One week after earning a near-perfect score on Dancing With The Stars, Fifth Harmony's Normani Kordei is preparing to take on a theme she is more than familiar with: Girl Groups and Boy Bands, airing tonight (April 24) on ABC.
"Yeah, I know," the 20-year old entertainer tells Billboard. "The story of my life."
Kordei and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy are putting the finishing touches on a salsa routine set to "When I Grow Up" by The Pussycat Dolls, she says. Meanwhile, a team dance will pit the girls against the boys, featuring songs by TLC and one new girl group classic that Kordei certainly knows well: "BO$$" by Fifth Harmony.
"Which is so funny," she laughs. "I mean, it should be fun to perform it in a different light. And also seeing what the girls can come up with."
Billboard caught up with Kordei -- fresh after earning a 39 out of 40 for her Disney Princess-themed dance to Mulan -- to discuss the show, how she handled rehearsing on different continents, recording new music with Fifth Harmony, and what comes next after the mirror ball stops spinning for the summer break.
Congrats on your success so far on Dancing With The Stars! What a testament to your grandmother for her to be there every week, since you two would always watch the show together. And you are doing so well!
I know. It's such a blessing for her to be in the audience each and every week and having something to look forward to, you know. This is a show that I grew up watching with my grandma. She was literally ... If she did not have anything else on DVR it was Dancing with the Stars. Every single episode. She had a log book where she would keep track of scores and who would leave or be eliminated on the stage every week. So, it's a big deal for her.
So how did you feel being a Disney princess last week? How you got that dance so precise? It looked like so much work.
It definitely did take a lot of work and it's crazy to see how many stages it take because we have a week to prepare and rehearse. And sometimes I have rehearsals from like 3 to 4 hours maybe a day. It's easy to see the growth within even 4 hours of rehearsing, and there are so many stages that it goes through... I'm just really pushing and challenging myself. I am quicker than I thought!
Normani, did you take a lot of dancing lessons when you were a kid? You have mastered all these dances pretty well and your kicks go so high. I was just wondering what kind of training you had?
I have been dancing since I was 3, and competitively since I was 9. I was in classes every single weekend I think that people kind of forget the fact that I am not a ballroom dancer, and this is all so new to me. So, I'm learning the technique. Like I said, I'm kind of having to unlearn certain things that I have learned.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I think in general just to be quick. You know, quicker feet and partnering is something new for me. I have never done that before, even when I was dancing. So just tighter movement with feet, and just staying active.
I can understand that, but it looks like you and Val have clicked from the beginning.
He's dope. I have to say he's a cool guy. Like inside and outside of rehearsal, he's helped me in so many ways. Like even at the first one, I overthink a lot -- and, ultimately, when we watch our videos after every live show, we are super proud because we know how hard we worked. He pushes me to the limit.
I can't imagine how tough that was, rehearsing on a different continent during the Fifth Harmony Asian tour and then getting on a jet to fly out for a show. How did you do that? How rough was that schedule?
I do not know how I did it. People ask me and I have nothing in response. Like, I just don't know. I think eventually, just staying present and accepting the fact that I am going to these places I have never gotten an opportunity [to go to before], like going to Asia. You can't really complain about that. Plus, getting opportunities to see so many new faces and their stories while being on Dancing with the Stars, which is something that I also wanted to do.
So, I can't really complain. But yes, it did take a toll on my body. But I drink a lot of water, and I took my vitamins and kept staying active. That helps, because once you kind of get lazy, it all goes downhill from there.
I remember (Season 16 winner) Kellie Pickler saying that she rehearsed with Derek Hough in airports when she was on the show.
Me too! I mean, anywhere you are. Like, every moment counts. It really does, so that you can be prepared as you possible, and feeling comfortable, and then killing it and being confident on stage. So rehearsing in the airport is something that we've done. Rehearsing in hotel lobbies in front of everybody... in a small gym where there is no floor. Anywhere you could possibly imagine. In the streets. Everywhere.
What did it mean to have the girls from Fifth Harmony there supporting you on the show?
It meant the absolute most to me, especially because they know that this is something that I wanted for so long. We have always been very supportive of each other. Because ultimately, we do have different aspirations and dreams and desires. So we are very, very supportive of each other, and I enjoyed the fact that they came on and made time. Even though we came from the Asian Airport. They left right from the airport, came straight to rehearsal. We rehearsed on a Sunday, performed on a Monday. So they were just as dedicated as I was and it really does mean a lot.
I was always in awe of your work ethic.
Thank you so much! I mean, yeah, we are just four girls living our dreams and having an amazing time. And sometimes it can be horrible and lonely, but luckily we do have each other to lean on -- because our spirits are down and we have each other to go to, it makes it that much easier. I literally can't imagine having gone through this by myself.
But, yeah, we're living our dreams and we are so grateful for every person that helped us get to the position that we are in. And that we have got fans that buy our music and go our concerts. It's the craziest thing -- at the end of the day, we just think, "Why us? We're [just] normal girls."
And you are busy working on the next album already!
We have new music coming. That's another thing I have been doing. Even though I am back from Asia. The more intense and further the competition gets, the more that I have to do (such as) having to learn more dances, and also be in a recording studio. I had a photo shoot yesterday. Working on an album, writing... just so many different elements.
Back to the show, who have you bonded with of the competitors? I'm sure you miss Charo!
I know, I do! Simone Biles and I are really cool. Like, we're really close, and I feel like even after the competition we will continue to hang out and hopefully become the best of friends. We laugh a lot together.
You, Simone and Rashad Jennings have all had strong moments this season.
We'll see. These shows are so unpredictable. Especially when it comes down to you know the fans' voting at the end of the day. I think that's really what it's all about.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.