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It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
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.
"I always wanted to be in a girl group. I just love being a part of a team," she says, noting that she grew up participating in competitive gymnastics and dance. "I know what it's like to be a part of something. I've always loved lifting women up."
She continues, "We come in so many different shapes and forms and shades and I think that that deserves to be celebrated."
This spirit continues to show in Normani's work as a solo artist as she includes numerous other Black women and bodies in her music videos and on-stage performances. Most recently, she's partnered with Frito-Lay's Cracker Jack to introduce Cracker Jill in an effort to celebrate the success and progress made by women in sports.
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."
With the release of her latest single, "Fair," Normani has taken that confidence and vulnerability to another level by revealing herself at her most stripped-down both physically and emotionally.
"It's liberating for me, to be completely honest, and also quite scary being so vulnerable. It's OK to not be OK in front of everyone, too. There's beauty in that and that's what makes you human," she says. "I think that a lot of the time people kind of put celebrities on like this pedestal and assume that we don't feel hurt the same way the same way that they do or betrayed. That's everything that this record embodies."
She adds, "If you want to get to know me, I feel like this particular record is close to Normani."
-Video produced by Olivia Schneider
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