Dinah Jane is Done Toning Herself Down

Dinah Jane is living your dream — but she’s also lived through quite a few nightmares.

The 26-year-old singer was thrust into the spotlight at 15 when she auditioned for X-Factor and eventually joined Fifth Harmony — one of the best-selling girl groups ever. Dinah has 7.4 million followers on Instagram, a solo EP on the way, and is the first official pop-star of Polynesian descent.

But behind the glamor and accolades — celebrities, they’re just like us. Dinah Jane still struggles with some of the same things you probably do: depression, body image, toxic relationships, friend drama, the loss of family members, and having to tone herself down to “fit in.” 

This is probably why, when I got the chance to chat with Dinah Jane the other week, it felt like I was talking to a close girl friend over brunch and mimosas. Dinah Jane was warm, candid, and open, even though some of the things we discussed — like the loss of her grandparents — were causing her voice to falter as she tried to hold back tears. 

Dinah Jane’s soon-to-be-released EP covers all of these emotions: her lover girl side, her toxic side, and of course, her “crybaby” side that pays homage to her Polynesian ancestors and heritage. We spoke with Dinah Jane about her upcoming EP, her celeb crush, coming out on the other side of mental health struggles, and a whole lot more.

You’re releasing your first solo EP — why now? 

I have a lot to say. A lot to express from real-life events [that] happened in the past few years. A lot of music that was supposed to come out is finally seeing light and I’m so proud of myself for standing my ground on my craft and what I’ve created. A lot of these songs are written from the heart and I can’t wait for people to hear it through the music. [I’ve] got a lot to say and a lot of different styles to show when it comes to vocals. I want people to hear me this time around — for the first time.

What are some things you’ve been able to do recording this album as a solo artist that you didn’t get to do in Fifth Harmony?

I feel like I had to hold back a lot being in a girl group because they told me my voice was too soulful. I feel like there are no limits this time around. I’m so much more colorful. I’m not limiting myself when it comes to coloring my vocal range or playing with harmonies. I love harmonies. I look up to Destiny’s Child as well. So with that background and my culture, we harmonize a lot in our music. And learning from the best like Destiny’s Child or Beyoncé and infusing my culture into it too from what I grew up listening to, it’s so much more fun creating this time around. 

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What you’re saying makes so much sense because being in a position where you feel like you kind of have to shrink yourself or tone yourself down takes a toll on your self-esteem and your mental health. And I know you took a break from music to focus on your mental health. 

Exactly! That’s what I struggled with in [Fifth Harmony], so coming back into [music] I’m finding myself as I go in these studio sessions. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there she is!” I forgot that’s what you used to sound like, or I forgot there was so much more to you before. You know, sometimes you have to tuck yourself away to let other people shine a little bit more and this time around I’m not letting it happen. 

That’s really awesome. It’s almost like you’re finding yourself again — like when you go through a relationship and you lose yourself in it and then you emerge and have to find yourself again.

Exactly. I’ve been in relationships before, I’ve lost myself in them. And to go back into the studio to find myself, find my strength, and find my passion again, was so liberating. I’m like, “Okay, there’s so much to tell.” I’m not one of those messy girls online that be posting about what’s going on in her life, I’d rather just let people hear it in my music because people are curious. And I’m not much of an open book myself. But if you’re close to me, you know every detail about every life event that I’ve encountered. And I want to expose that in my music and let people know I’ve gone through real stuff and I’m really human at the end of the day. As perfect as the industry tries to make us like, “Oh, make it look like you’re doing just fine,” I really wasn’t doing well these past three years. And I just really want people to feel the human in me. 

I’m sorry to hear that the past few years were tough, but I’m really excited to hear that you’re finding yourself again in the studio. Do you think there are any songs on the new album that people are gonna think are about them? 

Well, hey…if the shoe fits, lace them up! I’ve been in relationships that didn’t work out well. I’ve lost my family — our relationship was the worst it’s ever been. I think I wanted my family to accept that I was transitioning into womanhood. I’ve been so obedient and so respectful to them all this time and I’ve been screaming that I’m running away from the industry so they can actually hear me like, “Dinah is really going through something, maybe this is when she really needs us.” I didn’t want to be around music. I hated music. The album that I was supposed to drop in 2020 was picked by other people on my team and I felt like it wasn’t me. So there were many things that pushed me away from being happy. Everything that I was so passionate about with music, a lot of these personal life events, have pushed me away from what I always dreamed of. Relationships, friendships — I’ve just recently lost some long-term childhood friendships and I’ve learned that life goes on. People have an expiration date with you and you have to understand and trust that whatever is meant for you will always be for you. And also learning that it takes time for people to heal. And for you as well. So who knows? Maybe later down the line, things will get better in a sense. But I’m not the type to be messy and expose people like “Oh my god, this person did me dirty.” It’s more that I want people to understand that this stuff really happens in anyone’s life, no matter your status. And that we’re all human. So I just want to be relatable in the sense of, “I really go through these things too.” At the end of the day, I’m also a girl’s girl so I’m always rooting for my girls and whoever is winning. I want to be there no matter what and I wish people the best at the end of the day. 

I feel like that’s actually so important to share because I went through a friend breakup in the past year and they are harder than romantic breakups.

It is! It sucks. Okay, so what happened? Now that we’re here. [Laughs]

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It’s too long of a story, but I definitely feel you and I feel like it is important to share that everybody goes through stuff like this no matter where you’re at in your life.

Speaking of friends, I love hearing my friends’ stories. They kind of enhance my songwriting process. Victoria Monet [and I] were at the studio one time and she told me this story about this guy she was dating and I just knew that they were so in love and it inspired me to write the song about her and her relationship. So everything that I’m writing or expressing in my music, it may not be about me, it may be about someone else’s experience. I wrote that song about her and her mans. It was basically like he was too perfect and [she was thinking], “What’s the catch?” I love girl talk. 

Do you feel like working on this project is allowing you to change your artistic persona? 

I’ll say changing, but I’d also say I’m tapping into who I’ve always been. I shied away from it for a while because I was always advised by others to tuck away what made me “me” just because we don’t come from a big population of people. There are not even a million islanders. We may not be big in numbers, but we’re big with our heart, big with our spirit, big with our talent. And I feel like I’ve always kind of felt alone in the music industry, being a Polynesian artist who’s reached such heights. I didn’t realize how much I was doing at the time until I go amongst my people and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is Dinah Jane, these are your accolades.” And I realize “Oh my gosh, I really was that girl!” I just hope to create such a safe space for people who want to be the next Polynesian artist to reach such heights. I want to [show] them that there is no limit. That we do belong in rooms. That there is space for us in all these rooms. And I think we thrive better in sports, but there are not many of us in the music scene — in the mainstream world — that are thriving alongside me. So I just want to see more representation moving forward and I hope I’m able to open that door for them this round.

That’s awesome. Because yeah, you’re the first Polynesian pop star! 

Yeah…and I used to pressure myself with that. That’s a lot of pressure! I take pride in it though, I don’t put it as pressure anymore. I turned it into pride and realized my power with that. I’m like, “Okay, so what can I do? How can I utilize this platform that I have?” I want to create a label for the next generation to come. Every time I talk about it and my dreams of breaking doors and barriers, I also realize that it’s gonna take a lot of work. So trusting in the process and creating a foundation of people who are experts in this industry where they can help us create this safe space. 

Speaking of experts, you’ve brought a lot of Polynesian musicians on the album and Polynesian stylists to help with aesthetics. How did you find these experts to help you?

Well thankfully, my manager is a professional dancer in the Polynesian scene, so he knows all the Polynesian experts in dance, music, and styling. Having him in my corner was probably the best blessing. I was with the best of the best managers and labels before, but I remember being on set of “Bottled Up” and I remember calling him like, “Hey, I really need you back in my corner.” Because through word of mouth, people were like “Dinah needs to go up against this pop star, this girl, and this girl…” and when they started comparing me to other female artists, I realized [they were] trying to replicate me when really there’s power in being my true authentic self. So why don’t I just bring on someone from home and have them craft me the identity that I’ve been searching for? And he’s been able to surface that identity for me by bringing in Tiana Liufau. She’s the person that Disney calls when they need help with Moana. She’s also from my city, Orange County, so there’s a community here and people don’t realize it really does take a village to get people to where they need to be. And I’ve been able to have such a strong intelligent village surrounding me, and I really give thanks to our ancestors that have paved the way for us to be in a space such as this. Another stylist that’s having a huge hand in my styling is Nancy. She’s also from Southern California and it’s so great to know that there’s a community of people willing to step out of their comfort zone, grab creatives who have always been overlooked themselves. I want to shed light on them and be like, “Hey, they’re here too.” You know? So again, thank you to my manager Chad for bringing on these people for me!  

That reminds me, it’s AAPI month. Do you have any advice for Galore’s readers on how they can celebrate and pay homage to Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander heritage even if they don’t belong to those groups?

Ah, there’s so many things. Go to our concerts, feel the music there. Go eat at some of our local spots. There are some Polynesian local restaurants down here in southern California or all of the West Coast actually. Do your research and find some artists that you like out there. Find stylists out there. There are so many creatives out there thriving in what they do best. Or even educate yourself on some of your favorite WWE wrestlers: The Uso brothers, Roman Reigns — my celebrity crush. Oh girl, he is so fine! And our sports. There’s so many Polynesian men that were drafted into the NFL. I would love to highlight them too. There’s so much talent out there. Like I said, we may be small in numbers but we are mighty in our talents. And we support our community so if you can just do your research and find us and support us, we truly appreciate it..

You took a break from music to focus on your mental health. What are some things you do to have a good mental health day? 

For myself? I really love pickleball. I’ve really become a sports girl recently. I love staying active now, physically getting my body back on track. I’ve been training with my trainer down here in Orange County, his name is Mo, and he’s seen me at my worst and he’s seen me at my best. When I say my worst — I gained so much weight, it’s literally no secret. I gained so much weight from depression. I was running away from home and eating was something that I was like “Okay, maybe I just need to eat my feelings away.” This time around, I feel like I’m in such a happier space that I’m getting back to bettering myself physically and mentally by staying physically active [with] pickleball, golf, and I’m trying to get back into tennis. I just love staying active because it really takes the toll off of my mental. Also, no one knows this, but I take personal drives by myself to the beach. I’m an Orange County girl so since I’m near the beach, I might as well go visit. The water is where I feel the most free and the sound of the ocean just really calms me and takes the pressure off all my thoughts. I’m a professional overthinker, so the ocean just cleanses my mental and makes me feel like nothing should feel that heavy on you. Which is why I dropped “Ocean Song.” It’s really an ancestral prayer. I’ve lost many important family members who paved the way for me or have carried me throughout my career. Even when I was traveling all over the world, my grandfather who raised me was there. When I was with [Fifth Harmony] he would have personal conversations with me to check on me. He’d be like, “Dinah, are you okay?” And I never wanted to tap into that. [I’d say], “Grandpa, I’m fine.” And he’d just break me down like, “Hey just know I’m here, everything’s going to be okay.” And even though he’s passed, this song makes me feel like I have a personal connection with him, that his voice is still here, telling me that everything’s going to be okay, no matter how far we fall, or no matter how loud the noise may get. He is that calming voice through this song that tells me to keep going, to keep thriving. I’m really doing this for them, for my ancestors, and for my grandmother that I’m named after. Her name is Jane. And in my music video, you’ll see their faces. This is my prayer to them. I’ve cried many nights, just wanting and needing them near me. And I hope people can find this as their sacred prayer as well, to their ancestors. Losing them was probably the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ve never lost someone that close, so “Ocean Song” is really personal to me. And I hope everyone loves it just as much as me and I hope it carries them as much as it has for me through my personal journey. 

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That was said so beautifully and I appreciate you sharing it. And the song is really beautiful, it’s very uplifting like you said. I’m sure they would love it.

Aw, you’re so sweet. I hope so too. I hope they start streaming this! [laughs]

Yes, they’ve got streaming up there. What’s your favorite song on the new album? Or maybe second favorite?

These are all my favorites, I carry them as my babies. So I have a song called “Road Less Traveled.” This one I crafted into a love song and I feel like I haven’t really tapped into my lover girl, soft girl era. You’re gonna get the soft crybaby side out of me in “Ocean Song.” You’ll get the toxic side of me, which is “Tell Me.” There are so many babies that I have in here that are so special to me and it just all kind of gives you who Dinah is — her personality. Sometimes I may be messy with my man or sometimes I may be lovey-dovey with him. By the way, there is no man right now, so please be on the lookout! [laughs] So there’s like a mix of everything that I’m pouring into this era. I’m so sorry, I can’t really [pick a favorite] because “Ocean Song” is definitely number one but maybe number two would be “Let’s Go.” I created this with two of my favorite Polynesian artists right now: JKING and Young Go. I love this song so much that I knew I needed my people on it with me. So shout out to JKING and Young Go for crafting this into the most beautiful masterpiece. It is probably the first song I’ve ever played on repeat. It played me to sleep. I had it on repeat 30 times when I was in Australia the night I recreated it and I’m just so proud of it. It’s the way it feels, the way you gravitate toward it instantly when you hear the guitar licks in the beginning. The feeling there is we all have a different angle on how we approach love. So I’m glad that I got Young Go to step out of his thug aura and he’s expressing himself in the way a thug should love down his girl. And the way JKING is loving on his woman is so beautiful too. His vocal ability is insane. It makes you feel like you’re on a yacht with your man, that’s what it feels like.

That’s the summer 2024 vibe we need: You on a yacht with Roman Reigns.

Yes! [laughing hard] Oh my gosh, I love you. Can you please put that in there?

Speaking of crushes, I know you said you don’t have a man and you’re obviously busy working on this project, but I feel like it must be hard to date when you’re in the spotlight.

Yeah I mean, it is hard. I think a part of me is still healing from the last relationship I was in, so I’m still learning that there are a lot of toxic traits I carry from that cycle and I don’t want to carry them no more. So I don’t feel like I’m in a space right now to be in a relationship. It’d be selfish of me to give myself to someone when they could have the best of me. I’d rather work on myself first before I give them the opportunity to be with me. But also like you said, I am super busy. I’m diving into this craft, I’m diving into this scene, and there’s so much creativity happening that I don’t think a distraction is necessary right now. Maybe catch me after. Everybody hit my line after everything drops, okay? [laughs]

Ok, we’ll let everyone know that. [laughs] There’s a waitlist right now.

There’s a very long waitlist this year [laughs]. I’ve been working on myself for quite some time to notice that I’m secure on my own so if a guy does come along the way, as long as they’re a bonus to my mental and it doesn’t feel like a burden or a weight that I’m carrying. Sometimes guys can be very clingy…or any relationship comes with being clingy or communication and I kind of don’t have all of that within me right now so hopefully in the next round I’ll have my freedom. But I’ve just been so focused on what I’ve been curating for quite some time now that I think my craft is my relationship right now. Married to the game! 

Is there anything else you want our readers to know about what you’re working on or what you have on the way?

I have more music videos in the works but since “Ocean Song” is out, I would say that with the creative process of making this music video, I wanted to pay tribute to not only just my ancestral call, but the angle of highlighting Polynesian women. I am the first-born daughter in my family, the oldest of eight, so the story kind of ties into the weight we carry as Polynesian women. I feel like a lot of women can relate when it comes to basically being the second parent to your siblings. We’re kind of groomed into that, being there for them physically, mentally, and financially. And I love that I’ve been that for my siblings for all this time and I love that I’ve had the opportunity to see them grow. So the women have a lot of stories to tell and you can just see the beauty within them as well. There’s so much power in their eyes and their natural beauty too. I ask them to embrace their curls, embrace their curves, and the white in the music video symbolizes the purity of Polynesian women. I also showed my Tongan culture. I was wearing beautiful Tongan attire that you wear when you dance. My managers tell me that historically, Polynesian people didn’t have a written language so we communicated through dance and song. And I’m learning a lot about my own culture as I go because it wasn’t really taught to me — we were so Americanized. I love that I’ve been able to educate myself on what comes with the depths of being Polynesian or Tongan. I also highlight my family in this music video. I’m the oldest grandchild of 27 grandkids on my mom’s side. And these are all the kids that I raised in this home that we grew up here in Santa Ana, California. If you look back at my story on X-Factor when I auditioned, they asked me, “What’s your story?” I don’t remember details but I blatantly said, “Oh, I live with 23 people.” And they were probably thinking, “She lives in a big home.” No, we did not live in a big home. My grandpa made room for us. And in this music video, you see all of those grandkids. These are all the diapers I’ve changed, all the faces I picked up from school, and it’s just so heartwarming that I could bring my family into a music video such as this so people can understand where I really come from and how I was raised or how my lifestyle has always been. I also highlight my grandpa who raised me and my grandma, whose photos we’re carrying in the music video. They’re the ones who passed on and have given me the strength to move forward with music. So I hope people enjoy the little gems that are in this video and understand where I really come from and take a piece of my home within their home. 


Photography and Creative Direction: Jacob DeKat

Stylist: Damaris Flores

Make Up: Kayla Perez

Hair: Cassandra Normil

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