“I can feel a wave beginning behind this group,” The X Factor creator and judge Simon Cowell said before Fifth Harmony performed their version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” on the show last year. The music mogul knows talent and chemistry when he sees it. (This is, after all, the man who assembled One Direction.) Cowell decided that individual contestants Dinah Jane Hansen, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke, Normani Hamilton, and Camila Cabello were too special to let go, so at the end of the show’s Boot Camp week, the five young women became Fifth Harmony. With their show-stopping vocals, undeniable charisma, and genuine sisterly bond, the “fearsome fivesome” (as they became known) endeared themselves to viewers across the country, delivering electrifying versions of Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain,” Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen,” and Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart A Break,” and revealing their personal journeys to audiences week after week.

“I knew from the girls’ first performance at judges’ homes in Miami that we’d done the right thing,” Cowell says. “The chemistry between the Fifth Harmony girls both on and off stage is fantastic. They are really great girls who have become best friends. They’re fun to be around and most importantly, they are all incredibly talented.”

Since The X Factor wrapped last December, the group’s fanbase has grown rapidly. The covers they post on their official YouTube channel (Rihanna’s “Stay,” Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House”) routinely rack up nearly a million views. Not only does Fifth Harmony trend worldwide nearly every week on Twitter, where the girls engage non-stop with their followers, but the group draws thousands of female fans of all ages, who call themselves “Harmonizers,” to their public appearances. “We don’t really think of them as fans,” Normani says. “They’re more like friends who support us.” The strong bond Fifth Harmony has forged with their audience will serve the group well as they begin to show the world what they can do post X Factor, starting with their debut single “Miss Movin’ On,” an epic, empowering pop anthem about letting go and being independent.

“We want our songs to be fun, positive, and inspiring, and for our vocals to shine through,” says Ally. Adds Lauren: “The songs are a direct reflection of us and what we go through. Because we’ve been able to co-write, we’ve been able to personalize our music and make it relatable.” “We want to be collectively unique and yet show our individuality,” says Normani. Adds Camila: “We’re teenage girls hoping teenage girls can listen to the songs and feel like we’re saying what they want to say.”

“Miss Movin’ On” is just a taste of what’s to come on Fifth Harmony’s upcoming debut album, which the girls say will deal with their issues with guys, having fun with friends, and being yourself. They have been working with Autumn Rose (Leona Lewis, Cher Lloyd), Lil’ Eddie (Usher, Pink), Tricky Stewart (Beyoncé, Justin Bieber), Toby Gad (Beyoncé, Fergie), and others. Multi-platinum-selling producer/songwriter Julian Bunetta (One Direction, Natasha Bedingfield), who worked with the girls on The X Factor, is executive-producing the album.

“It has been remarkable to watch these five young women from across America go from being strangers to becoming a true group of friends who all care for and believe in each other,” Bunetta says. “I believe pop music is overdue for a girl group that can represent the young ladies of this new generation. Fifth Harmony is that group.”

Known as the “little big sister” of the group, the San Antonio, TX-born and bred Ally Brooke packs a powerful vocal punch. Her vibrant energy and musical theatricality come from having performed at charity events, high schools, and sports events since the age of nine. “That’s when I developed such a huge passion for singing and the stage,” she says. One of her biggest inspirations is Latina star Selena Quintanilla. “Not only did she have an amazing stage presence, a beautiful voice, and a vibrant personality, but she also had such charisma and a big heart,” Ally says. “She cared for her fans deeply and always showed so much love to everyone. She made me want to become an artist.”

With a dynamic range that has drawn comparisons to Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, Dinah Jane Hansen hails from Santa Ana, CA and is of Tongan and Polynesian heritage. Her mother sang with a reggae band and her brothers sang in church. Dinah remembers being four years old and wanting to learn to sing to impress her mother. At 11, she told her parents she wanted to pursue a singing career. “The first time I performed I remember feeling so nervous and scared,” Dinah says. “I was behind the curtains and I could hear the announcer say my name. All I could think was, ‘I hope they like me, I hope they don’t boo.’ But they applauded and I remember thinking this is definitely something I want to do one day.”

With her mature, smoky voice, Miami native Lauren Jauregui brings a fierce and feisty flavor to Fifth Harmony. A lover of Journey, Paramore, and The Script, as well as Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera, Lauren first remembers singing at a karaoke party at age two, but other than a few school talent shows and a fifth-grade performance of the National Anthem, most of her singing was done in private. “Music had always been a huge part of me but I never had the means to do anything about it,” she says. By the time Lauren she was 16, The X Factor had debuted. “I ended up trying out because I wanted Simon’s approval. It had been my dream to sing for Simon and for him to tell me I was good.”

Normani Hamilton’s bluesy vocal style comes from her roots as a gospel singer. Born in Atlanta, she was raised in the rich musical tradition of New Orleans. (Her family relocated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.) Hamilton has been performing since she was three, and was an award-winning dancer and gymnast before finding her true calling as a singer, recording her first single at age 13. She also had a small role on the HBO series Treme. Normani credits Beyoncé as her main inspiration as an artist. “I look up to her so much,” she says. “When I’m on stage I pretend to be her. Her alter ego is Sasha Fierce and mine is Beyoncé herself. This helps keep my nerves from getting the best of me because in general I am pretty shy.”

Camila Cabello’s unique voice gives the group a raw edge that lifts their harmonies to new heights. Born in Cuba, Camila and her family shuttled between Havana and Mexico for the first five years of her life before Camila and her mother moved to the U.S. when Camila was six. (Her dad followed a few years later.) “My mom came with only a couple hundred bucks and the clothes on her back,” Camila says. “My family brought me up to appreciate everything I had through hard work.” Growing up listening to such Latin artists as Celia Cruz and Alejandro Fernandez, Camila kept her singing to the confines of her bedroom. “I didn’t sing in front of people until my actual X Factor audition,” she says. “I didn’t want those two minutes to end. When they did, I knew performing was the only thing I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.”

All the girls agree that the best thing about being in Fifth Harmony is sharing the experience with one another. “I love that we can all be ourselves and have fun with one another,” Ally says. “It’s nice to know that I can turn to my right and see one of my girls. Because with all of craziness of this business, it’s great to not be alone. We are all having a blast doing what we love.”

###

[May 2013]

Fifth Harmony