It’s a name that’s been on the lips of many in recent months and a name that looks set to be one mouthed by the masses in 2019.
The Houston native found fame as a member of Pop outfit Fifth Harmony and is now being tipped as music’s next seismic solo star.
Armed with the momentum of Billboard smash ‘Love Lies’ (which peaked in the top 10 and remains on the Hot 100 — after 40 weeks), the 22-year-old is gearing up to release Sam Smith collaboration ‘Dancing With A Stranger’ tomorrow.
On the eve of its arrival, Normani’s sizzles a-front of Billboard magazine’s latest issue.
Yet, it’s her accompanying interview that is most compelling of all.
Doing away with the hyper-media trained answers that define many in music, the rising star offered up personal insights into her journey thus far (including the rigors of 5H), her mission as an ambassador for Black women, and her solo sound.
On Going Solo:
“This was always the goal. For [Fifth Harmony] to all be able to go out, create, pursue our own solo endeavors, which is what we had been trying to pursue since we were babies in diapers. The idea was always to be solo.”
“I’m actually capable and strong enough to do this on my own. Not as Normani in the entity of Fifth Harmony, but as someone who is a totally separate and different person: Normani.”
On Hardship & Self-Doubt While In 5H:
“So many sessions, I would cry like I’ve never cried before,” she recalls, citing one for the song “No Way” where she was the only member relegated solely to background vocals.
Moments like that exacerbated a feeling she’d had since she was one of just three black students in her predominantly white elementary school. “It was a subconscious thing,” she says. “You think, ‘Why am I the least followed in the group?’ Even if you don’t recognize that you’re paying close attention to it, it takes a toll on your confidence. You worry — is it me? Is it because I’m black? Or am I just not talented?”
“They tried to be there for me as best as they could,” says Normani of her bandmates, her voice dropping to a level so quiet it’s almost imperceptible. “But I don’t think they had the tools that they needed, because it’s not their experience. I can give them credit for trying to be there for me, but at the same time…” She trails off. “The girls don’t experience things the way I did.”
On Repping Black Women:
“There’s so much that I have to get off my chest. And there’s a responsibility I have as a Black woman — one of the very few to have the power to kill it. Even in the mainstream, there’s not many of us. Especially chocolate girls. Like, being African-American is one thing, but girls [with] my complexion” — she gestures to the back of her hand for emphasis — “it’s unheard of. It’s me, and SZA. Who else?”
On Debate About Which Member Is Doing Best:
“Honestly? I’m in such an amazing place that I don’t feed into any of that. I’m way too blessed to even allow myself to focus on that. This is my time. Just like [Cabello] had an amazing run. I am so proud of everything that she’s doing. She’s nominated for a freaking Grammy! Like, that is amazing. And all from what girl group? Fifth Harmony. Like, that shit’s fire. And I know that all of us are more than capable of doing that.” She pauses, then revises the sentiment a bit. “I’ve come to believe that I am that talented. Before, I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that.”
On Her Goals:
“I see myself performing at the Grammys, traveling the world with my family. I want to meet all my fans across the world. There’s so many places I have yet to go to. I’m like, ‘Oh, wow, I really do have fans there. People know who Normani is? I want to have the clothing line. Hopefully, I go into fragrance. I want to cross over into film and acting. That’s a victory in my mind. I want to open dance schools.”
I don’t want to come and go. I want to be the one. But through it all I want to make sure that I remember who Normani is.”
On Which Destiny’s Child Member She’d Be:
“[This question is] not fair!” she says, when I insist that no, she can’t choose both. “This is terrible.”
Beyoncé is Beyoncé, she figures, and Normani stans. She whips out her iPhone to show me two of the many fan accounts she follows, @BeySlayy and @Rumiyonce. But “I see myself in Kelly,” she counters. “She’s killing it for brown girls. She carries herself gracefully, and ‘Motivation’ — girl, that was the prime!” Finally she decides: Normani is a Kelly Rowland — not necessarily the obvious star, but a confident, formidable singer who found her brand and stuck to it.
On Watching Some Of Her Own Performances Back:
“I surprise myself in moments. I’m like, ‘Is that me?’ Like, I’m a stan. I’m a stan!”
Per the feature, Normani’s debut solo album – sessions for which have included Pharrell and Missy Elliott – is presently set for release in the second part of 2019 via RCA/Keep Cool.
Before then, she’ll be hitting the road with Ariana Grande on ‘The Sweetener Tour.’