The title of her new single, “Look At Us Now,” sets the tone nicely for Ally Brooke as she opens up to Contrast Magazine during her very first solo magazine cover story with Bauer Xcel Media’s Liam McEwan – looking and feeling every bit as confident on her own as she should. We talk growing-up, X Factor, still feeling star struck among big names, what’s important in life, faith, how to overcome the dark times, and what’s in store for Ally in the future.
There’s no doubt that for the last 5 years, all eyes have been on Fifth Harmony. From the start of their X Factor journey in 2012, when the world first met and fell in love with, the then 18 year old Ally Brooke Hernandez, there’s been no stopping her, or the band. Over 40 awards and numerous platinum singles, Ally still finds it hard to believe that it’s all true. She often thinks back in disbelief, to how it all begun, when her mum suggested for her to audition for X Factor. Ally says, “I was a huge fan of the show” and submitted an online audition first of the Minnie Ripperton classic Loving You. “I was very apprehensive of doing a reality competition show. I had my concerns.”
But before sending off her audition video which ultimately landed her on the live television auditions, Ally remembers “right before I hit send, I said a prayer. I said, God, if you want this door to open, please open it. A few days later I got a phone call saying I’d made it to the live auditions.” Ally auditioned with the Christian gospel number On My Knees. “It had so much meaning. I was so passionate when I sang it, it was the perfect choice. It was meant to be. I got four yeses, and then got in a girl group.”
Not only did the singers audition and passion impress the judges, The Huffington Post described the audition as “one of the highlights of the season.” The passion seen in Brooke’s audition and subsequent X Factor performance came from a place well rooted in her San Antonio childhood where Ally quite proudly recalls “I grew-up in a non-denominational Christian church – I’ve always had that faith and believed in God. No matter what situation I’m in, I can talk to God.” Faith is something that’s always stuck with AB and seen her through the uncertainty that the music industry can bring.
The 23 year old isn’t new to the industry, nor was she at 18 when we first met her on the X Factor stage. Diehard fans would know that Brooke was already recording independent music and even filming several music videos before X Factor came along. At just 12 Ally landed a music production deal that involved leaving San Antonio and moving out to Los Angeles, to begin writing and recording some of her own music, meaning she had to be home schooled from sixth to twelfth grade “it was such a learning and growing experience” she tells Contrast about the deal.
The independence that came from growing up in that environment and that all of that experience is what’s given her the confidence on stage that she needs to perform at the likes of the American Music Awards and more recently the 2017 People’s Choice Awards. It is that self-assurance that’s come from working in the studio from 12 years of age, which meant when X Factor came around; Ally already knew who she was.
Not only that, but “coming out to L.A., not knowing what to expect” at such a young age has made sure that Ally can not only confidently stand on a stage at such a young age, but stand on her own. How does she do it? Ally knows that it’s best to just “go with the flow” when she’s in front of a camera, or on stage. “It’s all about getting in that zone, that mood, that energy.”
That cool, calm and collected attitude comes especially useful when meeting other big names in the music industry where she still gets star struck. Ally mentions a recent encounter with music icon Stevie Wonder “I was really calm meeting him. I’m inspired by him, by his music and his talent. He has such a brilliant mind.’’ In fact, she’d been listening to the singer since she was a kid when her dad would sing her Isn’t She Lovely.
It was “one of the highlights of my entire life” when Ally finally had the opportunity to thank Stevie for all the joy he brought to the world. Despite regularly mingling with celebrities at the likes of the People’s Choice Awards or the iHeartRadio Music Festival, it still surprises the songstress when celebrities know who she is. On the likes of Ed Sheeran speaking to Fifth Harmony in past years and recognizing them, “he’s an outstanding artist. He’s one of the very special people out there in the industry today” and a mutual respect for other artists brings happiness to both her and her band mates alike. The singer has the same admiration of her fans, as she has for fellow artists, saying that “it’s so humbling and amazing that people love us.” Having such appreciation for her life, her fans and the journey so far is what keeps the star going.
When looking back at that journey Ally is quick to say, “I’ve been able to experience some extraordinary things in my life and I wake up every day and say thank you God for my life – the good and the bad, because this is a one in a billion opportunity I’ve been given.” The eternal optimist, Ally is always brimming with positivity “Just know to enjoy every single moment, live life to its fullest and enjoy the now.” It hasn’t always been sunny days for the singer, and she admits she has some down moments too. “What I want to do, and what I love to do is share my story with people like me” she mentions, hoping to be a positive inspiration to people, by showing them that even people like her have dark times “at one point I thought this is not going to get better and I really thought I would stay in a place of darkness” she shares. “I talk to fans and tell them my story. Feeling alone, feeling scared, feeling helpless and sad or lonely. Those feelings will go away, just continue to fight, continue to strive to be the best person you can be every day, because I promise you it’s temporary and there really is hope and joy in the future, you’ve just got to hold on.”
A humble and mature young woman, Ally mentions that one of the best parts that comes with being a celebrity is being able to give back, “one of my favorite things to do is to be able to give back. I bought my grandma her car. It was such an emotional moment for my family and I that was very special. For me to be able to give back to her was unforgettable.” Giving back isn’t only giving back material things, Ally also understands the importance on how giving her image and name to help a cause can be just as valuable. Becoming involved with several meaningful causes such as ASPCA, and giving back to those less fortunate than her. The modest and humble singer shares that “no matter who you are, where you’re from, your job title, it’s just so important to be kind to everyone. That’s what I do and I hope to inspire other people to do the same, because at the end of the day, we are all humans who want the same things for our lives, which is happiness and love and the more we can spread that kindness and love to people, the better this world is going to be.”
One of the philanthropic singers favorite quotes is “love never fails” and she lives her life true to heart, doing everything she can to love and give back. Something very close to Ally’s heart is raising money and awareness of premature birth as she herself was a premature baby. Born six weeks early and weighing in at a tiny 1 pound 14 ounces she was small enough to fit into her father’s hand. Being born at such an early stage in the pregnancy, doctors predicted vision, hearing and undeveloped lungs, however according to the singers parents Jerry and Patricia, she came out screaming and that’s how her parents always knew she was destined to sing. A destiny that only seems to be beginning for the superstar musician.
From working on a new album with Fifth Harmony to finding her feet again on solo projects, Ally feels as though she’s entering a new era and chapter of her life “I feel like a new woman. So much more mature, older, wiser in the best way possible. I feel confident, liberated and free.” She also mentions that she feels like she has a lot more creative control with this new album. That confidence and liberation comes through in spades in her new single and solo debut, Look At Us Now a collaboration with the Lost Kings and A$AP Ferg. Ally mentions that she “fell in love with the song as soon as I heard it and when I recorded it, I bought my own spin to it.”
The song instantly jumping to #1 electronic song on iTunes in 9 countries, Ally tweeted “Blown away! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported it!” It’s a more mature sound for Ally and gives her an opportunity to explore things musically. “I like to show different sides of me and my character, my voices, my tones” she remarks about being able to explore music on her own. As a debut solo endeavor, not many artists get to enjoy the success Ally has from her break out hit. However, she hasn’t let it go to her head for a second – truly being thankful at every turn saying “the fact that the song could make people dance and make people feel good, is something that made me feel good and proud, and that’s what it’s all about.” When quizzed about the direction she’s taking her solo music Ally states “I feel like a completely different person. I’ve just grown so much into my own. I’ve become a million times more confident in who I am – as a woman and as an artist.”
For more on Ally Brooke, pick up the latest issue of Contrast Magazine here.
Omar Rokael Lizama
Bryan P. Franklin