Hayley Kiyoko is a young actress/singer who got her start in Scooby-Doo live-action films and Disney’s Lemonade Mouth. Now 24, she’s spent the last few years making appearances on The Fosters as Gaby, a reformed cyberbully Callie meets through Girls United, and playing roles in films like Insidious: Chapter Three and the highly anticipated Jem and the Holograms adaptation. (She plays Jem’s best friend and bandmate, Aja Leith.)
Now starring alongside Patricia Arquette on CSI: Cyber, Hayley is also continuing to work on music and released her EP, This Side of Paradise, this past February. Just this week, she released the video for her song “Girls Like Girls,” which she co-directed with Austin S. Winchell and starring her Jem co-star Stefanie Scott as a young woman who develops feelings for a female friend who has a boyfriend. (In case you haven’t seen it, the video is at the bottom of this post.)
“It was nice to not be in the video and just really focus on the actors and really focus on the honesty and the truth within the story,” Hayley said. “And having that nice juxtaposition of a confident song, and having that song be the inner-monologue for Stefanie’s character, Coley, and what she wishes she could be or what her inner-confidence is.”
We spoke with Haley about writing the song and why the message of the video is so important to her. Also what we can expect from Jem & The Holograms when it hits theaters in late October.
AfterEllen.com: This is your first time directing right?
Hayley Kiyoko: Yes, it was my first time. I was a little nervous!
AE: Can you tell me a little about the origin of the song and how you decided to direct the video?
HK: I wrote the song a little over a year ago and it kind of started in a very lighthearted place. There are so many songs about guys stealing other guys’ girls and all that kind of stuff so I just thought it’d be a really fun song where a girl steals another guy’s girl. I just loved that confident perspective that I feel like isn’t really out there as much. So we had playful, almost cocky lyrics and then when it came to shooting a video for it, I knew I really wanted to do something special and really take it to the next level as far as really connecting and utilizing the song to really connect with people and to try and change their perspective on this kind of topic. I really wanted to address it and I had a specific vision for it. [Austin and I] really worked as a team to really try to do as honest of a job as possible for this video. And I really wanted to do a short film style.
AE: How did you decide to cast the actors in the video?
HK: Well Stefanie Scott I have some history with and we’re coming off Jem and the Holograms together, so we’re really good friends. And I was telling her about the treatment and the video and how excited I was about the concept and she loved the idea and the storyline and she offered to do it. She said, “I really wanna do it. This is awesome!” So that’s how it started. I’m also really good friends with Kelsey Chow and Hayden Thompson so all of the actors were my good friends. Even all of the cast and crew were really passionate about the movement and the project. Everybody love the song and the message of it.
AE: What have your LGBT friends said about it so far?
HK: We had a lot of LGBT crew members and I can’t speak for them personally, but I just know that they were really proud of the video and it was great to watch it being edited because I really concerned and wanted to make sure people were connecting with it. Because I watched the video like three bajillion times every week, and the night before we released the music video and I was just like, “I really hope people connect with it because I don’t connect with it right now. I’ve seen it so many times!” But all my friends who worked on it said, “This is really was so honest and true.” And the fight is really more symbolic with the fight and struggle with your peers and your self. You’re really battling yourself in the situation, and so somehow or another people have been able to connect with the video, whether they’ve gone through it or maybe they felt a certain way but didn’t actually go all the way.
Whatever it is, I just feel like people are able to find some kind of middle ground with it and it’s just really wonderful to see the feedback and have kind of a video to have representation in that age—that age, too, that age is just so tough. Being 16, 17, 18 and getting your first feelings for someone. It’s a hard age. I really wanted to portray that.
AE: Have you had any negative reactions from fans?
HK: I haven’t. I’m sure there are some form of naysayers, but every comment I’ve seen has been really positive. It’s just been wonderful because I think people understand it’s one story, it’s one situation, it doesn’t represent the world. But I think it’s a different side to a thing a lot of people go through and it makes them feel human and not alone, which is all I really wanted to do in putting this video out.
AE: Do you think we’ll ever see you back on The Fosters?
HK: I love The Fosters. I had such a great time. It’s been tough because I’ve been shooting CSI: Cyber so the schedules haven’t quite aligned. But we keep the conversation open. I love all those girls and had so much fun being part of that, so hopefully.
AE: A lot of lesbian and bi women love Jem and the Holograms and are hoping there’s some queerness to the film. Would you say there is?
HK: Umm….I don’t know, I guess? I feel like there’s a huge fanbase for Jem and the Holograms. There’s so many amazing actors in it and the glitter and the glam and fashion. I feel like people are going to be very excited about and really enjoy it. It’s not necessarily a remake, it’s based on the cartoon but set in the 21st century. I think people are going to really like it though.
AE: What else would you want people to know about “Girls Like Girls”?
HK: I’m just really touched to hear everyone’s stories and just so thankful people like the song and like the video and I hope it makes a difference, big or small, to anyone going through struggles. It’s a really exciting time right now for the LGBT community and the victory of America Friday last week, so it’s a really great time. … It was a perfect timing and the best news I could receive, whether I’m releasing a video or not. It’s been a really great week.
Follow Hayley Kiyoko on Twitter @HayleyKiyoko