By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. pop star Ariana Grande, hardly a household name in Britain before a suicide bomber killed 22 people at her Manchester concert in May, has emerged as a national heroine there following an emotional televised benefit performance.
In the days following Grande's sold-out show on Sunday, which raised some $3 million for a victims fund and became the UK's most-watched TV broadcast of the year, Britons have embraced the 23-year-old singer. They have called for her to be formally honored by Queen Elizabeth and the city of Manchester.
At the One Love Manchester concert, Grande hugged a weeping schoolgirl as they performed her hit "My Everything" before a crowd of 55,000 people.
The tiny performer ended the show alone on stage, singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in tears.
Her team is working to release that emotional final number as a single to raise even more money for victims, the UK's Independent newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The concert served as a catharsis for many in Manchester and all of Britain, moving British tabloid journalist Piers Morgan to write Grande a lengthy public apology for doubting her courage.
"By coming back to Manchester so soon, shrugging off the latest attack in London, standing on that stage and performing with such raw emotion and power, you showed more guts, resilience, strength of character and ‘Blitz spirit’ than every sniveling, pathetic ISIS coward put together," Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail.
Grande was herself a survivor of the May 22 bombing, still inside Manchester Arena when an explosion ripped through the lobby area following her encore. Morgan had criticized the apparently shaken singer for quickly returning home to Florida instead of staying to console victims.
But within days Grande and her team began organizing the benefit, which overcame considerable logistical and security obstacles to take place less than two weeks later. Days before the show, she turned up unannounced at a Manchester-area hospital to visit young girls wounded in the attack.
Grande carried on with Sunday's show despite the attack in London the night before in which seven people were killed. She enlisted fellow entertainers such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay and Oasis frontman and Manchester native Liam Gallagher.
Daily Telegraph columnist Victoria Lambert similarly apologized for dismissing Grande, who first gained fame on the Nickelodeon teen comedy "Victorious," as a lightweight pop star not fit to be a role model for her daughter.
"Because far from being a cliched child star, Grande has shown herself to be a perfect role model for our daughters after all," Lambert wrote.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Jill Serjeant and Jonathan Oatis)