Exclusive: An Evening with Hayley Kiyoko


Hayley Kiyoko released her debut album EXPECTATIONS last week, and hopefully, you read our interview with this aptly dubbed “Lesbian Jesus.” If not, you can check it out right HERE. AfterEllen was lucky enough to get to see her live in concert in NYC a few days later, and before the performance, she held a special Q&A for fans. Because AfterEllen loves you and wants you to be happy, here is the full report of the night, with AE correspondent Era Bushati on the scene. 

A few minutes before midnight on March 29, Hayley Kiyoko stood in Times Square in New York City, gazing up at the electric billboards…waiting for one of the biggest moments of her career. At midnight, a huge billboard changed graphics to show a photo of Hayley with a message from Spotify announcing the official release of her debut album, Expectations. The sheer joy on her face as she ecstatically screamed and jumped around is really worth seeing.

Just mere hours before her album dropped, Hayley was at an exclusive Samsung “Doers Defying Barriers” fan event. She took questions from the audience, dished on album details and got very personal about the highs and lows of the journey that’s brought her to this dream moment.

On adjusting to her new fame

This is all new for me. Most of you guys know I’ve started from the bottom and I’ve slowly risen. I just did a radio tour for the first time for a week and a half and we went to three different cities every day and I was in the airport every day. This is all new stuff for me so I’m navigating it as best as I can. You know, as long as I have a meal I’m happy. It’s a lot and it’s exciting and I’m trying to pace myself.

Realizing the hard work of writing an album

It’s literally like a school project on crack that never ends and then you turn it in three years later. It’s insane. Now that I’ve gone through it I really respect and appreciate it. I did four photoshoots to get that damn album cover – but it’s so cute, isn’t it. It was worth the tears and the sweat.

On finding her confidence

In the industry, “Girls Like Girls” was a turning point. I released this video and I didn’t put myself in it. I wanted to focus on the story and the topic and the conversation. And then after that, I was like “Oh, I’m not being judged. This is cool.” And then I released another music video and I’m making out with a girl and I wasn’t judged and I was like “Ok, I’ll do that again!” And share more and more of my life. It’s really been a gradual thing where I release a music video and I push the boundaries a little more and then every time I start to love myself even more and feel really comfortable with who I am.

The time she had to be someone she wasn’t

 In the beginning of my career when I was in a girl group, before I got into my solo music – if we’re going to be really honest – I felt very uncomfortable because I felt like I had to sell sex. I felt like I had to be very feminine, that I had to attract men to be successful in the music industry. That was really hard for me because that wasn’t an interest of mine. So that was a battle and when I got out of that and was able to focus on my solo music which is what I always wanted to do, I realized the confidence within. I could wear a t-shirt and pants and look like a boy but still look like a girl and feel confident and love myself. And that takes times, it takes maturity.

On obstacles she’s had to overcome

 In middle school, in high school, I never hung out at the promenade with the cute girls because I felt uncomfortable cause the girls wanted to hang out with the guys but I was there for the girls, you know? So I would stay at home and watch movies with my mom which was great. She’s great company. And that was kind of me growing up. I didn’t know anyone like me and if I did they were ridiculed or judged so that was hard.

And then I’ve dealt with a lot of health issues. I wrote about it in my album but I had a concussion two years ago. It messed me up. I still go to the doctor, I’m still on medication, I became extremely depressed. I had to learn how to function without being able to use my brain and my head. I think that’s my biggest talent, being able to think and create. And to have something that you love so much be taken away from you is really hard.

I have this song on my album that you’ll hear, it’s called “Mercy/Gatekeeper” and I didn’t really want to have a depressing album so I just dedicated one song to it. It’s this five minute journey of dealing with depression and feeling hopeless and not being able to see the light and not knowing where you’re headed and then by the end of the song you’re seeing the light. Even though you haven’t overcome this depression, you’re at least moving forward instead of just standing still and I think that’s the most important thing when you’re going through a hardship. To just continue moving forward and not give up even if you don’t know what you’re fighting for. So that song’s really important to me.

Her favorite songs on the album

The Kehlani record. We wrote that song in four hours, I’m not joking you. It was like “Hey, nice to meet you, let’s do this.” What happened was she commented on my Instagram “Marry me” in all caps and I was like “Slide in the DMs!” and that’s how our friendship started

I also love “Let It Be”. It’s like punching me in the heart every time I hear it.

On the story behind the song “Molecules”

 One of my friends tragically lost her brother and it didn’t make any sense. That song is dedicated to losing someone and not understanding how or why and I feel like all of us can relate to that. She had said something at his memorial, she said “You’re not gone, it’s just that your molecules have rearranged” and I was like “Wow, that’s beautiful.” And I was like I need to write a song about this and dedicate it to him.

On the more fun side, I have “He’ll Never Love You.” It’s one of my favorite songs on a personal level because it’s something that I feel most girls that like girls go through. It just fuels me in a really aggressive but good way. That was a song about this girl that loved me and is definitely gay and couldn’t come out to herself but would still hit me up. I really hope she hears it. I call her out. Literally every single lyric is like “This happened, then this happened!”

Her advice on coming out

 If you don’t get a good reaction, don’t feel like the world is going to end because it’s not. You’re not alone and there is room for growth in everyone. My mom, for example. She didn’t react the best and you know, two months ago I was figuring out this music video and I was like “Aw, Mom you helped me out with this lesbian story. That’s so sweet.” And she was like “No honey, it’s just a love story between two people.” And I was like “She’s growing! She gets it!” So if people don’t get it, that’s their personal struggle that they have to go through but just know that you are worth everything.

How she refuels and refreshes her creativity

I really love nature. I’m lucky enough that I live by the water, by the ocean so I love to go to the beach. I also love to sit by myself and watch other people interact. There’s something really beautiful about that. It takes you out of your selfishness and ego and you’re able to just take in the simplicities in life and I feel that’s really inspiring. Sometimes the most amazing art is so simple.

Her reaction to being dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by fans

 I think when I saw it on Urban Dictionary I was like “This is getting out of hand”. I really appreciate all the Photoshopped photos of my face on Jesus passing out my album. I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m not in-the-hip, in-the-know of the cute words that you young people use, like “shook” so to be honest I thought all of you guys were calling people Lesbian Jesus. Then I realized it was only happening to me! It’s become a wild thing. It’s the highest honor. I’m very humbled by it and you know, it’s nice to have a nickname. I didn’t have a nickname growing up in high school. So I’ll take it. I’ll take Lesbian Jesus. Thank you.

Hayley Kiyoko goes on tour April 11th with performances at Indio, CA’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, set for Sunday, April 15th and Sunday, April 22nd.And don’t forget to catch her on tour this summer with Panic! At The Disco. For additional information, visit www.hayleykiyokoofficial.com.






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