The real reasons Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony

Camila Cabello's sudden exit from Fifth Harmony in December 2016 was shocking, sort of. There had been rumblings that the vibrato-laden singer was itching to escape for months. What finally made her pull the plug on fronting the girl group and just how did this departure go down? Fifth Harmony claims her decision was relayed to the group via her representatives, but Cabello alleges she got the boot from her bandmates, leaving her blindsided. Fear not, we'll sort this split out for you.

She had more success as a featured solo artist

Cabello has had two songs in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 as a featured artist and only one as a member of Fifth Harmony. Her duet with Shawn Mendes, "I Know What You Did Last Summer," hit no. 20 in early 2016. "Work From Home" with Fifth Harmony peaked at no. 4 in June 2016. It wasn't until she collaborated with rapper Machine Gun Kelly in December 2016 on "Bad Things" that she finally had a no. 1 single to her credit.

When Billboard asked Cabello about the success of "Bad Things," she gushed, "Honestly, it feels like my heart is going to explode from how excited I am. Any song I do, I put my heart and soul into and, as an artist, you can only hope it makes other people feel the way you feel when making it. So the fact that people are connecting to it makes me so happy. I know a song is special when it makes me feel something or brings back memories or personal experiences, and when I heard it, I saw the whole movie in my head. It just made me feel that warm feeling of falling in love."

Clearly, she's been dabbling in independent opportunities with great results, so why pump the brakes on a good thing?

She wanted more creative freedom

A solo career would let Cabello not only shine in the spotlight but also expand her horizons creatively, which can be difficult to do in a group setting—especially considering she and her bandmates admitted they wrote none of the songs on the 7/27 album. Cabello told Billboard in February 2016, "Fifth Harmony is amazing, that we can all come from different places and have different music tastes and have different ideas of what music we would like to make but all come together to be like, 'OK, this is our sound.' But at the end of the day, you feel kind of stifled when you can't completely express who you are without any compromises."

Taylor Swift may have influenced her

In March 2015, Cabello was accused of ditching her bandmates to party with songstress Taylor Swift's infamous squad—who documented the entire celebration on Instagram. Cabello reportedly told her bandmates she was celebrating her 18th birthday quietly with her family, so imagine their surprise when they saw her plastered all over social media with Swift, pop star Selena Gomez, and more famous faces at a party they weren't even invited to. (Watch the group's reactions in GIF form here.)

A month later, a source dished to Hollywood Life, "Time and time again, Taylor has brought to Camila's attention that she has an amazing solo career ahead of her. It's gotten to the point where she keeps trying to convince Camila to do a solo album." After Cabello finally quit, a source told Hollywood Life, "Whether it's advice, future collaborations, or help with writing songs, Taylor is ready to help Camila through everything. Taylor supports her decision to go out on her own. She knows that Camila can be a major star, and is looking forward to seeing what she will do with her first solo album."

Also, for what it's worth, Fifth Harmony member Dinah Jane Hansen's aunt allegedly accused Swift of trying to break up the band in July 2016, then reportedly claimed she was hacked. You decide.

She was accused of sneaking around professionally

A source told Entertainment Weekly that Cabello's Fifth Harmony bandmates were totally fine with her pursuing side projects, but how she was going about it was a problem. "[Cabello's] solo career is not the issue. The issue is how she handled herself over the past year. The secrecy and not knowing what's coming, that's the issue. They needed to map out a plan [for 2017] and she wasn't having it."

Another insider told People, "[Cabello's solo projects were] never their issue because they all have solo projects in the works…The girls will be making huge announcements for the group and their solo endeavors in January."

Other sources close to Cabello, including collaborator Machine Gun Kelly, refute the idea that she was conniving behind her bandmates' backs. The rapper even suggested Fifth Harmony deliberately dumped Cabello the day she and Kelly got their gold plaques for "Bad Things." The rapper told iHeart Radio (via Billboard), "I know Camila…there's no like, trickery going on…no behind-the-back stuff," he said. "I don't like seeing someone like that, almost being picked on…She's like this innocent, young girl…so genuine."

Did she try to improve relations?

Fifth Harmony put Cabello on blast in December 2016 via a lengthy statement accusing her of ditching their efforts to patch up their relationship. "Over the past several months, we have consistently made every effort to sit down and discuss the future of Fifth Harmony with Camila," the ladies said, via Twitter. "We have spent the past year and a half (since her initial solo endeavor) trying to communicate to her and her team all of the reasons why we felt Fifth Harmony deserved at least one more album of her time, given the success of this past year that we'd all worked so hard for. We called for group meetings which she refused, we asked L.A. Reid and the label to step in and try to set meetings, which again, she refused. We even went as far as group counseling which she did not show up to. So no, after months of rejection from her and her team, these supposed lengthy conversations in fact never happened, although we pleaded. We have tried with exhausted efforts and hearts to keep this group alive as the five of us, and we want it to be very clear that unfortunately those efforts were not mutual."

Multiple reports corroborated that Cabello's bandmates wanted to work everything out, but that she wasn't interested. A source told Entertainment Weekly the group tried to organize several meetings with mediators to no avail. "She wouldn't meet with them," an insider said. "They called [X Factor mentor] L.A. Reid as a last resort…She wouldn't sit down with the group for group therapy." A second source disagreed, claiming, "Camila had multiple meetings with the group in the past, including with intermediaries, however they were unproductive. And more recently she spoke with them on an individual basis."

Another insider told Billboard the rift "[stems from] jealousy" from the other girls and noted that Cabello was game to meet with her bandmates and therapists, but meetings would "historically devolve into a four-against-one scenario…Camila felt that the best way to communicate effectively with her bandmates was one-on-one, which she did during the European tour."

Her ego may have grown out of control

A source told Hollywood Life that Cabello is so confident in her solo career that she basically thinks she's the next Beyoncé…in a sense, anyway. "One thing that is pretty much concrete is how Camila is going to move on with her career, as far as her name is concerned," an insider said. "Just like Beyoncé and Madonna, moving forward, she is looking to take the one name treatment for her future as well and just be known as Camila."

Even entertainer Jenny McCarthy weighed in on Cabello's ego, telling radio personality Ryan Seacrest (via Billboard), "Egos kind of get in the way; everyone wants a say on their own creativity; and they need to break out and do their thing. Then they come back [when] they realize 'I need to get paid.'"

She's been planning her exit for a long time

According to Billboard, "Epic Records has been planning a Cabello solo album for the better part of a year, putting [her] in the studio with such hitmakers as Benny Blanco and Diplo in addition to songwriters Madison Love ('Bad Things'), Johnny Mitchell and Amarr, and producers Futuristics ('Bad Things') and Serm (Sean Paul's 'No Lie')." A source said, "The album is well on its way, with sessions booked through January [2017]. Camila's first solo single could be out as soon as March or April [2017] with an album to follow in the summer."

An industry insider concurred, telling People, "I don't think anyone is surprised [that Cabello went solo] from our side. Camila has been a pioneer and has really gone out there and had some great collaborations. We knew it was only a matter of time." Another source mused, "They hadn't gotten along. Camila never made it a secret that she planned to do her own thing eventually." Additionally, Cabello left the group on Dec. 18, 2016—the exact day that her contract was up. That likely was not a coincidence.

The group may not make much money

Just days after Cabello's exit, an audio clip leaked that allegedly featured Lauren Jauregui crying to bandmate Ally Brooke about the group members' workloads in comparison to their paychecks and airing frustrations about their management. "They are making decisions on a regular basis to f**k us over, to make us literal slaves, like literally slaves, Ally," the voice rumored to be Jauregui can be heard saying. "We're doing f**king labor every day and we see nothing."

The group previously alluded to conflicts with their contracts, which many of them signed as teens while competing on the X Factor reality show competition. Jauregui told Billboard in May 2016, "They sell you this present of rainbows and butterflies, and as a 16-year-old that's what I bought. It's why I did X Factor and why I ended up in a group. But then you're working so hard, so young." Bandmate Hansen echoed the sentiment, saying, "I love touring, but the schedule traumatized me. I was like, 'What kind of job are we doing?' I watched my great-grandmother be buried on FaceTime. We're all so family-oriented, and we've all lost people on the road."

In the same Billboard interview, the girls revealed that they have no songwriting credits, so the royalties they make from their hits may be minimal…and they'd have to split them five ways.

The group was in turmoil

Aside from the tension that had allegedly been brewing between Cabello and her bandmates for years, in the six months leading up to her exit, relations seemed to get even worse.

In an Aug 2016 interview, bandmate Normani Kordei allegedly struggled to come up with a kind description of Cabello. The court of internet opinion decided it took Kordei just a little too long to call Cabello "quirky" and "cute," triggering Cabello's fans to go on the attack, sending Kordei hateful, hurtful, and racially charged messages on Twitter. The trolls got so overwhelming that Kordei temporarily quit the social media platform altogether. Cabello told the haters to simmer down but didn't necessarily deny there was tension, tweeting, "I stand by the words 'love only,' meaning I won't tolerate on my timeline any kind of hate, racism, or discrimination towards ANYONE. Period."

Kordei wasn't the only member dealing with issues. In September 2016, just days after Cabello bailed on a group performance, Jauregui broke down in tears onstage. The group then cancelled four domestic tour dates, as well as three European dates, with no explanations given. Later that month, Brooke was attacked onstage in Mexico.

In November 2016, Jauregui made headlines again when a photo of her kissing a girl went viral, after which she came out as bisexual in an angry letter to president-elect Donald Trump. On Dec. 14, 2016, just days before Cabello's exit, Jauregui was busted for marijuana possession and missed a scheduled performance afterward. Considering it's rumored the girls didn't get along with Cabello to begin with, why would she want to stick around for constant drama?

Even their X Factor mentors saw it coming

L.A. Reid, one of the girls' mentors on X Factor, told Billboard he was surprised the group lasted this long. "By design, it shouldn't work. They found out in front of a live audience they were going to be an actual band, and now they're challenged to be creative, be competitive, and keep a sense of humor? I'm surprised they haven't cracked up! They should be nuts by now. I would be."

A source told Billboard that Simon Cowell shrugged off the band's problems, saying, "You can't make people work together." In an awkward interview on the red carpet of America's Got Talent in late September 2016, Cowell said Fifth Harmony's issues were "the same with any other group…You know…we have conversations about what they want to do, we've got to listen to them. It'll be fine…I hope!"

Even fellow pop star Demi Lovato foreshadowed problems four years before Cabello's exit when Fifth Harmony—then known as 1432—was still on X Factor in 2012. After what she perceived as a weak group performance of Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Lovato told the group (via Us Weekly), "I know you guys have potential…But I feel like tonight there was only one person that shined and it really didn't click for me tonight. I want to see you guys click. I think you need more practice together, you need to come out of your shell a little bit. Right now there's only one person doing it for me…I think you should all learn something from her." When pressed, Lovato revealed that the "one person" was Cabello, who gamely replied, "I think we all shine."

She felt too sexualized

In an interview with Lena Dunham's Women of the Hour podcast, Cabello revealed that the group's highly sexualized image didn't sit well with her—which is understandable, considering Cabello is only 19 years old.

"Especially with being a girl group, there's been a lot of times where people have tried to sexualize us to just get more attention. Unfortunately, sex sells," she said. "There's definitely been times where there's stuff that I have not been comfortable with and I've had to put my foot down. I feel like it's been tricky because we've had to grow into ourselves while being in front of the world and while making songs that did have a lot of sexual undertones." She's not wrong: When "Worth It" dropped in early 2015, she wasn't even 18 yet and had a solo that included the lyric, "I like it a little rough."

She added, "There's nothing wrong with showing sexuality. If you have that inside, it's just an expression of who you are. If you want to share that with people, that's amazing. I think the thing that I would say to young women is, if you're not ready for it, put your foot down."

It may not end well for her

An "industry power player" dished to Billboard that Cabello's exit may not be a smart move for her just yet. "I think it's a huge mistake. This is the group's moment. They just had the biggest record of their career [with 'Work From Home'] and the next record is 'the one.' [Camila has] had success but all with singles that aren't hers." Veteran producer Ron Fair added, "It's very perilous to break up the winning team. I've seen it wreak havoc. [But] who's to stop the kid from taking a shot or forever regretting it? When it's not a marketing or a business decision but it's someone's hopes and dreams? The key is to manage the team and keep the train on the track. But who's to say Fifth Harmony as Fourth Harmony isn't a more robust, punchy proposition than it was with the extra spoke on the wheel? Today, the song is so dominant in the success recipe that as long as the girls and their team can continue to identify those great songs, they will be on top."

What's more, Cabello could suffer a fate similar to Zayn Malik's struggles when he left One Direction to pursue solo stardom. The pressure is all on her, and she may not be able to perform under it. In September 2016, Cabello left a group performance early because of "anxiety," an excuse Malik has also used for his own lack of live shows. Without the other girls to fall back on, Cabello, like Malik, may struggle to execute crucial promotional shows to help her own solo brand.