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Normani, born in Atlanta but raised and homeschooled in New Orleans, the first CD she ever purchased was Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.” Still, the images broadcast on MTV made her feel unseen. But eventually, BET’s “106 & Park” became all the rage. And that’s where Normani saw herself, in the likes of women like Lil Kim and Ciara. The impact of “106 & Park” had on her life is the reason she featured a Black girl glued to the show in her video “Motivation.”

The song, released in August, has garnered over 100 million streams.

“I told the director, ‘I want this to be as black as possible.’ I was like, let’s show black culture. Why does pop music have to be so white? Why don’t we make it a little bit more me?”

Eventually, Normani’s dreams of being in the spotlight came true. But it came in the package of a girl group. Still, they were a crutch, a way for her to hide.

I remember always being asked, ‘Why do you wanna be in a girl group? So you can hide?’” Normani says now. “And that’s exactly what I was trying to do.”

But playing the background wasn’t satisfying particularly when she never got the opportunity to sing lead.

“I’m not sure what that turning point was but I was like, ‘Normani is enough. You can be on stage and perform and you can be enough.”

These days she doesn’t have to look hard for validation. Some of the biggest names in music have offered their support including Rihanna, Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé and Jay Z.

“The specifics of it I like to keep to myself because it’s just so special but Bey and Jay-Z have definitely been vocal about how much they want me to win.”

“Those women before me, I wanna finish what they started. I’m gonna make whatever I do black,” she says. “You’ll know that I’m a black girl, even if it’s on the quote-unquote whitest record ever…You’ll hear me more when I’m dancing than if we’re sitting here having a conversation. You’ll be able to see me.”

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