When Fifth Harmony alum Ally Brooke sat down to tell her mother the release date of her debut book, she was shocked when her mother then told her that same day—October 13th—was Brooke’s original due date. The 27-year-old ultimately was born three months early, but she still managed to make that date hers anyway. As a person who believes in divine and universal timing, it was one of the things that reaffirmed that belief for me—especially after reading her book, Finding Your Harmony: Dream Big, Have Faith and Achieve More Than You Can Imagine.
Ally Brooke Hernandez is a former member of the multi-platinum Fifth Harmony—but make no mistake, this isn’t a book about the girl group. “There could be five books about fifth Harmony,” she told People Magazine. This book is all Ally and her journey—from her hometown of San Antonio, Texas to being on the X Factor stage, to striking out on her own. Her story isn’t one of a far-away nature; in fact, it’s very vulnerable, whether talking about not having her family by her side while competing on reality TV or feeling pressured to be a perfect version of herself. She recounts Simon telling her “You are the glue that keeps this group together” as she and the other girls were placed into the group that would ultimately change their lives.
It’s easy to see how being the glue of the group would be a double-edged sword: you can’t mess up, you can’t misstep, and there isn’t often room for second chances. It also means ignoring whatever you’re going through. In the book, she recalls finding out that her grandfather was dying via Facebook from a family member’s timeline and then asking her mother why she hadn’t been told about what was going on.
This moment of the book is particularly painful because Ally makes it clear that there are two things that guide her: her faith and her family. As she reminisces on her childhood and times spent with her family at Paseo del Rio, a section of downtown San Antonio, you can almost hear her smile as she reads the audiobook.
Moments like this come up often. Eventually, the pain overflowed into her everyday life. “I wasn’t allowed to use my voice figuratively and literally. I didn’t feel like I was allowed to be myself… The pressure to be perfect, the pressure to pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t, got to me,” she wrote. It’s easy to imagine—when you’re a part of something that is manufactured and infinitely larger than yourself, your humanity and relatability die. Brooke wrote about the awful things said about her on social media, including a crop of comments about her “refrigerator body” following the release of a music video in which she donned a bathing suit. In the book, Brooke says she feels things intensely—so it’s easy to see why these things were so heartbreaking to her.
It isn’t all sadness, though. There’s more divine timing, too; at one point she tells a story about her acute hearing, a side effect of being born prematurely, and subsequently how she can hear the tiniest inflections and changes within a song. Brooke also explores the joy of staring at her own likeness as she held a Barbie doll made to look like her.
Like all of life, this book makes room for balance, perhaps finally allowing Brooke to shed the “glue” persona given to her long ago in favor of her much desired and deeply missed humanity. It’s easy to see why she chose to tell her story through a book and not some gossipy TV special: this story isn’t about gossip, but about finding your purpose and living in it. I, for one, believe it’s about leaving something lasting for people to think about—a story worth committing to paper. There are no cameras or color correction in this story; there’s just Ally.