Normani wearing outfits that express her authentic aesthetic.

Normani Is Done With Other People’s Opinions Of Her Aesthetic

Haters to the left, please.

Originally Published: 
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It’s taken time for Normani to shed her Fifth Harmony skin. At 26, the “New to You” singer has been in the public eye for more than a decade, but has spent most of that time without the freedom to express herself. But now, as a grown woman and solo artist with creative control over her image, Normani’s throwback-influenced and sensuality-centered aesthetic is the only one she’s channeling. Exploring her true tastes in fashion and beauty is something the singer appreciates, given what it took to get to where she is today.

“With a manufactured girl group, there’s an idea set of what that’s going to look like, so we really didn’t have much wiggle room,” she tells Elite Daily of her 5H days. While appearing on The X Factor as a 15-year-old in 2012, she and her bandmates weren’t even allowed to wear mascara. The power that industry executives held over each member’s persona extended beyond controlling how they dressed or styled their hair. “We were really kind of told who to be,” Normani says of her and former bandmates Camila Cabello, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke, and Dinah Jane. “We wanted to write for so long and we just didn’t have the opportunity to do so.”

Adulthood and a solo career may have afforded the “Motivation” singer more freedom, but she still faces unfair expectations and double standards around self-expression. “There are pressures on women, even outside of the industry, in society in general,” she says.

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The desire to speak out against these opposing forces is part of why Normani’s partnered with TRESemmé on the Power Your Style Project, a campaign launched in September that encourages women to embrace themselves. Ahead, the singer talks taking back control of her style, her genuine aesthetic, and what she thinks of 2022’s biggest fashion and beauty trends.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Elite Daily: How much of your style has been dictated by other people throughout your career?

Normani: Starting in Fifth Harmony, we had no input. We were told who to be — musically and in fashion. Not just in terms of what we wore, even when it came to the beauty space. It was hard, especially because fashion is a way for me to express how I feel. I’m constantly evolving. I like to dress super femme and bold and then I love to wear sweats and hoodies.

I might as well be true to my most authentic self and be expressive and bold.

ED: Were there appearances or performances that stick out to you as times when you were true to yourself and were criticized for it?

N: The “Wild Side” music video, specifically the scene with Cardi B, where we were on the platform in the water and we were naked. I have always felt really comfortable in my own skin. I feel like my divine femininity deserves to be celebrated. I guess other people aren’t comfortable or have their own opinions and decided to try to turn that into something negative.

ED: How have you handled that experience?

N: In the moment, I got frustrated, but at the end of the day, I recognized that I can’t please everybody. Somebody’s always going to find something wrong with anything that I do, even if it’s the most positive thing. Even on social media, I mind my own business and someone is always going to have something to say. I might as well be true to my most authentic self and be expressive and bold.

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ED: What’s the difference between your true self and who you’ve been forced to present as?

N: I’m a woman now. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, since I was 15. The transition from a young woman to a grown woman has always been hard for the public. There are examples, Britney [Spears] being one.

When you come into the industry at such a young age, it gives everybody an opportunity to form opinions or dictate who you are. That was something I had to actively be aware of because it’s really easy to allow everybody else’s perception to become the way you view yourself. I actively try to go against that and it’s hard.

ED: I’m curious to hear how being sexualized as a young woman affected your mental health.

N: I think it brings shame. I remember there was one music video that we were all really upset about, “Work From Home.” We got slut-shamed. Especially at the time, there was and is such a double standard between guys and women being able to be expressive and say certain things in records. We apparently aren’t allowed to, which is why I’m so proud of where women are musically today, being able to say what we want. We also deserve to have a voice. Being sexualized stunts your ability to tap into all your divine femininity, especially at a young age. It’s something that should be celebrated as opposed to making us feel shameful.

ED: It’s a personal experience and having it put in the public eye…

N: Exactly. I think what makes it incredibly tough is the fact that we were discovering ourselves in front of the rest of the world and then being ridiculed for it.

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ED: So what is your authentic aesthetic now?

N: As of now — musically, aesthetically, visually — I’m really into nostalgia, whether that’s early ’00s or educating myself on different eras. Late ’90s, early ’00s, that’s pretty much my style. I can be as bold as I want to be, but I can also, at times, be minimal. I just love celebrating sexiness, and that doesn’t even have to be in cutouts all the time. Just the overall energy or essence. That’s what I typically feel the most comfortable in.

Fashion and beauty should literally celebrate everybody. It should be inclusive. ... Everybody should be able to identify and see themselves.

ED: That’s such a good vibe. What beauty trends do you feel genuinely drawn to?

N: Well, authentic in terms of what I wear day to day would definitely be earth tones. I love browns and bronzy, dewy skin, no-makeup makeup. For my hair, I currently have braids in right now. It’s the most healthy, protective style for me. I love braids, but it’s constantly changing.

ED: Speaking of protecting and caring for your natural hair, I am curious how, as a Black woman, you feel about beauty trends, like the “clean girl” aesthetic, embracing elements of Black culture while still rejecting Blackness.

N: We really influence and inspire a lot without being credited for it within beauty, fashion, music — across the board. Black culture is literally integrated into everything you see. We are the culture. I think it’s beautiful when it’s celebrated and acknowledged; when someone takes the time to understand where braids come from, the history, and gives credit as opposed to trying to make it seem like it’s a newfound thing. I think that’s probably why a lot of the culture ends up feeling a little bit sensitive.

ED: Let’s do a rapid-fire round of fashion and beauty trends. What are your thoughts on... giant platform boots?

N: Love them. I always wished I was taller. I wanted to be a runway model when I was younger and my mom was like, “Sorry, kid,” but the times have changed, so I don’t know. Still in my cards.

ED: How about really, really oversized outerwear, like giant trench coats?

N: Oh, I love a good oversized hoodie, but a trench coat… I don’t want to say no and I don’t want to say yes. I like oversized sweats and hoodies and shirts and baggy pants, but a trench coat is a bit stiff. I don’t know what that’s giving in terms of my body and the way that I like my silhouette to be.

ED: It’s so great to hear you talk, not making your body conform to the trends, but whether or not the trends are good enough for your body.

N: That’s how it should be. I feel like fashion and beauty should literally celebrate everybody. It should be inclusive and everybody should be able to, which is why I’m so blown away by everything that Rih [Rihanna]’s doing in the beauty space and how included she’s made everybody feel. Everybody should be able to identify and see themselves.

ED: Moving into beauty trends: bleached brows?

N: I’ve been seeing that a lot lately. Bella [Hadid] has hers bleached and it looks really cool. I’m here for it. I don’t know if I’ll be ready to try that myself, but I love it on the girls that are living on the edge.

ED: How about shaved brows?

N: Doja [Cat] sold me. I’m here for it.

ED: You mentioned no-makeup makeup. Why do you love it?

N: I love no-makeup makeup because, the majority of the time, I’m in a beat face and I do love a good beat face, but it’s so empowering to go out and have no makeup or no-makeup makeup on. I just feel the most myself in no-makeup makeup.

ED: We should all just do what makes us feel good. That’s the whole point.

N: Exactly. A full beatdown, I support that. Sometimes I want to be that girl, but I feel like you can be that girl either way.

ED: Pumpkin spice hair and makeup?

N: Oh, I love it. Actually, my last hair color was kind of along the lines of that. I think it was more of a pumpkin cinnamon vibe, but yeah, I loved that hair color.

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ED: Is there anything else that you want to add about your journey to finding yourself and embracing your personal style?

N: It’s an evolution. Just allow yourself to be creative and expressive in spite of what people are trying to paint you out to be. There’s really no right or wrong.

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