Multi platinum-selling artist and dancer extraordinaire Normani is the ultimate entertainer. From the age of three, the Atlanta-born star was flexing her skills in gymnastics, dance competitions, and beauty pageants. Since then, she’s evolved into a super-talented 26-year-old woman who has managed to stay afloat in an industry that’s been unforgiving of her unwavering talents.
In 2012, Normani’s dream of becoming an entertainer led her to audition for the second season of X-Factor. Although she was ultimately cut from the show, she returned for another performance where she sang with four other women. The five ladies eventually became Fifth Harmony, one of the number one girl groups of that time. Normani poured her passion for singing and choreography into the group until they decided to go their separate ways in 2018. The multi-hyphenate star took that as an opportunity to explore a much deserving solo career, where she could share her gifts with the world – on her terms.
Normani’s transition into her solo career was no easy feat. The sultry songbird was met simultaneously with praise and criticism on a discouraging level. She’d release great music, but fans would say it’s too sexy or not sexy enough. She’d appear in collaboration with major artists, and trolls would argue that she’s ruining her career. In the age of the internet, it’s not uncommon to receive unsolicited criticisms, but the conflicting messages Normani receives are enough to drive anyone up the wall.
In an exclusive interview with HelloBeautiful, we discuss Normani’s strategy to dealing with double bind messages, what she does to remain encouraged, and the power of remaining authentic despite the constant criticisms.
Double bind messages is defined as receiving conflicting messages from a source. For example, “Be sexy, but not too sexy.” Normani, have these kind of messages affected your career?
I think that it has definitely had its effect on me. Not fully being able to be my authentic self, the way I would want to be. I think there’s pressure on me, so I’m subconsciously overthinking things. And I’ve been doing this for an incredibly long time. I think that me mentally at 15 is totally different than me at 26. And granted, I still have my struggles, girl. It’s a daily fight.
I would say being either too vocal or defending myself when it comes time to do so gets me ridiculed or attacked. Normally, I’m good about being the quiet, cool, calm, and collected one – which is the tone social media expects of me. But it’s like all hell breaks loose anytime I finally decide to stick up for myself.
You are insanely talented, yet your career is constantly compared to others. I feel like you’ve been chosen to do this. It’s the story of the underdog.
I feel like it is. As a Black woman in the music space, I see it all the time, even with other artists and the pressures. I know I’m guilty of being like, ‘okay, is this urban enough? Am I going to neglect the fans I’ve grown with and that have watched me since I was 15?’ But at the end of the day, my only objective is to be my authentic self. At the core, at the end of the day, I’m always going to be Black. I can be my Black self making pop records. Hell, if I want to make a country record, I could do whatever I want. And honestly, that’s what I would want for young Black Kings and Queens to see because it’s forcing the rest of the world to catch up with us, as opposed to us feeling like we have to be this one thing.
Who do you look up to, that you feel has been an underdog in their career?
I would definitely say my chocolate queen Kelly Rowland. I think that colorism is a whole other conversation, even within the Black community, but I feel like she’s capable and obviously talented. She offers so much, on top of being an amazing, gracious, poised, elegant, and beautiful person. I would definitely say that she deserves more.
You’ve partnered with TRESemmé to discuss double binding with their “Power Your Style Project.” The initiative is driven by new research from The Representation Project that reveals two-thirds of women experience double bind messages that hold back expression of their personal style & ambition. What do you hope to shift or change for women of color with this initiative?
Having confidence in walking into any space, whether in a corporate setting or whether a young Black girl or Black boy wants to rock their Afro or wear braids. Seeing on social media that kids are being sent home for that very reason is really alarming, and it’s frustrating and upsets me.
I would say stepping into who you really are, despite society telling us what beauty is. We come from royalty, right? We come from riches; we come from Kings and Queens, which is why Black is King was such a big moment. I feel like tapping in and educating ourselves will help us be rooted in who we are and help us know where we’re going.
Does being compared to other artists affect your mental health?
Absolutely. Especially creatively when you’re being told ‘you’re the next *insert any famous singer,*’ but also I take it as a compliment, and I think that’s my growth. I’ve matured because now I’m able to say, okay, I’m another Black girl that can also entertain and dance and sing, and at the end of the day, people are always going to compare. They will find the slightest reason to put two and two together, even if it doesn’t make sense. But at the end of the day, I’m me, and nobody’s going to do me like me, and I’m not going to do them like them.