Normani Kordei triumphs in Texas after trials and tribulations

PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Normani Kordei wasn't born in Texas, but she found healing here after life handed the Fifth Harmony megastar hardships that most children are not prepared to endure.

The 20-year-old faces one of the biggest moments in her career: the quest for the mirror ball trophy in the "Dancing with the Stars" semi-finals.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Normani's family said she comes from a long line of strong women.

She'd have to be to endure what she has seen in such a short lifetime.

"When I was five, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer," Normani said.

The precocious young performer was described as being "a very fun kid" by her dad Derek, but one that had to grow up all too soon.

Normani said she remembered her grandmother picking her up from school with news that would shake the very foundations of their family.

"She said, 'We have to go home. Mommy's sick,'" Normani said.

Andrea, Normani's mother, described her frightened daughter and being unable to touch the little girl days after the diagnosis.

"It was really hard to see her go through that," Normani said. "And she stayed, I know, strong for me and for my family."

The family suffered another setback in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed her mother and grandmother's homes.

"Normani, she's like, 'Mommy, will we ever be able to come home?' I was like, 'No,'" Andrea said.

With nothing left, the family headed to Pearland, Texas, where they hoped to rebuild. The trauma of that moment can still be felt in Normani's heart.

"There were bodies floating around. It was like my childhood, everything that I knew, all my memories, gone," Normani said.

Choie Sumpter grew up with Normani in New Orleans, and said it was hard to watch her best friend leave after the storm.

But, Normani's grandmother, Barbara Steward, convinced her to cling on to hope.

"When we moved to Houston, I said, "Baby, it's going to be alright. God is going to see us through this, and sure enough, he did," Steward said.

Normani was destined to rise and like the phoenix she did, first by winning the talent competition "X-Factor" in 2012 alongside her Fifth Harmony mates.

The girl group has since won 48 awards to date, including a 2016 American Music Award for best collaboration on "Work from Home," and three MTV Video Music Awards.

Now Normani hopes to bring home another honor: winner of "Dancing with the Stars."

"Apart from being in Fifth Harmony, this is the best thing that's ever happened to her," mentor Simon Cowell said.

It's a moment that has brought her family closer together.

"I'm very proud," grandmother Steward said. "Is there a limit to proud?"

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