When you’re confident and feeling yourself, it’s written plainly across your face—like Allure’s September cover star, Normani. The pop and R&B ingenue and self-proclaimed introvert quietly hopped back onto Instagram in February 2021 but it wasn’t until almost five months later that she finally began posting again, promoting her track “Wild Side” with Cardi B. Since then, her posts, captions and visible bad-bitch-odometer have skyrocketed in confidence and class, and we’re all here for it.
In Allure’s cover story, Normani talks about her experiences of being “overlooked and undervalued” and all she’s overcome in order to make waves in the industry—but no one will be overlooking her after this shoot. Stylist Nicola Formichetti has the singer in bright pops of color and food-inspired accessories such as lemon earrings, a bracelet made from tiny orange peppers and an artichoke bustier and chain. Celebrity hairstylist Ursula Stephen showcases Normani’s beautiful face with slicked-back updos and laid edges.
Adrienne Raquel, the photographer for this shoot, captured the effortless confidence the entertainer has been working so hard to show. It’s clear in each close-up how much passion is behind her eyes, and Raquel (GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Dior, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Nas X) really showcases all of that hard work and dedication.
Like all of us, the past year and a half has forced the singer to dig deeper and sit with herself. The singer hadn’t had any time to actually process the trauma of the breakup of her former girl group Fifth Harmony and dove right into jump-starting her solo career (h/t Billboard). Memorably, Normani released “Love Lies” with Khalid in 2018 and blew everyone’s minds with her performance of the track at that year’s Billboard Music Awards.
Since the release of that track, Normani has had a series of other successful musical drops such as an EP with Calvin Harris, tracks with 6lack and Sam Smith and of course, 2019’s iconic “Motivation.” According to all, she wisely “opted not to have a featured artist” which made the single skyrocket and gain even more traction.
With the recent and highly successful release of “Wild Side,” Normani is gearing up to release her debut album. The X-rated verses and sexy choreography may not be what people’s minds immediately jump to when they think of Normani, which is why she chose to release the provocative single first. “A lot of people aren’t expecting this,” she tells Allure. The confidence she exudes in both the lyrics and visual delivery of “Wild Side” is reportedly further amplified on the rest of the album—and not just behind the mic. Normani has had an incredible amount of agency on this LP and has “herded a team of colossal hitmakers to work on it.”
The album’s debut couldn’t come at a more crucial time for the singer. “I didn’t get to really sing in [Fifth Harmony]. I felt like I was overlooked,” she states. In fact, the bullying, racism and microaggressions she endured while part of the group were a reflection of her childhood; after relocating to Texas from New Orleans, La. post-Katrina, Normani was homeschooled by her parents because of the bullying she faced.
However, Normani cites her parents’ and grandmother’s constant affirmations and affection as one of the reasons she is so confident and able to endure. “I grew up feeling beautiful. My mom, my dad, my grandmother instilled in me at a very early age that I was beautiful,” she says. “The fact that my skin was chocolate was a beautiful thing. My kinky hair was beautiful. I don’t need to straighten it. I can rock my braids to my all-white school.”
God damn, you are beautiful, Normani. You’ve got that all-encompassing “bad bitch” attitude, overwhelming and inspiring confidence and we see you—we really do.