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Cleveland native to take stage at Super Bowl LVII halftime show

Norelle will make her second appearance on one of the world's biggest stages
Posted at 6:51 AM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 06:51:09-05

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Northeast Ohio native will soon be taking one of the biggest stages in the world. While we don’t know yet who will be competing for the title during Super Bowl LVII, we do know Clevelander Norelle will be performing alongside Rihanna during the halftime show.

It’s the second time she’s received what many would consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If you’re a fan of some of modern music’s biggest stars, you may have already heard Norelle’s powerhouse vocals. The list of artists the singer has backed includes A-listers like John Legend, Alicia Keys, Demi Lovato and Pharrell Williams.

“I’ve been singing professionally since 2008,” Norelle told News 5 during a video interview from her Los Angeles home.

She got her start on Cleveland’s east-side suburbs, growing up between Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Mayfield Heights. Back then she was known as Ashley Norelle Simpson.

“My earliest memories are like 5 years old, running around the house singing Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, sliding on the hardwood floors, mimicking their choreography,” she recalled.

Norelle graduated from John Carroll University before pursuing music full-time. Her career as a backup vocalist helped her build connections and open new opportunities. In 2020, a music director she’d been working with for years reached out to offer her a backup opportunity at Super Bowl LV, performing with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

“Being on the field and in the stadium is electric. You can literally feel the energy in your body because everybody is just there to have a good time,” she said. “That was everybody's last big party and then the world shut down.”

Later that year, Norelle’s mother also died.

“Nobody's ever going to root me on the way that she did. In a way that's kind of bittersweet,” she said. “But my family, they're always excited about what I'm doing. And I think they kind of have gotten to the point where they just expect me to do great things.”

Norelle’s family is excited to hear she will receive yet another major opportunity. On February 12, she’ll sing backup vocals for Rihanna during the Super Bowl LVII halftime show.

“I feel like I’m experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment twice,” she said.

The halftime show has been months in the making. The preparation for the upcoming performance comes on top of years of hard work as a backup singer and solo artist.

“I had a dream, I put the work in, I set out to do certain things and I’ve done those things,” Norelle said. “So if nothing else happens beyond this, I’ve reached success.”

She encourages others to follow their own dreams.

“Believing in yourself is half the battle. And if you can believe in yourself whole-heartedly, there’s literally nothing that can stop you or get in the way of achieving whatever it is you put your mind to,” she said.

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