Anything is Possible
“You’ve got to fight for something because if you are not, you are not really living at all. It is hard, and I think that’s just you being positive to yourself and keeping yourself sane. You have to keep yourself healthy – mentally. And I think it’s just encouraging yourself, reading some quotes that uplift you, uh, positive music, I feel like, every morning, I just wake up, and classical music starts my day off right and lets me know that I’m going to win this day over,” says Dinah Jane Hansen, 21, who’s staying in New York City to attend editorial meetings and 2018’s VMAs at Radio City Music Hall in a few days. It’s a humid, rainy Friday night in mid-August.
“I’m like the first of my culture, of my people, to step up to the plate and roll with the big dogs, and I first found it a little challenging just because coming from a humble beginning, we are not used to seeing our people stepping into the limelight, and when they saw me coming up, they didn’t like that I was becoming this Americanized Polynesian girl,” Hansen candidly shares. “Being that I’m American, I was like, ‘This is what I was raised into. This is what I love listening to.’ Sometimes, I feel like I am Hannah Montana – at home, I’m just one little girl and I’m nothing, and here, I’m on the road in a fast-paced lifestyle, which I enjoy. Sometimes, I get confused by it because when I’m home, people are shocked that I’m doing these things any normal person would do, helping out with a wedding, going around, and helping them cook, and they literally kick me out of the kitchen, ‘No, no, no, get out.’ I’m like, ‘What? I’m no one when I’m home. I love feeling normal sometimes, and having a balance.’”
Hansen was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, growing up in a 4-bedroom-house along with 23 other people. “We made rooms so we would go to the living room, and my grandpa would build a room in the living room, like you would build extra rooms, and then it became 7 to 8 rooms. There was never a dull moment in my house,” she recalls. “So when I started getting on the road at 15 years old, and having to travel and going to hotel rooms, it was so quiet, it was too quiet for me to even sleep at night.” The eldest of 20 grandchildren, she is of Polynesian, Tongan, Samoan, Danish and Fijian descent. She’s been to Denmark but hoping to visit Fiji and Samoa to know where her bloodstream stems from. “I would try to speak Tongan but I only understand it more than I can speak it. My grandparents were trying to speak Tongan to me and make me speak it back, and being that we’re here in America, my mom stopped them from doing that. She was like, ‘She’s in America. She doesn’t have to learn all that.’ So, my mom stopped me from learning,” Hansen laughs. “When I’m here, when people compliment me and tell me that, ‘Oh, my God, you’re a dope artist,’ or ‘You’re a great singer and vocalist,’ I get shy because I’m not used to it. At home, I don’t know, we’re not used to complimenting each other? Because of the humility. Humility is a very strong thing, and very Polynesian. You don’t act like you are higher than anybody.” I ask her if they don’t praise others even when there’s a good reason to do so. “Not really. We do it in a weird way, like, ‘Ah, your music is cool,’ but they don’t treat you like you are up there – if that makes sense. They always keep you grounded. So with that, amongst other artists, when they compliment me, and I’m just like, ‘Huh? You think so?’ – it’s hard, so I always brush it off. I just laugh and make them laugh. I try to make them laugh to get away from the conversation, get away from the topic,” she answers. In fact, I am hesitant now to tell her how great her solo debut “Bottled Up” sounded after listening to it literally a few minutes before this interview, so I simply tell her the fact that I just listened to it, and she immediately gets excited, “Oh, did you? Woo!”
“I’m fighting for my own independence. I’m stepping into my own womanhood.”
She’s been best known as a member of Fifth Harmony – having released platinum songs like “BO$$,” “Sledgehammer,” “Worth It,” “Work from Home,” and “All in My Head (Flex)” – that originally started out on The X Factor in 2012 when Simon Cowell formed a group consisted of five individual contestants: Ally Brooke Hernandez, Camila Cabello, Normani Hamilton, Dinah Jane Hansen and Lauren Jauregui. The girl group released 2 albums Reflection (2015) and 7/27 (2016) until Cabello left the group at the end of 2016, and then self-titled studio album in 2017 before deciding to take an indefinite hiatus to pursue solo projects in early 2018. “I was the youngest one in Fifth Harmony, and I’ve seen them all embody who they are as women right now. And it took me a while to step back and define who I was as a person. And I think, being among so many other women, I was always confused of what I liked and what I wanted. I was like, ‘Wait, I need to sit back and figure out what’s right here,’” says Hansen, putting her right hand over her heart.
“Bottled Up,” according to her, goes with her personality as a young woman who’s “very chill and laid-back. I’m not the type to be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, let’s go turn it up, go get stupid, and go to the club and sh*t.’ I’m just like, ‘Hey, I’m here to kick it with everybody.’” In addition to Hansen’s savvy and ambition, her genuine passion is purely contagious – and I also get excited, and we laugh. “You see what I mean there? It’s just fun, and I think everyone can relate to it because I am sure when anyone bottles up their feelings, they turn to drinking and smoking, and that’s their way of getting them out,” she describes.
“As of right now, I’m fighting for my own independence. I’m stepping into my own womanhood. And I am fighting for just love. I’m fighting for my people, just giving them the recognition that there’s so much talent in our community. I want to, one day, do something where they can step up to the plate and not be afraid of doing the impossible because it isn’t impossible for someone that comes from a small tiny dot on the map to even be traveling the whole world and getting platinum plaques and selling out shows,” says Hansen. “And, I just wanna keep fighting for my legacy and continue to dominate and continue to write my story and share with people that anything is possible, you've just got to believe in yourself and fight the demons – your own demons, little monsters in our heads. It’s beaten me up since when I was 15, and now I’m 21, I feel like, a majority of them are vanished. A lot of them are gone because I make sure that they disappear.”
Writer: Eiko Watanabe
Photographer & Videographer: Richard Warren
Photographer Assistant: Janine Ciccone
Fashion Editor: Lassalle (@stylebylassalle & @stevenlassalle_ - www.stevenlassalle.com)
Fashion Editor Assistant: Huberta Marie (@huberta.marie)
Hair: Anthony Isambert
Makeup: Marc Cornwall
Special thanks to Comprehensive Hospitality Solutions