The former Fifth Harmony member, 22, tells PEOPLE exclusively that although she has known Grande, 25, for a “very long time,” their demanding careers had meant they’d never really had the opportunity to just hang out, “be normal, and really enjoy each other.” However, the tour is already changing that as the two pop stars are hitting the road together for seven months.
“We wear face masks, wake up really late, have breakfast, that kind of jam … just typical girls!” Normani says about her friendship with the “Thank U, Next” singer, 25, adding how proud she is of her friend: “I feel like she’s had an incredible year, especially going through as much as she has. The way that she’s handled things, not only as an artist, but as a woman — I think she’s the definition of resilience.”
But it’s not just the two of them on tour: the “Dancing With A Stranger” singer counts off all the other women, including her dancers and her band. “There are so many women around me, I’m really inspired,” she says, laughing that “it’s like a sleepover on wheels.”
Nearly one year ago, the remaining members of Fifth Harmony — Normani, Lauren Jauregui, Dinah Jane and Ally Brooke — announced on social media they would be going on hiatus to “pursue solo ventures” after previous band mate Camila Cabello left the group in December 2016. Although the former Fifth Harmony member may no longer be in a girl band, her belief in girl power clearly hasn’t waned.
In fact, it has been the motivating factor behind her hard work, performing with a star-studded roster of artists from Sam Smith to Calvin Harris, making it to No. 1 with Khalid for “Love Lies,” and, right now, performing every other night on tour with Grande (despite missing her family and dogs back in Texas!). Ever since she first stepped upon the X Factor stage at just 15 years old, she’s been driven by the desire to inspire girls who look like her, and to represent them.
“I think the thing that motivates me is knowing that I didn’t end up here just by coincidence,” she says. “God placed me here strategically and put all of my desires within myself because he knew that I would be able to handle whatever it is that comes with it.”
“It’s much bigger than an award,” she continues. “I really want to make a real difference.”
And Normani got to witness some of her star power on Friday while she was performing at the launch of McDonald’s new campaign “Black and Positively Golden,” which uplifts communities through means like college scholarships and empowering events.
“I was singing one of my songs and this little girl in the front [held my hand], and we just embraced each other in that moment,” she recalls. “It was really special, because she looked like me! You could just tell that me being up there meant so much and it was doing something within her.”
“It was showing her that one day she could do the same thing,” she adds.