Wonderland.

NORMANI

It’s her time to shine. Read the full interview with the Spring 2020 cover star now.

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland green dress

Shirt and skirt MIKHAEL KALE, shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, rings BULGARI, earrings LECIEL DESIGN

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland green dress
Shirt and skirt MIKHAEL KALE, shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, rings BULGARI, earrings LECIEL DESIGN

Taken from the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

With her debut solo album on the way, it’s Normani’s time to shine. Having spent months plotting out the foundations of a new era that’s entirely her own, she’s ready to dissolve expectations and command centre stage. Sitting down with Jennifer Lynn, she reflects on the freedom and pressures of claiming her own narrative.

Normani has just flown back to Los Angeles after an internet-breaking girls trip to Jamaica when we meet to discuss her upcoming debut solo album. A selfie of the vacation group, out there celebrating their friend Lori Harvey’s birthday, has currently racked up 1.5 million Instagram likes and counting. “I think the power in that photo is that black is beautiful,” says Normani, as we sit down to lunch in West Hollywood. “And that deserves to be celebrated. We come in all shapes and forms, our hair textures are totally different, and our complexions… I’m really proud of who I am.”

While vacation time is rare for the 23-year-old — she could only join in the fun for two days before work called — representation is something she’s constantly thinking about. Case in point: the slick, choreography- heavy video for her single “Motivation”, which drop- ped to rave reviews in August and has just shy of 81 million YouTube views at the time of writing. Filled with early 00s references, from Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” video to Ciara’s “Gimme Dat”, the Dave Meyers and Daniel Russell-directed visual opens with a young Normani Kordei Hamilton watching BET’s 106 & Park in her grandmother’s living room.

“106 & Park was our show,” says Normani of the hip- hop and R&B music video countdown, which aired in the US from 2000 until 2014. She grew up watching it in Houston, Texas, after her family relocated from New Orleans in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina. “It was such a historic moment and the representation that we needed, especially during that time, so I wanted to recreate that,” she explains. Not only does Normani succeed in reflecting on what life was like back then, but by showing her present-day self on the TV set, she sends a vital message to every young black woman watching: that they too can make it to the other side of the screen.

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland purple closeup
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white standup
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland brown

(LEFT) Bodysuit LIONNE CLOTHING, earrings GCDS, necklace KYLE CHAN
(MIDDLE) Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI
(RIGHT) Bodysuit by GCDS, corset by STELLO, tights FALKE, shoes GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI, bodysuit (underneath) MURMUR, earrings GCDS, bracelet THE ARCHIVES & SHOWROOM PRIVATE COLLECTION, watch OMEGA

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland purple closeup
Bodysuit LIONNE CLOTHING, earrings GCDS, necklace KYLE CHAN
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white standup
(MIDDLE) Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland brown
Bodysuit by GCDS, corset by STELLO, tights FALKE, shoes GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI, bodysuit (underneath) MURMUR, earrings GCDS, bracelet THE ARCHIVES & SHOWROOM PRIVATE COLLECTION, watch OMEGA

“The most important thing for me, in everything I do, is to show every brown girl out there, every young black girl, that there’s beauty and there’s power in the complexion that you have,” she explains, her voice soft, but her message clear. “There’s nothing that we can’t do. We are such beautiful creatures and, even aside from being a black female, being a woman in general is just knowing that we have so many things that we’re capable of.”

Clearly a girl’s girl, Normani lists her own early musical inspirations as Toni Braxton, Aaliyah, Ashanti, Destiny’s Child, TLC, En Vogue and Jennifer Lopez, to name but a few. Her number one? The fellow one-named queen she’s so frequently compared to: Beyoncé. While the association brings positives — like the much-Instagrammed adidas x IVY PARK press box that awaits Normani at home — with great comparison comes even greater responsibility.

“It would be vain to think that [the media] wouldn’t compare me to another African-American female who has the capabilities of singing and dancing,” says Normani, who competed in dance, gymnastics and pageants throughout her childhood. “That is the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me, because everybody knows that’s my favourite artist, hands down, of all time. But I definitely think it puts pressure on me. For sure.”

Pressure is something Normani’s been feeling a lot of since stepping into the studio to record her debut solo album, though it’s starting to ease now she’s in her groove, finding producers she vibes with and remembering just how far she’s come. “I think maybe in the beginning, if I’m being wholeheartedly honest, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to,” she admits.

“I’m the biggest overthinker naturally, so having the expectations of everybody else and them not even knowing the expectation that I have of myself… It’s easy for me to sometimes get in my own way. But I’ve been enjoying it more recently. And I’m really, really excited.”

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland yellow close-up
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland brown hip
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white outfit

(LEFT) Bodysuit, necklace, bracelets, earrings and belts MOSCHINO, shoes GUESS, ring HOUSE OF EMMANUELE
(MIDDLE) Bodysuit by GCDS, corset by STELLO, tights FALKE, shoes by GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI, bodysuit (underneath) MURMUR, earrings GCDS, bracelet THE ARCHIVES & SHOWROOM PRIVATE COLLECTION, watch OMEGA
(RIGHT) Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland yellow close-up
Bodysuit, necklace, bracelets, earrings and belts MOSCHINO, shoes GUESS, ring HOUSE OF EMMANUELE
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland brown hip
(MIDDLE) Bodysuit by GCDS, corset by STELLO, tights FALKE, shoes by GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI, bodysuit (underneath) MURMUR, earrings GCDS, bracelet THE ARCHIVES & SHOWROOM PRIVATE COLLECTION, watch OMEGA
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white outfit
Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI

While we don’t directly discuss her six years and three studio albums as part of Fifth Harmony, the X Factor US-formed girl group currently on an indefinite hiatus akin to that of One Direction, Normani nods to that period in her life when explaining her previous uncertainty and reinforced faith in herself. “Even my time being in the group, it was all in preparation for this,” she says. “There was one point that I didn’t know that I would be in this position. There were so many moments where I could have given up on myself, but God gave me the strength to see it through and I’m glad that I did, because now I’m able to create my own narrative. There are so many visions I see for myself that I now have the opportunity to make my reality.”

Normani’s new reality has involved much exploration and she credits those she’s been working with for pushing her to try new things. Among those she lists are frequent collaborators Victoria Monét and Tayla Parx, and Ariana Grande, who invited her to perform on the Sweetener World Tour for five months in 2019 and co-wrote “Motivation”. Then there’s songwriters and record producers D’Mile, Stargate, Pop & Oak and, of course, Max Martin’s camp. “A little taste of everybody,” Normani laughs. “There were so many people that I hadn’t worked with while I was in the group, so it’s been kind of like speed dating to be honest. People really don’t know that you have to find the people that understand where you’re at that season. Whoever I work with for this album may not necessarily be the people that I work with for the next album. It’s like photographs of different phases of your life.”

From producers to fellow performers, Normani has already collaborated on hit singles “Love Lies” with Khalid and “Dancing With A Stranger” with Sam Smith, the latter of whom she calls “one of the nicest, kindest, purest people that I’ve ever met.” And, exactly one week prior to our lunch, Megan Thee Stallion and Normani dropped “Diamonds”. The lead single from Birds of Prey: The Album, it comes accompanied by a video that sees Normani recreate Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” scene from the 1953 movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Unlike previous homages to Ms. Monroe by Madonna in her “Material Girl” video, Blake Lively in a Gossip Girl dream sequence and Kylie Jenner for Halloween 2019, Normani opted for less blonde and more diamonds — right down to her first set of grills.

“I was supposed to wear my top and my bottom, but I ended up just wearing the bottom because I’m not used to it and I felt it made my mouth shape different,” she explains of the diamond and pink sapphire grills by Mr Bling Gold Teeth. “It gave me a different energy. I felt badass; it made me feel real, real Houston too.” With Megan also hailing from Houston, it was one big party on set and Normani has nothing but praise for the “Hot Girl Summer” star. “She’s incredible. We just exchange the same energy. I feel like she’s one of my cousins back in Texas.”

“Diamonds” isn’t Normani’s first soundtrack contribution — she, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj teamed up on “Bad To You” for 2019’s Charlie’s Angels remake — but as a big fan of both DC and Marvel movies, she was more than a little excited when the call came through. “The second that I heard that they wanted me to be a part of the soundtrack I was super stoked,” says Normani. “It’s all women empowerment, everything that I stand for. It’s badass. Honestly, in the near future, I would love to be an actress in a film like Birds of Prey. I love action and I’m very physical too, because I come from a gymnastics background, so I feel like a lot of the stunts would be very fun for me to partake in.”

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland green side
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland purple side

(LEFT) Shirt and skirt MIKHAEL KALE, shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, rings BULGARI, earrings LECIEL DESIGN.
(RIGHT) Bodysuit LIONNE CLOTHING, earrings GCDS, necklace KYLE CHAN.

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland green side
Shirt and skirt MIKHAEL KALE, shoes MANOLO BLAHNIK, rings BULGARI, earrings LECIEL DESIGN.
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland purple side
Bodysuit LIONNE CLOTHING, earrings GCDS, necklace KYLE CHAN.

With so many superheroes to choose from, I’m curious as to who Normani would want to play when the opportunity to flex her acting chops inevitably comes knocking. “Ooh. Damn, OK… Definitely somebody fierce and sexy, but who can really hold her own. Maybe Catwoman? Or Storm. They’re both Halle Berry, right? I’d be Halle Berry,” she laughs, finally pausing for a bite of her salmon and quinoa plate. A girl’s gotta keep that superhuman strength up.

Acting ambitions aside, and with her album clearly coming along at pace, our talk turns to Normani’s 2019 appointment as the first-ever ambassador of Rihanna’s SAVAGE X FENTY lingerie line. Having performed during the label’s runway show at New York Fashion Week in September, her new role was announced in November via a festive-themed photo shoot, after being chosen by RiRi herself.

“Oh my goodness, it’s so amazing when beautiful things like that happen when you least expect,” says Normani, genuinely excited. “There was no warning to even let me know that Rihanna would stamp her approval on me. She’s an artist that I grew up listening to, and I grew up idolising, knowing that maybe one day I could also do the same thing. It’s just really, really awesome that she sees something in me.”

I can’t resist the opportunity to ask if Normani has heard that other highly-anticipated album, Rihanna’s long-awaited R9, which she previously spoke of dropping in 2019. Here we are in 2020 and even her brand ambassador hasn’t heard a peep. “Girl, I’m waiting with you!” she laughs. “Shoot, I wish I could get an exclusive. I get it, though. Of course fans are supposed to be eager; we’re supposed to wait on the edge of our seats, like, ‘OK, what’s next for the music?’ It has been a minute, but I totally understand it too. [Rihanna’s] given so much of herself to us, consistently… That’s not all that she is. I’m happy for her. Her spirit is smiling and I love to see it.”

Normani’s spirit seems to be smiling, too, as we talk about the rest of her plans for 2020 and beyond. “I’d love to do my own headline tour. I’ve never done my own, I’ve only supported Ariana,” she says, fondly remembering their Sweetener World Tour sleepovers. “At the end of the day, in creating this body of work and going forward in anything I do for the rest of my career, I just want people to see Normani for Normani.”

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white push
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland red close-up
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland yellow

(LEFT) Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI.
(MIDDLE) Bodysuit, necklace, bracelets, belts, earrings MOSCHINO, shoes GUESS, ring HOUSE OF EMMANUELE.
(RIGHT) Jacket and shorts KAIMIN, necklace, bracelet, earrings, rings BULGARI, watch OMEGA, Saturnus Gold Plated Ring LILIAN SHALOM, Crystal Nail Rings ON AURA TOUT VU

Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland white push
Shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, bra top and shorts DIANA COUTURE, shoes FLOR DE MARIA, jewellery BULGARI.
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland red close-up
(MIDDLE) Bodysuit, necklace, bracelets, belts, earrings MOSCHINO, shoes GUESS, ring HOUSE OF EMMANUELE.
Norman covers the Spring 2020 issue of Wonderland yellow
Jacket and shorts KAIMIN, necklace, bracelet, earrings, rings BULGARI, watch OMEGA, Saturnus Gold Plated Ring LILIAN SHALOM, Crystal Nail Rings ON AURA TOUT VU
Photography
Micaiah Carter
Fashion
Toni Blaze-Ibekwe
Words
Jennifer Lynn
Entertainment director
Erica Cornwall
Production director
Federica Barletta
Hair
César DeLeon Ramirez at crowdMGMT using Wilform
Makeup
Rokael Lizama using Rokael Beauty
Manicurist
Kimmie Kyees at Celestine Agency
Set design
David Browne
On-site production
Taj Alwan
Production assistant
Penny Nakan
Fashion assistants
Anastasia Busch, Gorge Villalpando, Nikki Cortez, Michelle McDonald, Louie Bastian
Special thanks
Forge LA
NORMANI
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