Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei has heard it all. “Get f–king lynched.” “Dumb black bitch.” “You f–ked up the pretty girl group.” Those were some of the messages the 20-year-old singer was subjected to when checking Twitter this summer.
“It was absolutely disgusting,” Kordei tells Us. The hate reached a fervor when the Atlanta native called bandmate Camila Cabello “very quirky” during an August 1 Facebook Live interview with the website Galore. Perceiving the label as a snub, Cabello’s fans filled Kordei’s feed with the n-word and other racist remarks.
The bullying got so bad that Kordei decided to take a hiatus from Twitter on August 6.
But after nearly six weeks away, Kordei realized she could use social media to make changes. The “Work From Home” singer teamed up with the nonprofit Cybersmile Foundation, which offers support to victims of online abuse, to raise awareness about cyberbullying. “My mission is to show people there is hope,” notes the single star. “This taught me I’m definitely stronger than I thought I was.”
Hours after reinstalling her Twitter app September 13, Kordei sat down with Us’ Cara Sprunk at West Hollywood’s Soho House to share her scary experience.
Us Weekly: The bullying started when Fifth Harmony formed on The X Factor in 2012. What did people say?
NK: Everybody in the group gets online hate, but mine is different. Racism really does exist and I’m the only African American girl of the group. There are people creating Photoshopped pictures of me getting beat as if I were a slave back in the day.
Us: That’s horrible. How did you deal?
NK: I tried to ignore it at first. My way of dealing with it was to not deal with it, if that makes sense. I thought the best thing was just not to look at the comments. Even if there’s one comment, it’s superhurtful and it’s the one that sticks with you.
Us: And things got worse after your Facebook Live interview?
NK: Oh, yes. I even put up a statement clarifying that I didn’t mean anything by it and I love all the girls, but I guess that backfired because I started getting even more hate. It was just too much — they even attacked my grandma, who’s on Twitter! I was really scared.
Us: What happened when you announced you were quitting?
NK: I felt like a weight had been lifted. And I got so much love. Keke Palmer, Zendaya, a bunch of my friends — they were all texting me, making sure that I was OK and giving me advice. It really did open my eyes to see that people do genuinely care about me. I don’t know how many times I heard, “Normani, I’m here to support you.” They came to our shows and made signs. The whole stadium was filled with posters saying, “Normani, we love you!” Once Twitter was gone, I felt a lot more present, not always looking to see what people were saying about me. It was a relief.
Us: So, why come back to Twitter?
NK: To turn the situation around and make it positive. I feel like it’s almost my purpose to speak up about my experience so it could help somebody else. The hate is not going to stop, but I needed to make a point that you can’t run away from a bully. You can’t allow someone’s hate to dictate your life. I want to be the voice for those people who are going through the same thing, like little African American boys and girls getting bullied at school. It wasn’t just, I’m going to get back in to tweet “I had a burger today.”
Us: What’s your goal?
NK: We created a hashtag, #ImACybersmiler, and you can make videos and share your stories to show people that you’re not alone, and we can support one another. Knowing that you’re not alone really does make all the difference in the world. I never, ever want to go back to that other place again where I worry about those ugly comments and people who hate. I’m just going to be me.
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