It seems like Normani has been on the verge for the past few years. She started out in Fifth Harmony, where she was unfortunately overlooked for a less talented sneerface with terrible bangs. As a solo artist, Normani has released an EP and like, seven singles since 2018, but her first album has been in the making for awhile. She’s a great singer and dancer and has gotten some shine in recent years. Hopefully she’ll really hit once her debut album comes out, and it sounds like that will be soon.
Normani spoke to Yahoo! Life as part of their body image series. She talked about having a positive body image and the way her upbringing played a part in that. She echoed a familiar refrain in a slightly different context: Black women have to work harder to be seen and noticed, or considered just as good.
Normani might be gearing up to release her debut album as a solo artist, but the singer and dancer continues to work with the mission of lifting other women up through her art.
At 25 years old, the Atlanta native has already been in the business for a decade after appearing on The X Factor in 2012 and becoming a part of the girl group Fifth Harmony. As she’s grown up in the spotlight, she’s worked to maintain a positive body image for herself and for the young Black women watching her.
“I constantly remind myself to be kind to myself,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Even though you can’t expect the rest of the world to do that, it’s like at the end of the day, somebody has to, so why not show up for yourself? Why not lift yourself up?”
As of late, Normani says she feels “very confident” and credits that attitude to the women that she’s been surrounded by throughout her life.
“A lot of that has to do with being raised in a household with women that I really, really looked up to. That being my grandmother, that being my mom,” she says. “And then my dad being the first man in my life that I love and him always encouraging that I was beautiful.”
The positive affirmations were an important step for Normani to appreciate her identity as a young Black girl, especially as she grew up going to a predominately white school. “It could have went a different route in how I was able to view myself,” she explains. “Not saying that I didn’t have those moments, but I’m definitely really, really grateful for their support and just the fact that they’ve always told me that I was beautiful and my chocolate skin makes me beautiful aside from what society says.”
Looking up to her parents and honoring the relationship that she has with them has also allowed her to embrace her natural beauty that she recognizes as part of them.
“I’m able to appreciate the things that give my body or my face character. I see my mom’s thighs and I see my dad’s nose and I just really, really appreciate that,” she says.
And since entering the public sphere as a teenager, Normani has worked to share that support and cultivate self-esteem among the people around her.
In celebrating women, she notes the particular obstacles facing Black women in her industry and those that paved the way.
“I feel the pressures too. Being a Black woman, just to be seen or noticed, we have to do a lot more and work 10 times as hard,” she explains. “It was so important for me to have a Janet [Jackson] and have a [Beyoncé] with curves to find my place and to also know that, ‘OK she looks like me. And she’s successful. She’s beautiful and I can do the same thing.’ Little Black me needed to see that.”
It’s great that Normani had that stability and encouragement at home to help foster her confidence and make sure she knew that she was beautiful. Growing up in a predominantly white area can mess with women of color and their perceptions of their own beauty since there’s still so much value placed on Eurocentric beauty standards. Like, when I was 14, I randomly became convinced my nose and lips were too big because no one else’s looked like mine. But now I’m like people pay money to try to replicate these with fillers and they can’t because you can’t replicate perfection. And I’m positive Normani heard some variation of “you’re pretty for a Black girl” or “you’re the prettiest Black girl” because people at high schools like that really say that messed up stuff and think it’s a compliment. But it sounds like Normani had the support at home to navigate those situations and still come out of it with a strong and realistic self-image.
Normani has talked about feeling overlooked before, both as a child and later as a member of Fifth Harmony. I kind of wonder if that last graf excerpted is a sort of subtweet of a certain former bandmate? If so, excellent shade without ever saying her name. And if not, it still sort of applies. She’s right that Black women have to work extra hard to be seen or noticed. This is true throughout just, life, but it’s very obvious in the entertainment industry as well. It’s why Normani’s less talented, somewhat forgettable former bandmate was pushed hard for a solo career and no one really questioned it and Normani’s hype came later despite her being more talented. I’m glad Normani recognizes the significances of her beauty and self-confidence and success. I’m sure many young girls see themselves in her now, just like she saw herself in Janet and Beyonce back then.