It certainly did. Fifth Harmony’s first EP, Better Together, debuted in Billboard’s Top 10, and its latest, Reflection, became the first girl-group album to top Billboard’s Digital Album chart. The five group members are brand ambassadors for Candies and Clean & Clear. But success hasn’t come without its challenges. During her run on The X Factor, Hansen experienced body-shaming Internet comments like, “Oh my gosh! Why is she so fat?”
“When I would stand next to them, I would always compare myself, like, ‘Why can’t I be that small?’ I’m just naturally built this way,” she says of her curves. “I overcame it. When you embrace your flaws, everyone starts embracing you.”
Through the support of her family and fellow 5H members, Hansen began loving every bit of her body. She met a shy teenage Harmonizer at one of their meet-and-greets who also played a part in her self-acceptance journey. As they were saying their good-byes, Hansen held her hand and noticed cuts across her wrist. She told the girl, “No more.” The teenager walked away in shock.
“Next thing I know, she got a tattoo with ‘No more’ across her scars,” she says. “She saw me again and told me that I inspired her to never do it again. Our fans are so attracted to us because they make us feel it’s okay to be imperfect. It was a mutual thing. I’m very grateful for that.”
Lauren, 19, comes into the room with a half smile on her face, its pristine features directly descended from Spanish royalty. The half smile is her way of preparing herself for yet another interview full of fluff questions: Who’s your celebrity crush? But when the conversation begins and it focuses on her culture, the future of Latinos, and her use of music as a form of feminism, Jauregui’s half smile turns into a full one.
“I feel the world is very unjust right now,” says Jauregui, who’s rocking a vibrant power red dress. “And if I’m blessed with the opportunity to have a voice that people listen to, then it’s my job to bring awareness to the world’s injustices. I want to give the girls who admire us everything I can. I don’t want to just fill them with selfies and crap. That’s not what I’m about. I’m about: Be aware of the world and that you’re not the only one in it.”
Jauregui’s grandmother has been a great inspiration to her from an early age. As a Cuban immigrant in 1950s Miami, against her father’s wishes, her abuela attended and graduated college with a degree in pharmaceutical science.
“She taught my mother and me to be assertive and independent,” says Jauregui. “We’re very strong, independent, goal-orientated women. I wasn’t born into a family that told me that I wasn’t capable of what my brother was capable of. I can do anything.” The rest of the conversation goes something like this:
On her Cubanness: “Growing up in Miami, being Cuban is integrated into our culture. When we greet anyone, we give them a kiss on the cheek.”
On competition with fellow girl band Little Mix: “We’re all women trying to do our thing. We’re spreading a positive message of girl empowerment, love, and self-love. And there’s plenty of room for us. I think the media loves to pit women against one another. It’s like a game for them.”
On Donald Trump’s presidential bid: “I don’t support it at all.”
Toward the end of her interview, her feline-shaped eyes widen and she says, “A lot of people talk but they don’t say anything. And people listen and they don’t absorb anything of substance.” Fortunately, her words have more weight than an overstuffed Cuban sandwich.
Is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. She’s an immigrant with roots in—count ’em!—two Latin American countries, Cuba and Mexico, and her pop group is powering the American music industry.
“As an immigrant myself, to have someone say such disgusting things about my people—my dad who came from Mexico, my mom who worked at Marshall’s before she became an architect, and me pursuing my singing dreams—it’s terrible!” says Cabello, sitting on the floor in a skin-hugging beige dress, with a cup of tea by her side. “It’s these kids who are going to find the cure for cancer. You’re destroying potential in a people.”
Cabello’s own prospects for singing were hidden for years from her parents. After living in Cuba and Mexico, her family settled in Miami. As a teenager she was a self-described supernerd and her big secret was recording covers of her favorite songs on video, like Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper.”
“I was superintroverted,” says Cabello, who became a U.S. citizen two
years ago. “I wasn’t bullied—I just felt invisible. I had two best friends, but they went to another school. I didn’t go to parties. I was just on YouTube downloading instrumentals and creating my own arrangements.”
Then came her quinceañera. Her request wasn’t for a big birthday blowout or a Super Sweet 16–size present but simply a ride to Greensboro, North Carolina, to audition for the American version of The X Factor. Her ultimate wish was to meet her idols, One Direction. Not only did her wish come true but she also became one-fifth of The X Factor’s most popular singing group ever, Fifth Harmony. Still, she can’t help but wonder when her group will meet the same fate as 1D.
Asked whether she expects that her crew will eventually break up, Cabello says, “Honestly, I think we all do. We’d be lying if we all said this is a picture- perfect thing, like we all completely agreed on the album track list and what the sound and the music-video treatment would be like, which usually happens in bands who grew up together. But for manufactured bands, it’s harder.” She takes a moment to recalibrate her answer. “The cool part is that we allow one another to do our own thing within this thing. I think it’s healthy because if not, personally, I would go insane.”
If being an 18-year-old young woman isn’t crazy enough, toss in the scrutiny of being a celebrity, with your love life fodder for Internet traffic. Cabello has been linked to Austin Mahone and most recently Shawn Mendes, but she says they’re only “really, really, really close.”
“I’m never the type of person that uses work as an excuse not to fall in love,” she says. “I mean, I’m 18, c’mon! I’m at a point now where I just need to take a break. But if something happens, then something happens.”
Faith turns into fate. There’s no other way to explain it. At age 9, Hamilton experienced one of our country’s worst natural disasters in recorded history—Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath, her family quickly left New Orleans for Houston. In Texas, Hamilton had to build new friendships, process new experiences—and begin an entirely new life.
“It’s all about having faith and having one another to lean on,” says Hamilton, 19, who’s wearing a two- piece black-and-white body-contouring outfit, of overcoming Katrina. “Going through the hurricane strengthened me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now if it didn’t happen, because I auditioned for The X Factor in Texas.”
She pauses for a minute, then kindly apologizes for her constantly vibrating phone. It’s her bodyguard, Big Rob, a mountain of a man, texting her. Getting texts from your security guard is quite a change from being a Hurricane Katrina survivor. But Hamilton isn’t one to let it go to her head. Instead, the former ballerina embraces the responsibility of being a teen idol.
“I consider myself a feminist,” says the African American singer. “In society today, people devalue women. They try to pit us against one another—like, a man can walk out without a shirt, but a woman can’t. I’m part of the feminist movement, but I also feel that at times women aren’t supporting one another. Yes, we stand for equality and want to feel equal just as men are, but women need to figure out our relationships and support one another.”
Back at the Beacon Theatre, you can feel the anxiety and the teen spirit. One girl leaves in tears. Another one can’t stop smiling, and then there are the hybrids—smiling and crying at the same time. During the meet-and-greet, the young stars make funny faces and kiss their fans—one male fan even swoops Hamilton up in his arms.
Throughout the session, the ladies ride a dingy elevator, its walls autographed by pop stars like Alicia Keys, Adele, and Maroon 5. Hamilton engages the elevator attendant in conversation and then looks around at all the famous names, soaking it all in. Inevitably, Fifth Harmony are next.
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