lined the merch tables for their chance at meeting Grimmie. I was talking to a friend, who anxiously waited for me to stop blabbing so she could go join the line. I looked over, watching as Christina's giant grin never faltered. Meeting with fans didn't seem like an obligation; it was her livelihood.
It was the same setting when Grimmie was fatally shot during a meet-and-greet in Orlando on Friday night, and I can't help but think she was flashing that radiant smile then too. She was 22.
Grimmie was on her grind. As an indie artist, she made everything happen for herself, and her fans respected her because of it. Without a label, she had just released her second EP, Side A, in March. She was constantly touring. She recorded YouTube videos often. She tweeted at fans. She. Never. Stopped.
And Christina Grimmie was just getting started. Even though she had built up a fanbase on YouTube since 2009 (when she was just 15), she was climbing higher...and her admirers were following her there. She covered Hannah Montana first, then gained recognition for her version of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." To date, the lo-fi, stripped down video has 12.5 million views:
Her cover of Lil Wayne's "How to Love" landed her a spot on Ellen Degeneres' show in 2011:
Up next? An album. Grimmie released With Love, a retro-inspired, upbeat ode to the ups and down of romance, in 2013:
Since she started with Hannah Montana, it was only appropriate that she took Miley's music to her blind audition on The Voice in 2014:
Grimmie came in third on the singing competition, but that didn't mean it was easy coasting from there. Coach Adam Levine offered to sign her, as did Lil Wayne, but she signed —and was then dropped by—Island. So she decided to release music on her own, gifting us with Side A in March. She had plans to release a Side B in the future.
On top of writing her own music, Grimmie still floated fans a few more covers along the way. "Elastic Heart" by Sia is a favorite. In the video, she enthusiastically promotes a contest to perform with Top 40 stars at the iHeartRadio Music Festival. Needless to say, she won.
Paying tribute to other artists was Grimmie's bread and butter, but in the days since her death, musicians are honoring her. Artists like Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, Fifth Harmony and mentor Selena Gomez (whose stepfather managed Grimmie) have dedicated songs to the late singer.
In the video above, you can see Grimmie's spunky smile, the one that she was rarely seen without. That spirit will always live on through her music. And we'll remember.