Photos | Bradford Rogne | @bradfordrogne
Fashion + Creative Director | AllanTroy | @allantroy_
Hair | Cesar Ramirez | @cesar4stylez
Makeup | Rebekah Aladdin | @rebekahaladdin
Retouching | Felipe Menezes | @menezesdigital
Art Direction | Tony Todd | @xtonytodd
From X Factor to the top of the billboard charts as a member of the girl group, Fifth Harmony, Normani Kordei is officially on fire. We sit down with Normani to catch up on everything from Camila’s exit, the VMA’s split seen round the world, and even her new solo deal.
Kode | You and the ladies of Fifth Harmony released new single “Down” back in June, and your latest album in late August. What was your personal favorite or highlight from the full album and the era itself?
I would say my most significant highlight from this era would definitely have to be the four of us being able to have freedom for first time as artists and musicians. In all reality we are a group that was manufactured from The X-Factor, so people automatically expect us to play by the rules and do what we are told, which we did for a long time – but we got tired of going through the motions and getting on stage performing songs that we didn’t fully believe in. This time around we took initiative to grab hold of our business as business women. We’re so much happier. We wake up every day motivated, inspired, and excited. We are heavily involved—more than ever before. We co-wrote more than half of our self-titled album, and the records that we did not write, we still had a great influence on. It’s a body of work that people can definitely hear is truly from our hearts. We have fallen in love with music all over again.
Kode | Fifth really seems to shine when they are accompanied by a Hip Hop artist, as some of you ladies’ highest charting singles have featured guests; and you’ve recently worked with Gucci Mane for your single “Down”. Anyone you would like to collaborate with?
I would definitely like to collaborate with SZA. I think that she’s such a unique artist and one that is important for this time in music. She came in and completely changed the game and direction in which music is taking. I think that she is really important for the culture and I would love to be a part of something like that… AND she’s the sweetest human being ever and were really great friends. The week that CTRL was released, I had it on repeat. “Broken Clocks” is my favorite record.
Kode | How would you describe the the Fifth Harmony aesthetic and what do you believe each girl contributes to the group?
I think the Fifth Harmony aesthetic and who we truly are as individuals are four strong, individual, independent women that love music and love people. We never take the opportunity and platform that we have for granted and being able to shine light in other people gives everything that we do meaning. We’re really about women empowerment and self-love, and it’s amazing because we have so many fans that trust us with their stories. For me personally I struggle with letting people in which makes me appreciate our fans being able to talk about their insecurities and fears. It warms my heart and puts a smile on my face knowing I can be that light or that outlet. We hope to be remembered by our legacy. It’s an incredible honor being the biggest girl group in this decade but an even greater honor to make a difference through our music.
Kode | Fifth Harmony is the biggest girl group stateside currently. What advice do you have for future girl groups?
For future girl groups out there, I would say: Know your worth. It all starts with you as an individual. Before you are able to confidently step out amongst talented striving artists, you have to be happy with yourself. It’s human nature to compare yourself to the next person, which we have all experienced. But through that we recognized that everyone has something special to bring to the table. If you believe in the skin that you’re in and also recognize that other people can shine, you are on the right path. Take time to focus on the qualities that make you feel good about yourself and know that nobody has the power to take that away…AND communication is key – we learned that the hard way, haha…
Kode | Any girl group influences you look to stateside or international?
I really looked up to Destiny’s Child growing up as an African American young girl having someone that represented me, the color of my skin, and my culture (which is something I’m very proud of). Self-identity is important for anyone so the fact that I was able to watch music videos, awards shows, and look in a magazines and see women that looked like me made me feel I could do the same thing. Its artists like Destiny’s Child that have helped pave the way for girl groups like Fifth Harmony. They mean so much to me personally and will forever be my favorite girl group.
Kode | Fifth Harmony had 2 of the most talked about moments at this years VMA’s. One, the obvious hint at your former band member Camila Cabello’s exit from the group. How did that viral moment come into fruition?
The four of us have been through so much together. We’ve been eachothers’ strength thorough absolutely everything and we feel like we’ve finally come into what it is that we were supposed to be all along. We are Fifth Harmony and we wanted to make that known to the rest of the world. We’re in an amazing place, and at the end of the day it’s about happiness and being able to go to sleep at night. We love what we’re doing and were continuously inspired by one another.
Kode | The second epic VMA moment had to be your now iconic split during the performance. Was that rehearsed or improvised at all?
Honestly, I would have to give the credit to my choreographer Sean Bankhead. He pushes me to the fullest of my capacity, and inspires me to think outside of the box and never limit myself. He said, “For your verse I was gonna have you do a split,” and I was like “What? I have to sing and bust a split?!” I wasn’t sure if I was gonna do it, but when it came time for the live show I went for it! There’s no better place to “go for it” than the VMAs stage. I remember watching the VMAs for the iconic moments like Beyonce’s baby announcement and Lady Gaga wearing a meat dress. This awards show is different than any other.
People were coming up to me weeks later telling me how iconic it was and all I could do is laugh about it. I remember this guy coming up to me and telling me it was iconic and I laughed and his reply was “You’re laughing but it goes down in history as an iconic moment.” I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but apparently it was! Haha…
Kode | You recently competed in the 24th season of Dancing with the stars, what was that experience like and what would you say you took from it most?
Honestly I got everything I wanted out of the show. The first thing that my amazing partner Val Chmerkovskiy asked me was what my expectations were and what I wanted to accomplish and all I said was, “I want to grow,” and I feel that’s exactly what I did in so many ways more than imaginable. Being able to see my family in the audience having fun and having something to look forward to each week was a highlight. It was so rewarding for me to see the smile on their faces, especially for my grandma, who is a huge fan and was able to be a part of one of the dance pieces. She went to wardrobe and everything. That was amazing. I can’t thank my partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy enough. I’ve always had a passion for dance and I feel like it’s the time to be my truest self. I learned so much about myself as a performer, creatively, and personally. For me this experience led me to my breakthrough. I could’ve never imagined the fulfillment that I would gain from a celebrity dance competition. DWTS has elevated me immensely and broadened my expectations with myself. They allowed me the creative freedom each week to become a different character to step into different worlds. This was honestly one of the best times of my life. I can’t imagine having gone through this experience with anyone else. I consider him family. I have a lifelong friend, I love you Val!
I miss it a lot – I reminisce and I watch my own videos and see if I could still do some of the choreography, haha!
Kode | You finally turned 21 this year in May, do you feel any different? What did you do to celebrate the occasion?
I finally turned 21 this year! I feel like it’s been a dream of mine since I was five! I celebrated with family and friends in New York City. On the day of my birthday we went to Beauty & Essex for dinner and then after that we went to 1 Oak Nightclub and it was all that I expected my 21st birthday to be. Every birthday I get emotional because I think back on everything I’ve been through and I’m still so young but I feel like I have years beyond my years. I don’t feel like the average 21 year old. My lifestyle is so busy that sometimes I forget to stop and reflect. I have to remind myself to be present… Dinah bought me my first bottle of champagne now that I’m FINALLY LEGAL!!!
Kode | Did you happen to celebrate with any certain significant other? There must be a special man in your life?
No … just no.
Kode | You and all the ladies of Fifth Harmony have truly come so far in your journey as artists. What do you feel you’ve learned most from that journey?
(sigh) It’s kind of a whirlwind. I think I’ve learned to trust myself in absolutely any situation I’m put in – because a lot of the time people react and make decisions based off of circumstance they’re in and I’ve been thru a lot good and bad but I’m grateful for all of it and I’m really proud of myself. I guess it’s like me witnessing myself flourish from the outside perspective – like an out-of-body experience. I would’ve never imagined that I’d be in this position, to be on stage in front of thousands of people a night, being able to inspire them the way that my inspirations did. The woman that I have become is a reflection of the women that I am around. I love my girls with all my heart. They’ve allowed me the space to grow and have been there for me in times of hardship. Our bond is one that isn’t easily understood. Only we know our truth and are able to be there for each other in some of the toughest times. It’s always been us against the world and I think it’s proven more now than ever before.
Kode |It’s unfortunate, all the tragic events that have taken place recently, with the political climate and tragic events that take place, such as hurricanes and shootings, how are you using your platform to make a difference?
The official Fifth Harmony Instagram posted in honor to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. How connected are you to your fans? What do you do to connect with them on a more personal level?
I’m using my platform by speaking out. I feel as a public figure and someone that has an influence on millions and how they think and handle certain situations and act towards another human being, it is my responsibility to do so. I’m grateful and blessed to be able to have my opinions and thoughts on what’s going on and able to speak out about it whether people agree or not. It’s important to make it a conversation and not sleep but being awake and realizing the reality of what our world. Climate change is real. Racism is real. The violence is real. All of these things do exist. We have to know that we have power through our words and through a simple act of kindness that can change someone else’s life or be the difference between if they are here or not.
Devastations like the Las Vegas shooting really did hurt my heart. Nothing can prepare us for devastations as great as the these. I think what the world is in need of is fearless individuals to speak up on these matters like gun violence and that’s just what we do – which is something that we use our platform to do.
I connect with my fans on a very personal level. We all go as a group. I think that it’s been like that since the beginning, that’s just how we work. We consider our fans family—they are the reason our dreams have come true, and the reason we’re able to pursue what we love every day. We don’t take that for granted, we know there are so many we still haven’t been able to meet. Social media is an incredible tool if used properly.
Through tragic events we have to recognize that the only this we have is each other and we need to be unified in order to survive. At end of the day were still in this together point blank, period.
The families of those who lost their lives are in my prayers.
Kode | Of all your musical influences – Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and Janet Jackson, who would you want to collaborate with first?
Honestly I can’t even choose because I feel like collaborating with any of them would be such a privilege especially because they influence me in different ways. Choosing one artist would be like me neglecting another part of myself…so I would love to collaborate with all of them, they’re amazing and they’ve changed music for the better. Being a woman who is all about girl power and feminism, I would love to collaborate with one of the ladies first.
Kode | Last year you released a cover of Solange’s “Crane’s in the Sky” Any plans for a solo endeavor anytime soon? If you branch out for a solo album, what path would you like to take in terms of musical genre and style?
I think the beauty of art is not having to restrict yourself and music is not meant to put artists in a box and make them feel that they have to choose a musical genre. For me, music for the last five years has been an evolution and it will continue to be as I hone into what it is that I hope to create. I have recently been in the studio and it’s been such a spiritual experience, it is like a playground for any artist.
As for A Seat at the Table, I may say that this woman is one of my ultimate favorite artists and she is a true innovator. This is a monumental time in her career, she is the truest version of herself and she is not afraid to share that with the rest of the world. Her music has done so much for me personally. I aspire to have the freedom that shines through her and not make it anyone else’s choice but my own. I witnessed her in concert for the first time at the Hollywood Bowl and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Yara Shahidi is like my little sister and I was over the moon when she invited me to attend with her. An ordinary Sunday turned into one of the most memorable and impactful moments. Solange walked through the aisle and was literally a foot away from us. We froze, which doesn’t typically happen us. She is a super nova.
Kode | Any thoughts of jumping into acting a little more in the future?
Being a leading lady in film is a challenge that I would love to take on. I have always visualized myself on the big screen any time I went to the movie theater. It has played a very important role in my life and has been my escape many times before. Because there is such a wide range of creativity, I feel like it can be like a best friend or shoulder to cry on when you need it, but it can also be an educational tool that keeps you consciously aware or brings up a conversation regarding social issues that need to be talked about. Sometimes it’s as simple as bringing up the conversation that makes the greatest works of art.
This is something that I have wanted to be involved in ever since I was a little girl. I look forward to immersing myself in it. I would love to find myself at the intersection of music, dance, and film. I have dreamt of this my whole life.
I’ve been following Oprah for many years now and I would love to work with her. Just throwing that out there, haha!
Kode | Where do you see your career in in five years? Any plans?
Well considering I’m only 21, in five years I’m only going to be 26, lol. By then I hope to achieve many of my aspirations while still being a work in progress and continuously growing and learning. I have a lot more career ahead of me! I want to be making music that I’m proud of that is timeless, to have a lot of amazing records, and influence music, film, fashion, and this generation and those to come. I want to be working towards my own empire.
Kode | Rumor has it that you and Khalid have been wanting to do some sort of collaboration? Can you share any info on that, any sneak peaks or collabs to look forward to?
Yes, OMG this question makes me so happy! Khalid and I have been wanting to work together for some time. We actually got into the studio and were excited about a record we wrote together along with Taylor Parks. It was all one huge vibe session. We wanted to create something that our peers would fall in love with. I remember him telling me “I want this to be my favorite record, if I were listening, I want it to be something I vibe with that’s just dope,” which is something I relate to because I listen to our song every day. Issa vibe. But the greatest part of it all is that were genuinely two friends that created something special that were so proud of. We’re in two different countries on tour but we still text each other sometimes like, “but that record though…” Haha. We’re so excited!
Kode | We saw you this past fashion week and your outfit at the VMA’s stood out, being very fashion forward. How has your has your fashion evolved over the years? Who are your favorite designers and why? What fashion brand would you love to have a campaign with and why?
I would love to influence fashion and the culture in the near future. I have always been inspired being able to express myself through what I’m wearing. Many barriers in the fashion industry have been broken and I aspire to break even more. Rihanna is the perfect representation and example of dominating music as well as fashion. I intend to do just that. Think music meets Vogue. Such a dream of mine.
I have a few favorite designers! Dqsuared because they are edgy yet always on trend. Tom Ford because its just continuously classy and makes me feel like the woman that I am. Moschino because its playful yet fun. Reminds me not to take life so seriously. Christian Louboutin literally has a shoe for EVERY occasion and type of individual. And last but not least, Yproject definitely complements my tom-boy esthetic but doesn’t neglect my feminine side
Kode | Let’s dig a little deeper into something more personal, we know you and your family are Hurricane Katrina survivors and relocated to Houston… Hurricane Harvey has just hit Houston. Is your family doing okay? How are you coping and are you able to discuss the losses and how you deal with devastation and struggles such as these?
I’ve been through hurricane Katrina in 2005. I was 9, it wasn’t easy to process that you have to leave everything that you’ve known your whole life. It really took a toll on me.
I remember my best friend and her family. They decided to stay and ride it out, but we had to leave and it hurt me inside. I couldn’t understand and still don’t understand why these things happen. But through it all, it really did bring people together. In such a hard time, it brought the good out in people, it was cool to see neighbors healing neighbors. But my family is okay, they’re safe. A few friends got flooded and had to get out, but they’re safe at end of day. We are healthy, strong, and resilient. One thing I definitely took away having gone through this two times, is that I recognize that humans are resilient. Also, thank you to anyone that has contributed in helping the city of Houston.
Kode | What’s next for you as an artist?
As an artist I’m just having the time of my life finding myself and being in the studio figuring out what music means to me. It’s kind of like being in an amusement park, there are so many different possibilities, especially because of having the freedom, knowledge, and wisdom that I’ve taken from last five years with Fifth Harmony. It’s amazing because it’s like a new beginning within a new beginning. We were reborn and now I would be able to take away everything that I’ve learned. I’m ready to see what is next for Normani.