Model Diaries: In Harmony with Normani Kordei
Normani Kordei Hamilton is one of five members in the girl group sensation known as Fifth Harmony. The group was formed on the second season of The X Factor in 2012, and the group’s current hit “Work From Home” is their first to reach the number one slot on Top 40 radio’s airplay charts. While Normani herself was born in Atlanta, she lived in New Orleans as a child and then moved with her family to Texas after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area she called home. At just 20 years old, she has nearly two million followers on Instagram of her own and has spoken about wanting to pursue a solo career one day.
Interviewed by Stephanie Wu
Photographed by Dorit Thies
Creative Direction & Styled by
Amy Lizabeth Astar
Hair by Tiffany Daugherty
Makeup by Ernesto Casillas
How did you start your singing career?
I actually started singing at the age of three. I remember the first time I asked my parents to put me in vocal lessons, which was when I was three years old after I saw the musical Annie. I told my mom, “I want to be on TV like that, just like her!” My parents have always believed in me and, everything that I’ve said I wanted to do, they have made sure that it happened. So they arranged for my audition for the X-factor USA. We got eliminated, the five of us, and then they brought us back together as a group! And we became Fifth Harmony and have been pursuing our careers together for about four years now.
Congratulations on your latest album. Do you have a favorite song on this album?
My favorite song from this album… I have so many favorites! I think that honestly, just this body of work in general means more to us than the first time around because we actually had creativity and we were actually more hands on and involved through this process. We got the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible songwriters and producers, so it’s basically like our baby. If I had to chose it would have to be, “Know It.”
How would you describe your personal music style?
I grew up listening to nothing but 90’s R&B music, so I love Monica, TLC, Brandy, Alicia Keys, and Destiny’s Child. I always say I think I was born in the wrong generation, because I wish I was an adult during that time. I really love 90’s music. I am also inspired by Jhené Aiko, so R&B and soul is my personal music style.
Can you talk about the most memorable encounter you’ve had with a fan? Maybe the weirdest/nicest thing a fan has done for you.
There was one fan in New York City as we were coming from the Today Show. We were driving to the airport because we we’re going to our next event. This fan, I kid you not, ran from the Today Show to the airport. I don’t know howhe did it, but we would be at a stop light and he would actually continue running so that when we started driving we would be aligned. It was crazy. I thought he was in track or something. I told him he should go to the Olympics.
How do you find a balance between being a young growing individual and being a role model to your younger fans?
I definitely think that because I started this industry so young, I was actually fifteen for my first audition, I was really always trying to find myself. I think that’s really the age that you kind of establish who you want to be and what you want to do. But it has definitely been a process, especially having to grow up in the public eye. It is pretty tough. I think that a lot of the people on the outside don’t really necessarily understand all that we really do and go through. It’s blood, sweat, and tears. And constantly getting ridiculed by people that don’t even really know you can be tough and really take a toll on you. I think that it’s just sticking and staying true to who it is you know that you are. That’s all you can really do. I really do consider us as role models as well. I see my little cousin who looks up to me. She is constantly looking at my “Work From Home” video and my “Worth It” video as well. Just seeing in her eyes that I give her some source of hope that she can one day be whatever she wants to be is such a reward for me.
How would you describe the dynamic within the group?
The dynamic within the group is very interesting because we’re so different and we didn’t even know each other. But I think it is very cool for five women to be able to come together and live out their dreams. I think that it just says a lot about how powerful women really are. I think that a lot of the time people in society kind of try to pit women against each other, but I think we are so powerful when we have one voice. And I think that we’re all very aware of what that end goal is. I love my girls and I love our journey. We’ve been through so much together, so we really know each other. We’re each other’s closest friends.
What is your workout regime?
Well, considering my busy schedule, I never really get the opportunity to physically get in the gym. I would say my workout regime would be every night on stage performing hour long sets. That can be pretty tiring. After I get off stage, I honestly feel like I was at the gym for a good hour, so that kind of makes up for it!
How would you describe your style and where do you get your inspiration?
My style is definitely very sophisticated. I love to step out of the box. I like to do things that people aren’t doing at the time and I like to kind of create my own trends. I love everything high fashion. I’m really inspired by Ciara. I think she’s just gorgeous and constantly reinventing herself and trying new things. She can be whoever she wants to be depending on how she feels. I love Rihanna, I think that that’s kind of a given, and also Sarah Jessica Parker is one of my favorites. I think that she is such a chameleon when it comes to style, which is kind of how I like to describe myself as well. I can’t stick to just one thing. I have to constantly change or else I actually kind of freak out!
Tell us about your past with gymnastics. Do you still have time to do it, when did you start, and has that work ethic helped with your drive as an artist?
I started gymnastics at the age of four. I got enrolled because I could not keep still. I would always be jumping off the bed or flipping in my grandma’s kitchen. So my parents were like “We need to put this kid in gymnastics.” Honestly, I think that it really shaped me into being the hard worker that I am today. You have to be very dedicated, you have to be disciplined. Discipline is the number one thing. I remember coming from school and then literally eating dinner on my way to gymnastics from four to nine pm at night. And then having to wake up for school and having to do the same thing over again. I think it was just something that I really loved. And physically it has stuck with me. I like to eat a lot too, but it kind of just bounces off. I guess because of the work I did before.
What advice would you give kids today that look up to you as inspiration?
My advice would be to never compare yourself to anybody else. And stay true to yourself. Love yourself fully and just remember there’s only one you and you can do anything that you put your mind to. And don’t be the person that you think society expects you to be. Just be yourself and love yourself.
Have you taken any professional dancing lessons? What is your favorite style of dance?
I have been dancing since I was three years old and I would take tap and ballet. I was a competitive dancer as well, so I traveled a lot with that. I think that that’s also why I’m so used to traveling all the time, but it was awesome. I loved my dance team, I miss them so much. But they’re all in college now, so when I go back home nobody is there. I love dance. It’s one of my passions and I think it’s a way that I express myself, because I am really shy in person. Just having a conversation, I’m a different person than when I’m on stage dancing and speaking to you right now. My favorite style would have to be between jazz and contemporary.
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I sleep! I love to eat. I love to eat a lot actually. There’s this place called Hot and Juicy. I love seafood, so my mom and I actually go there and eat a lot, and stuff our faces. I like to go to the movies and that’s pretty much it. Any second I can possibly get, I like to rest.
What is your favorite thing to buy when you go shopping? (makeup, clothes, etc.)
I’m a shoe girl – I would rather buy shoes! I like to buy shoes before I even buy an outfit, which doesn’t really make sense. But I have a shoe problem. I love, love, love shoes.
What is your favorite song at the moment?
Dang that’s hard! I think my favorite song at the moment would have to be…oh, there’s so much good music right now! Honestly, I think I hate to say this, but “Flex” by Fifth Harmony. I hope that doesn’t sound bad, but like that is my jam! If it was any other artist, I would probably be jamming out to it just as much. It’s just such a groove, its island-y, feel good vibe. I think collectively that’s my favorite song.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration would have to be my family, just because they taught me to be strong. I’ve been through so much especially coming from New Orleans where there was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I had to pick up. We had to move, make new friends, and I think my family was just strong for me as well because we had to start completely over again. And I think despite our struggles, or no matter what it is that we go through, they always kind of make a way for me to be able to succeed or do whatever it is I need to do to prosper. They’ve always been by my side anytime I’m down. I can call home. I can call my grandma, my dad and they’d pick up the phone and cheer me up or pray with me on the phone. And they’re really the reason I’m in this and continue to push myself. Sometimes it can get really hard, but I immediately picture them in front of me being there with me, because I know they’re there with me in spirit and I know I can keep going.
Are there any new projects you’re working on that you can talk about?
One fun fact is that we’re going to be the theme song, “That’s My Girl” from the 7/27 album, for the Fab 5 Olympics! So that is really exciting. I’m really excited because it’s like I’m in the Olympics without making it to the Olympics. And we’re going on tour! We leave for South America this Saturday! I’m super excited – it’s our 7/27 tour. We love to see our South American harmonizers. We’re also having our 7/27 tour after in the United States. It’s going to be really awesome! If you guys want to come hangout, go to livenation.com and just type in Fifth Harmony and all those dates will pop up.