27-year-old Hayley Kiyoko is one of the biggest up and coming artists on the music scene today. Dedicated to her queer fans and unabashedly “out,” her followers call her “Lesbian Jesus.”
It’s been an strong, steady uphill climb for Hayley since Nickelodeon discovered her at the Culver City Ice Rink. She first appeared in national commercials for GM Onstar, K-Mart, Slim Jim and the TV spokesperson for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Millennials will remember her in Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place in 2007. She started making movies in 2009 when she co-starred as the nerdy ghostbuster Velma Dinkley in the two live action films, Scooby Doo! on the Cartoon Network although she almost didn’t get because of her Eurasian heritage. She still struggles to find film work featuring bi-racial women. She starred in Blue Lagoon: the Awakening on Lifetime TV in 2012 and in the ABC Family show The Fosters in 2013 as Gabi, and ex-cyberbully in an all-girl group home. The 1980s Saturday morning cartoon Jem and the Holograms came to life as a feature film in 2015 and Hayley was cast as as Aja.
“Then I had to learn how to sing because I wanted to tell stories.” she told Rolling Stone. “I wanted to be in a boy band.” Hayley took dance lessons and formed a band called The Stunners and opened for Justin Bieber during a concert tour. She plays drums, keyboards and guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer and autoharp. Dancing and drumming are a big part of her live shows.
There’s another side of Hayley Kiyoko that she strongly identifies with: her sexuality. Since she was six-years-old liked girls. When she turned 20 she began to live her life out and proud. The songs of Tegan and Sara, plus Katy Perry’s anthemic “I Kissed a Girl” were inspirational for Hayley to turn to recording pop music. “Singing about my sexuality let’s people know they’re not alone,” she said. “It’s important to lead by example.”
In 2015 she recorded her hit single, “Girls Like Girls” and made a music video with 88 million views on YouTube as of December 2019. She averages 3.7 million listeners on Spotify each month. Through her music, Hayley works to normalize lesbian relationships in a society and music industry that she sees as being very heteronormative. Hayley’s music is focused on her story and emotions she’s experienced while coming to terms with her identity. “If I can be a part of someone’s positive experience, it really means a lot to me,” she said. After seeing the impact her music has on her fans, Kiyoko regretted not being open about her sexuality sooner.
“I’ve had several music industry execs say, ‘You’re doing another music video about girls?’’’ she said in one interview. “I literally looked at them and was like, ‘Um, yeah … Taylor Swift sings about men in every single song and video, and no one complains that she’s unoriginal.’” Swift cheered Hayley on, posting on Tumblr, “We should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art.”
“I love loving girls, and I love myself,” Hayley said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. “That’s who I am. So that’s not something I’m ashamed of. It’s something that I feel very confident in because I know who I am and what I like, so I feel really good. ”
Hayley’s debut studio album Expectations, was released in March, 2018. Later that same year she won MTV’s “Push Artist of the Year” award. She dedicated her award to queer women of color in her acceptance speech. She landed a spot in InStyle magazine’s first issue of “50 Badass Women” for her work. She also made NPR’s list of “The 21st Century’s Most Influential Women Musicians.”
November 2019 Hayley released her latest EP I’m Too Sensitive For This Shit. “I’m really proud of this album,” she said. “Ever track is like a mini chapter for who I am and what I’ve gone through up to now.”
Hayley’s positivity and uplifting messages connect with her fans. She tweeted in December 2019, “If you start feeling that wave of sadness tell yourself something you are grateful for and cherish it throughout the day. I love you so much and I hope you find a reason to smile.”
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Catch Hayley Kiyoko’s I’m Too Sensitive For This X North American Tour 2020 on Saturday, February 1 at The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren St. in Phoenix. This show is 13+ with VIP packages available. For more information and tickets visit TheVanBurenPHX.com or search TicketWeb.com