Dancing In Perfect Harmony
By Deborah Wagner
When Normani Kordei agreed to join the twenty fourth season of ABC’s hit television show Dancing with the Stars, she hadn’t realized what a life changing experience it would be. Since 2012, Kordei has been best known as one of the five original members of the popular girl group Fifth Harmony.
Through the DWTS experience, Kordei has learned that it was a little difficult at first being in the spotlight without her “sisters” – as she lovingly calls her group-mates Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke and Dinah Jane. (Former group member Camila Cabello left last year to pursue a solo career.) However, it has also turned into a fulfilling personal growth experience. During this period, Kordei has found out how strong she really is, and that she can succeed at anything she puts her mind to.
Blossoming in front of the millions of DWTS viewers every week, twenty-year old Kordei has grown into a confident young woman right before our eyes. She has proven to herself – and tens of millions of viewers and fans – that she is in this competition to win the coveted mirror ball trophy, like Laurie Hernandez, Nyle DeMarco and Bindi Irwin had before her.
With dance moves that are now up to par with the professionals, Kordei’s hard work is paying off as she continues to nail her dance moves and receive rave reviews from the judges – including Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inana, Julianne Hough and Bruno Yonioli. Her partner and teacher Val Chmerkovskiy has helped her master the art of telling stories rhythmically through her movements. With the help of his exceptional choreography, the two have earned a spot at the top of the leaderboard for many weeks during the season.
Now, with the final two weeks of Dancing with the Stars here, Kordei is bittersweetly working hard to perfect her final dances. During these long and tiring days, this hard-working New Orleans-born and Texas-raised go getter continues to strive for excellence in these last performances. During a break in her busy practice schedule, Kordei took a half hour to chill and chat with us.
For the last five years, you have been accustomed to shining with four – now three – partners in Fifth Harmony. On DWTS though, it’s just you (and Val, of course) out there. How different does it feel to have the spotlight on you?
It’s honestly a bit of an adjustment having the whole spotlight solely on me. Kind of entering a world of my own, outside of Fifth Harmony. It’s also been refreshing, too. We’ve been together for the last four or five years. We do have an amazing time, the four girls now, coming from different walks of life making one common goal happen. But, I feel that we only showcase pieces of who we are as humans and individuals. Ally, Dinah, Lauren and myself, we make up what Fifth Harmony now is, but we still have dreams outside of the group. I’ve always loved to dance, which I hardly got to do while in Fifth Harmony. It’s just really cool, because I proved to myself that, “Yeah girl, you still got it.”
My passion is still there for dance. People are getting the opportunity to get to know me. I’ve also really surprised myself during the process. I think that Val has done an incredible job, not just as a choreographer and a teacher, but as a friend. Helping me grow and pulling things out of me that I didn’t even know were there. I’m just super happy. It’s like a family there at Dancing with the Stars.
Your Fifth Harmony sisters have shown you so much love during this experience. What has the support from them, your family and your fans meant to you?
Oh, man. The support of my family and friends and the girls means the absolute world to me. I don’t know if you saw the week – I think it was week four – where the girls actually came on and the sang “Impossible,” which is the first song that we ever performed as a group in the X-Factor days after meeting each other. We had to sing that song. It was pretty symbolic after singing it then and it now; everything that had happened in between made it mean even more. They’re always texting me after every show. Lauren told me she sat up crying after my contemporary dance this week. But, they’re super supportive and it means the world. I support them. We are sisters at the end of the day. That’s what we are supposed to do.
As far as my family and friends, they are over the moon. They love to see me happy. [It is] almost a breakthrough, just me recognizing my strengths. They always tell me it’s okay to give myself a pat on the back sometimes. My grandmother’s favorite show is Dancing with the Stars, so she is out there every week. They’re all cheering me on. That’s priceless for me!
You’ve already connected with millions through your singing. Now you’re receiving such praise and high scores (including two perfect ones) for your dance. Did you ever think you would be able to connect so completely through dance?
I felt it in my heart that was my way of communicating and speaking to people. Dance was actually my first passion, even before I started singing. I was dancing for as long as I can remember. It’s like a trance that I go in. It’s like an out of body experience, with me completely being immersed in the music. It’s really about storytelling. I’m really feeling it. It’s freedom of expression. I have been having the best time on Dancing with the Stars. I love all the different genres. Even though I came from a dance background, I’ve never done any ballroom dancing. So, it’s always a lot of work. I always feel it when I’m on the stage, every Monday.
Your dance this week was both beautiful, yet painful all at the same time. It gave me chills. It’s getting people talking about the problem of cyber-bullying. First I want to say, I am sorry that you had to go through that. No one ever should. Secondly, as a Mom of two kids who have also experienced bullying, what would you say to others who are trying to escape the painful experience of bullying and cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying is a very devastating thing to have to go through for anyone, whether you are an adult of a child. That’s the thing with social media, it can be powerful and positive but at the same time, it can really tear people apart. It sucks because it’s the face and the force of this generation. We use it so heavily and depend on it like it’s second nature. It’s like all we know. But I think that cyber bullying is only a piece of the conversation that Val and I were discussing through our performance and our dance. With cyber bullying, I talked about it because I’ve been through it. [However, the dance was] for anybody that’s going through adversity and who feels lonely or helpless and feels the world is caving in. In society, we pick on each other and we create these barriers.
We are all on this Earth for a reason. We have a purpose. I think about how much better we could be if we were all united and had more love for one another. If we had sympathy. If we had open hearts and open minds, instead of being so closed minded. At the end of the day, everyone seeks acceptance. Anyone listening and going through cyber bullying or bullying in any way, I think you really just need to dig deep to find your freedom, because nobody else is going to give it to you. It’s something that you have to accept and take within yourself. Naturally, whenever the rest of the world doesn’t accept you, it’s all about self-acceptance. What you think about yourself looking in the mirror. Thinking I’m happy with he or she. I know what I have to offer. That’s what matters.
Throughout the seasons of Dancing with the Stars, you can always tell if there is a real connection between the star and their dancing partner. Your connection with Val seems like such a strong bond, built with admiration and respect. What has it been like to go through this experience with him?
Going through this experience with Val, first and foremost let me say, I remember the first day walking into the room and learning the choreography and being super timid. I’m a totally different person than when I walked in. I really have him to thank for that. He has changed me in the best way possible. I’m forever grateful. He is my friend, my teacher, my choreographer. He’s like my brother.
It also helps that I generally do look up to him. Not just as a dancer but as a person. He teaches me constantly, every day. We talk about things that are going on in the world and about things like family and everything. He is a hard worker and an amazing human being. He never fails to stop and serve other people as well. He’s always taking the time to think about how he can help kids recognize that their dreams also matter. It doesn’t matter where they come from. It’s about what they have in their heart and their determination. He’s really good at instilling great values and making you a believer. He really makes me feel like I can do anything.
It sounds like they picked the perfect partner for you, then.
Yeah, I couldn’t ask for anyone better. I don’t know if I’d get the same experience, or grow the same way, if it hadn’t been for him. I genuinely love him. Even after the show is over, he’ll play a significant role. I am really blessed that he’s part of my world and I am now part of his.
As rewarding as this experience has been, it must be exhausting touring with Fifth Harmony and practicing with Val for the live shows. How are you taking care of yourself while this time?
Well, it has definitely been a lot. It’s crazy to even sit here and think about traveling back and forth from Asia to LA for the first three weeks of the show. It was definitely a challenge and took a toll on my body, obviously. I got injured about two or three weeks ago when I did my salsa number – “When I Grow Up.” That was the first week that we started to do lifts and flips and tricks. I hadn’t danced in five years, maybe even longer, so my body was not used to it anymore.
On top on flying and the lack of sleep, I had a really severe pulled muscle strain in my back and my hip. There were two different muscle strains. One wasn’t affected by the other, but they just so happened that I had two at the same time. I felt like it slowed me in a way. You guys might not have seen it, but for me it was really frustrating. I was like, “Why can’t I get this?” or “Why do we have to change this lift?” It would have looked so good, but physically I could not do it. We’ve definitely had an emotional rollercoaster throughout this journey, but I think it’s shaped us and is part of our story. Part of the reason I’ve worked so hard. In those times where it’s like you can’t overthink this, we have to just do it. We’d be performing in Asia on the carpet, in the lobby, in front of people, anywhere we could for days before the performance, in the airport. It’s all pieces of our journey and of our story.
Would you recommend this experience of DWTS to one of your 5H partners?
Heck to the yes! (laughs) I’d recommend this experience to anybody! It’s amazing. I can’t really put it into words. I’m sad that it’s coming to an end, we are in our last weeks. I was really emotional yesterday. I was sitting down thinking about it. I’m just super grateful looking in the faces of every single person that makes up what Dancing with the Stars is.
It’s the reason that we can put these incredible shows on Monday night – down to hair, down to makeup, down to wardrobe. It really is fancy. There’s just a fulfillment that you get, going out there, on that stage and on that ballroom with your partner, every single Monday. Knowing that your inspiring someone, it’s a special feeling. It’s electrifying. I can’t even explain it or completely put it into words.
Once Dancing with the Stars season is over, do you plan on going back into the studio with Fifth Harmony? We know your 5H fans would love to hear some new music.
Oh, I never left the studio. I was actually in the studio last night. Yeah, we started recording before I even started Dancing with the Stars. We are still in the studio now. It never stops for me. It wasn’t like I do one thing and then start another after. It’s all in one. (laughs) So, yeah, we have new music coming out really soon.
I’m sure you have built relationships with the other contestants on the show. Do you think you will be keeping in touch after this is over?
Oh my God, yes! 110%! Like I said before, even the first day we all met at GMA, everyone came in super humble, smiles all across the room. I remember having a conversation with David [Ross]. He’s just the sweetest, sweetest guy. Talking to Bonner [Bolton] because we’re both from Texas. Hearing his story, I was just completely moved and inspired and also captivated by his southern hospitality and charm. (laughs)
Me and Simone [Biles] are really, really close and have become the best of friends on the show. She makes me laugh a lot. I think we are so different but we are alike at the same time. We kind of balance each other out, which makes this experience even more fun. Then Rashad [Jennings], he’s like a big brother. I love him too. He told me after my contemporary piece that he really connected with it on a personal level and that I could come to him for anything if I wanted to vent.
Who on the DWTS cast is the biggest practical joker or always cracks everyone up?
I don’t know. Val always makes me laugh, personally. He’s actually a very funny human being. I feel like he’s the glue that holds everything together, in a way. There are so many different elements, but I do really appreciate that he has this way of reeling people in. It’s really comfortable and safe. Feeling like it’s a safe environment for them to be all that they are. And he is really, really funny. He’s always has me cracking up.
Also Simone. She’s always has me cracking up. Just little things she says. Sometimes I’m like, “Girl, how did you come up with that?” (laughs) “How did you come up with that?”
You are only 20 and have already accomplished so much with an award-winning music career and now this wonderful experience on DWTS. What else would you like to do in the future?
Coming off of this experience – really exploring myself on Dancing with the Stars – I feel has really opened many doors for me. Widened the range of expectations that I have for myself. There is a lot I now would love to do and know now I am capable of doing. I’d love to act and get into film. I really do enjoy stepping into another character every single week on Dancing with the Stars. I’d love to do that as a career choice.
Just something that I love. I am all about the arts, so I’ll continue to do my music obviously. I’m very into fashion. I’d love to have my own fashion line and my own empire. Yeah, I just want there to be nothing that I can’t do. I want to at least touch on many things, because you never know, that might be what I decide to do for the rest of my life. I don’t know, wherever life takes me, wherever God takes me. But I really want to cross over to acting, because I find that mesmerizing. I can really lose myself in it.
We did pick one fan question to ask. Amira Parker would like to know what your favorite 5H song is to perform in concert?
My favorite Fifth Harmony song to perform right now – because it can change since we have new music coming out – I have like five favorites right now. Let’s see… probably “Boss.” Yeah, every time I hear the “da-na-na-na,” the crowd for some reason always goes crazy on that song. It gets me super hyped. There’s never been a crowd that hasn’t had a great response to that song. I think it’s just the energy of it. It’ personally one of my favs, the choreography and that was kind of the beginning of the new Fifth Harmony. I don’t know if you guys saw a change, but from “Miss Moving On” to “Boss,” there was a switch. That was the moment where we actually started to grow up and grow into our womanhood. So, I love “Boss.”
For our final question, do you have a message for your fans?
To my fans, I love you guys incredibly. I can never thank you enough for how much you fulfill me and everything you’ve done in order to make me feel supported and confident within myself. You guys lift me up anytime I’m down. I would definitely say that all of my success, and our success, is because of you guys. I love you. Make sure you learn to love yourselves.
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 15, 2017.
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