The Biggest Bombshells from Ally Brooke's Memoir Finding Your Harmony

In her new book, Finding Your Harmony, Ally Brooke opened up about Fifth Harmony, The X Factor, DWTS and more.

By Billy Nilles Oct 13, 2020 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Ally Brooke Answers Burning Fan Questions

Ally Brooke is using her voice in a whole new way.

In her just-released book Finding Your Harmony, out Oct. 13, the former Fifth Harmony star is sharing her story in the hopes that she might inspire readers to—as the tome's subtitle suggests—"dream big, have faith, and achieve more than you can imagine."

Over the course of 300-plus pages, she invites fans into her world of faith and fame, opening up about her experiences on The X Factor, as a member of a wildly successful girl group and, now, as a solo artist striving to do things her way. "All I've ever wanted to be, since I was a little girl, is to be a light—a light in this dark world and in this dark industry," she writes in the introduction. "I hope that this book can be a light to you. And I hope it leaves you changed, the same way that my own story has left me changed."

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Though she admitted in a recent interview with Hollywood Raw that the book avoids discussion about Camila Cabello's contentious departure from the group that made them stars, saying, "I kind of wanted to focus on the positive, which is why I didn't say much," there are still some juicy stories to savor. And that's what we really want out of our celebrity memoirs, right?

Read on for everything you need to know from Finding Your Harmony.

Gathering her family in San Antonio, Texas to watch her successful audition for The X Factor play back on television, Ally Brooke writes in Finding Your Harmony that she was more than dismayed by how such a moment in her life was portrayed to the millions watching. Not only were all the important things she'd said in her interview with producers left on the cutting room floor, her performance in front of judges Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid was spliced together with reaction footage that she was certain never happened.

"On the TV version, as I sang on, after the music stopped, the camera cut to the judges, and Simon looked annoyed. Other judges made cringing faces at me. The producers cut to people in the audience laughing," she writes. "The camera cut back to me as I sang, but the magic was shattered. Simon appeared even more irritated. This version of events was nothing, and I mean nothing, like what I'd experienced in real life. It didn't seem powerful for me to keep singing. It almost seemed arrogant. But this wasn't how it had happened at all. Instead of being beautiful, as the moment had been, it was embarrassing." Near tears and wondering how she could return to compete during the live shows, Ally writes that her father had to remind her of the nice things Simon said in the clip. "'A future star,' Dad said again. 'Yeah,' I muttered, fighting back the tears."

Despite wanting a career as a performer, Ally had to be convinced to audition for the show that ultimately changed her life. Shortly after she graduated high school, news broke that The X Factor was coming to Austin to hold auditions for season two. Ally's mom urged her to give it a shot. "'Mama,' she said, "you really should audition for this show. What do you have to lose?' 'No, Mom,' I immediately replied. 'I don't want to go through a reality show. I don't want to be just another contestant, lost in the shuffle. It's scary.'" For weeks, Ally's mom persisted until Ally finally gave in and recorded an audition video. And despite still not wanting to do the show, she prayed to God as she sent in the tape, asking that the door be closed if that was His will. "But a few seconds later, with a tender and gentle voice, I added, 'But if this is what you want for me, if this is Your will, please open it,'" she writes. Six days later, she was asked to audition for the judges.

After making it to the live shows as part of a newly formed girl group (known then as LYLAS) with Normani Kordei, Lauren Jauregui, Dinah Jane and Camila Cabello—a group that Simon told her she was "the glue" of—Ally writes that she continued to be demoralized by the process. When she asked for more lines in the group's songs, their vocal coach pushed back. "'You should be grateful that you're here,' she said. 'It shouldn't be about parts.'" On top of that, she says she wasn't allowed to have any control over her styling, with everything down to the shade of lipstick chosen for her. "I felt frustrated and powerless to change my circumstances, especially because I really hated any kind of confrontation, and so even small asks were difficult for me," she explains. "So most of the time, I was too scared to make a request."

When her Grandpa Paul passed away as the live shows were ongoing, Ally received support from everyone on the show, including a very famous co-host. "One of the hosts that season was Khloé Kardashian. Radiating warmth, she pulled me aside, giving me a big hug, and I cried in her arms," she writes. "'I am so sorry for your loss,' [Khloé] said. 'I lost my dad when I was very young. Even to this day, it's still hard. But I'm here for you, and I'm praying for you and your family. One thing that I'll tell you is don't let anybody tell you how to grieve. If you want to cry, cry. If you want to try to be happy, be happy. But you grieve in the way that you grieve.'"

Despite the very tight production schedule, Ally was adamant about returning home to grieve with her family and attend her grandfather's funeral. The only problem? Last-minute flights were very expensive. "And then a producer came up and pulled me aside. 'Simon is going to cover your flight to San Antonio and back, so you can go to your grandpa's funeral,' she said. I was deeply moved by Simon's amazing act of kindness, and it remains one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me," Ally writes. "With the support of Simon and the producers, I flew to San Antonio, even though it would mean missing rehearsal. I was able to spare only two days from the demands of the show, but it felt so comforting to step off the plane in my hometown."

After coming in third place under new name Fifth Harmony, Ally and the girls told at the wrap party that Simon and L.A. were signing them to their labels. But when the edit of their first single "Miss Movin' On" came through, she was once again disappointed to discover that she'd only been given one line and one ad lib of her own. (Each singer separately recorded the song in full, with the producers splicing their parts together afterwards to create the full track.) When she raised the issue with their manager, explaining that she wanted to be represented fairly on the group's first single, she was informed it was already too late. The song had been locked. "This was our first release, and it felt like another embarrassing start for me," Ally writes. "I was nervous that our fans would see me as nothing more than being in the background."

When their manager at the time suggested Ally get bangs to differentiate her look from the others, she went along with it. "Instead, the girls in the group teased me a bit, not knowing just how sensitive I was about my bangs," she writes, adding that they called her "Coconut Head" after pointing out that her new hairdo made her look like a character from the Nickelodeon show Ned's Survival Guide. "I joke about it today, but at the time it was painful, opening up old wounds about not being pretty enough, at a time when I was already doubting myself," she says. "Even now I can't stand to look back at pictures of myself from these months, but when I do, I can now find a way to laugh."

While at work on their debut album Reflection, the label presented the girls with a song that they felt pushed too far into the new, grown-up territory they were entering. "We had some serious questions about the song's theme, which was about a girl's walk of shame, home from a drunken one-night stand. Again, most of the girls in our group were still pretty young," Ally writes. "It seemed way too adult for us. We let our management know we didn't feel comfortable with the lyrics, and they told the label." Despite pushback from the label—"The response was, basically: If we'd wanted to sign a Christian group, we would have signed a Christian group."—and waffling from the other girls in the face of such a response, Ally held her ground. The song was eventually dropped. "I was so beyond relieved," she writes, "I started crying."

As the group got to work on their sophomore album 7/27, Ally faced two instances of uncomfortable pressure from men in positions of power in the music industry. "During one listening session, someone at the label was trying to get me to do things I was extremely uncomfortable with, because I was not cool," she writes without further clarification. "The already searing pain of my insecurities took an even greater hit. I tried to awkwardly laugh the comment off. But there was no laughter from him. It was especially embarrassing because he was a very high-up executive, who carried our future in his hands. It made me feel humiliated." Meanwhile, an exec at another label had expressed interest in helping Ally navigate "new challenges" while sharing his "wisdom" about the business. "Turns out, at our first meeting, he gave me a thong," she writes. "'You would look really good in this,' he said. I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed. On another night, he texted me to invite me to his hotel room. I never wrote him back."

Though "Work from Home" would go on to become one of the group's biggest hits, it almost had a different name. "Fun fact: the song was originally called ‘Work,'" Ally reveals. "But we heard that Rihanna was coming out with a song called 'Work,' around the same time, and so we renamed our single 'Work from Home.'" On the song's more risqué lyrics, Ally writes, "Looking back now, I think I should have probably said something and tried to change my own lyrics in the song, because they were a little daring—but I tried to make the best of it."

After the group became a quartet when Camila went solo, they were due to perform at an iHeartRadio event in Miami. Twenty minutes before they were set to take the stage, Ally felt a sharp pain in her stomach and had to lay down. In a twist of fate, Survivor producer Mark Burnett and his wife, Touched by an Angel actress Roma Downey, were present and asked if they could pray with the girls. It was a big moment for Ally. "I really looked up to them for not only playing an active role in the world of entertainment but also for being lights shining genuine faith in the industry. I'd wanted to meet them both for many years," she writes. "They immediately lay their hands on me and started praying in the name of Jesus. At that exact moment of prayer, I felt the Holy Spirit come over me. This amazing peace and strength filled me as they kept praying. When I opened my eyes as the prayer ended, I was stunned. My pain was gone. After seeing how bad I'd felt, everyone stared at me as they witnessed this miraculous change. It was such a surreal moment, especially since Roma had played a TV angel, and there she was, praying for me like a real one."

The encounter had a lasting effect. "Since that day, both Roma and Mark have become such important people in my life," Ally continues. "They are a beautiful, God-fearing couple who really just took me in. Roma has been such a dear special friend, almost like a mom away from home."

After Fifth Harmony announced its indefinite hiatus in March 2018, Ally began taking meetings with labels regarding her solo career. As she watched Normani, Lauren and Dinah Jane each get signed, she was faced with some stinging news. "I'd had such high hopes. I'd had it all planned out in my mind. I'd worked so hard, putting energy and effort into my new music and into meeting after meeting, no matter how discouraged I felt in the room," she writes. "All of the doors had closed in my face. I was shattered. Not even one label out of four wanted me. This is a nightmare. Someone wake me up." However, after a second meeting with Atlantic that June, she was signed.

Dancing With the Stars first came calling in August 2018, but she hesitated at the offer and turned them down. Though she said she didn't want to take any time away from launching her solo career, that wasn't the only thing keeping her from signing on. "The deeper truth was that I was really nervous about my dancing, especially on a show that was all about the dancing. I didn't want to embarrass myself," Ally writes. "I'd already been made fun of, mercilessly, for my dancing when I was in Fifth Harmony. Online trolls would make videos highlighting what they saw as my bad dancing, and those videos would go viral, but not in a good way. Everybody made fun of me and it seemed that a lot of our fans thought I was the weakest dancer. That was a big wound I was still trying to heal and move past."

When a second offer from DWTS came in, asking her to participate in the 2019 season, she accepted and quickly bonded with pro partner Sasha Farber and fellow contestants like Lauren Alaina and James Van Der Beek. When she found herself in the bottom two against the Dawson's Creek actor the same week his wife suffered a miscarriage, she couldn't accept it when the judges opted to save her over him. After asking host Tom Bergeron if she could switch spots with James, to no avail, she visited James in his trailer. "'I just wanted you to know how sorry I am,' I said, soon in tears. 'And how guilty I feel, because I'm going on and you aren't. Please, I'm begging you, I want to offer you my slot. Please, please, please. This is not just me trying to be nice. This is a real gesture. Please take it.' It was a very emotional moment," she writes. "'Ally, I will never let you do that,' he said. 'And it's crazy that you're over here even doing that. It just shows your heart. Ally, you go out there, and you be unapologetic.' He'd always encouraged me to feel empowered to be myself, with pride, and that's how he'd become like a mentor to me."

Ally opens up about her decision to remain a virgin until marriage, one she made on her 18th birthday as she asked her parents for a special ring.  "It reads TRUE LOVE WAITS," she writes. "It symbolizes the choice I've made to save myself for marriage, a commitment I have maintained to this day, even in an industry where such values are not generally celebrated, and I've sometimes been judged and made fun of. But I've just held my head high and remained true to who I am and what I believe in. I would never judge someone for their values or the life they choose to live. It's a delicate subject to talk about, because it's so personal to me, but I felt it was important to share, because I'm proud of myself for honoring this promise I've made to God. And my parents are very proud of me, too. I can't wait to one day walk down the aisle and give myself away on my wedding night. For now, I will have to patiently wait."

In an update on her relationship with Normani, Lauren and Dinah Jane, Ally writes, "There were some difficult times in Fifth Harmony, but I chose to focus on the positive. And one thing is true: I will always have love for them. And who knows, maybe one day, we will be at a major worldwide event together as a group again." As for Camila, she's never mentioned in the book by name. Not even once.

Finding Your Harmony is available now.