With Her Solo Debut Album Complete, Camila Cabello's Hurting is Over
I’m standing in the driveway of a beautiful house in Silver Lake waiting to interview none other than Ms. Camila Cabello herself, just months before she releases her first solo album: The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving. I’m here today to ask the Cubana-Mexicana and living breathing American dream about her highly publicized departure from Fifth Harmony, being in the studio with legendary producer Pharrell, and what in the world would compel a fifteen-year-old Latina girl to trade in her Quinceañera dress for a ten-hour car ride to North Carolina.
“I asked my mom to drive me (from Miami to Greensboro, N.C.) to audition for The X Factor as my fifteenth birthday present,” Cabello tells me as we sit outside the set of her second photo-shoot of the day, recounting her journey of joining Fifth Harmony.
Cabello originally auditioned as a solo act for the show but was cut and then brought back to be placed in a group with four other girls who were also told they would be stronger as a quintet. Clearly, the judges of The X Factor knew what they were talking about. During her time with Fifth Harmony, Cabello and the group received forty-nine awards, including four iHeartRadio Music Awards, Two People’s Choice Awards and an American Music Award for the group’s collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, “Work from Home.”
With success on the rise and the group’s hard work finally paying off, “Harmonizers” – as Fifth Harmony fans call themselves – were shocked to hear that Cabello was saying goodbye to the group and hello to a journey all her own in December of last year.
Cabello says being exposed to her parent’s bravery when they migrated from Cuba to the U.S. when she was only seven years old is what gave her the strength to leave the group in the middle of their professional peak. “Everything we’ve gone through as a family has given me a different perspective on life,” she says. “We’ve started over so many times. My parents came with no money, no friends, not even a house. Nothing. And it was just always about, ‘I’m not happy where I am now. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I can’t stay here.’ It’s always been about just being brave enough to make that move.”
And moves she is making. Cabello acknowledges she probably wouldn’t have developed a curiosity for songwriting without Fifth Harmony nor the work ethic it takes to be a well-respected artist. “There’s a healthy amount of competitiveness that exists within a group,” she says. “Everybody wants to add something to the table.”
As a solo artist, Cabello has already caught the attention of big names in the industry including Charli XCX, Ryan Tedder, Ed Sheeran and Pharrell, just to name a few. Cabello tells me working with amazing songwriters whom she personally admires is what has given her the confidence to have a say in every step of producing The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving.
Most of the songs on Cabello’s debut album are intoxicatingly sexy and deeply intimate. Listening to her lyrics, you might be lead to believe that she has been tragically heartbroken time and time again. In actuality, the songs on Cabello’s album, while all rooted in real life experiences, take their sense of heartbreak more from the tropes of the singer-songwriter’s Latin musical culture.
“Latin music has influenced me in every way. Even in “I’ll Never Be the Same.” That was about a boy that I was with for like three months, not even, it was like two months and I’m just like, ‘you’re the one...it’s you!’” she tells me as we both begin to crack up over our shared understanding of the “drama” that can be extracted from Latin culture. As I watch a few clips from Cabello’s The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving, I can hear Latin influences such as Celia Cruz and Spanish rock band Maná in the lyrics of her songs and in her overall demeanor on stage.
Cabello tells me coming from Miami has given her a special appreciation not only for her own culture, but for every culture that she encountered in what she calls “the melting pot.”
“I think what surprised me so much about this new America is that I felt like in Miami there was never any kind of intolerance or bias. With Trump as president it’s just been kind of uncovered, or maybe I just didn’t see it before. It’s scary to think that there’s still so much intolerance in the world.”
Cabello tells me that songwriting serves as an outlet for her to process her emotions. The Hurting is what she experienced before the making of the album and the creation of it has been her closure, her healing.
“I really feel like it saved me,” she says. “Through the process of writing it and getting it off my chest I was confronting it for the first time. There’s no separation between who I am as an artist and who I am as a person. So once I feel I’m done with a project that talks about one thing, I’m completely done.”
Cabello’s song “I Have Questions” is actually about the pain of a friendship ending, which in Cabello’s opinion is worse than romantic heartbreak. “In a romantic relationship you think, this is amazing, this is beautiful, I love this person, but there’s a part of you that’s always prepared for it to end. I feel with a friendship you think it’s going to last forever. You start to consider that person like your family and so you don’t see an end to that. So when it’s like a shocking or abrupt ending that’s worse.”
While Cabello has discovered how to navigate the realm of friendships, romantic relationships are still a topic she achingly desires to gain further experience in. Moving forward, Cabello will be opening for Bruno Mars on her first solo tour and already knows she wants to experience something she constantly fantasizes about before writing her next album: falling in love.
As we’re getting ready to wrap up the interview I can’t help but think that to an outsider looking in Cabello probably seems like a complete Hollywood Glamazon, strutting in front of the camera dressed in higher-than-life Giuseppe Zanotti heels. But the truth is, Cabello is just a twenty-year-old musician from Miami, swaying her hips to Calle 13 and marching to the beat of her own Cubana drum. She really is the epitome of the American Dream. However bruised or battered it may seem at the moment, the dream is real and Cabello is living it.
Written by Eva Barragan
Photographed by Mitchell Nguyen McCormack.
Styled by Deborah Ferguson
Hair: Peter Savic for Opus Beauty.
Makeup: Allan Avendaño using L’Oreal for Starworks Artists.
Retouching: Duo Vision.
Location courtesy of Estudio Los Feliz estudiolosfeliz.com.