Girl power gets Fifth Harmony going

If US President Barack Obama personally tells you he is proud of you and First Lady Michelle Obama grooves along to your song, it's probably a sign that you've "made it".

Few rising pop acts can count the Obamas among their droves of fans.

But up-and-coming US girl group Fifth Harmony have earned that bragging right since performing at the White House last December for the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting.

At the event, which also featured US singers Ne-Yo and Patti LaBelle, Fifth Harmony members Dinah Jane Hansen, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Kordei and Camila Cabello performed Mariah Carey's festive hit All I Want For Christmas Is You.

But they were first greeted with a warm welcome from the Obamas.

"We were freaking out and shaking because we were so nervous. And when we saw (Michelle), she was clapping her hands and singing our song BO$$. She told us she plays it while at the gym all the time," Hernandez, 21, told M over the phone from Sydney, where the group are busy promoting their debut album Reflection.

Trust the First Lady to get hooked on a song she is name-checked in ("Boss... Michelle Obama/Purse so heavy gettin' Oprah dollars").

She is not the only powerful woman to be referenced in Fifth Harmony's tracks off Reflection, released earlier this month.

Others include Beyonce, Shakira, Rihanna and Madonna (Brave Honest Beautiful) as well as Mariah Carey (Like Mariah).

Female empowerment, said Hernandez, is a major theme in Reflection.

"These are some of our favourite women and we want to send the message to our fans that they, too, can be like them," she said.

Girl power is not the only thing the quintet, aged between 19 and 21, are celebrating with the release of Reflection.

It debuted at No. 5 on the US Billboard 200 album chart, earning them a cushy space among established acts like Taylor Swift, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran.

Not bad for a group that was put together during the second season of reality singing competition The X Factor just three years ago.

So what does Hernandez think of the surprise success?

"EEEEEEEE!," was her happy squeal when asked.

To add to the excitement, the likes of Carey and UK boy band One Direction's Liam Payne have showered Fifth Harmony with praises following the release of Reflection.

Carey, 44, said she loved Like Mariah and offered her congratulations.

Payne, 21, tweeted: "Hey everyone check out @FifthHarmony new album reflection and the song on it reflection is the best I wanna remix".

"It's so incredible. We've been working so hard the past two years making sure the album is the best it can be. All our blood, sweat and tears paid off. The positive response has made us so happy," Hernandez said.


The success has spurred them on to continue working hard as they prepare to embark on their Reflection tour in the US next week.

What else keeps them going?

For the all-female troupe, it seems to be hard work, determination and plenty of girl power.

Forget catfights.

"It's about girls coming together to encourage each other to be their best. Girl power, to me, is embracing how special you are and embracing each other," she said.

That said, there is always space for healthy competition in the group.

"If someone (among us) learnt a cool dance move, we'd all want to learn it too so we can all be better. We are just a bunch of girls coming together to fulfil our dreams," Hernandez said.

We were freaking out and shaking because we were so nervous. And then we saw (Michelle), she was clapping her hands and singing our song BO$$. She told us she plays it while at the gym all the time.

- Fifth Harmony member Ally Brooke Hernandez

This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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