Hayley Kiyoko has come a long way since she played guitar-strumming cool-girl Stella Yamada in the Disney channel hit movie Lemonade Mouth—it has been over 10 years, after all. Now, she’s juggling many different roles: award-winning singer-songwriter (her highly anticipated second studio album, Panorama, comes out July 29), Lesbian Jesus (a term coined by her dedicated fanbase), cover star (she recently graced the cover of Teen Vogue’s Music issue), music video director (Kiyoko directs all of her videos, including her most recent: the lesbian Bachelorette-style video for her single “For The Girls,” where she went public with her longtime girlfriend, Bachelor alum Becca Tilley) and entrepreneur (Kiyoko came out with her own fragrance, the floral-fruity Hue by Hayley, in 2021). If that felt like a mouthful, it’s because it is. She'll also be joining Lauv as a special guest on tour in August with stops in New York and LA. Ok, now we’re done.
We recently got the opportunity to chat with the 31-year-old multi-hyphenate over Zoom (she was just as sweet and effortlessly cool as you’d imagine) about Panorama, her biggest personal and professional accomplishment and how she’s finding success on her own terms.
How is Panorama different from anything you’ve put out before?
“Expectations was my debut album. In many ways, I had shared my authentic truth. And within that album, I was sharing past experiences and stories. I was kind of catching up with myself. With Panorama, it feels like its own debut. I have caught up with myself and I'm sharing my present experiences, my reclaimed power. It’s just a more refined version of who I am. Panorama encompasses the highs and the lows of life and loving yourself throughout the journey. It's so important to enjoy the view at every point in our life. The journey is our destination. And that's what Panorama is all about.”
Where do you turn to for inspiration?
“Nature. I love nature. I love the planet. I get so fueled by just trees, fresh air, birds chirping, the desert, vast lands—just space for me to think. When I do feel drained, I'm like, ‘I need to go to the woods, or I need to go to the desert,’ even if it's just for like half a day. And if that's not an option, going to the park or going for a walk really helps. And also journaling is a really great tool to check in with yourself and give back to yourself.”
What sparked the idea for Hue by Hayley? Why fragrance in particular?
“Growing up, I really struggled with expressing my feelings and having the confidence that I deserved—and fragrance was an ice breaker for me. I would put on perfume and go to school, and a cute girl would be like, ‘I love how you smell.’ It was my way of finding confidence and having that dialogue with people that I was too scared to speak to. I wanted to share that with my fans, so they could feel the self love, self worth and self confidence that they deserve. You can go out in the world knowing that even if you're putting on a front and you're still working on your confidence, you're gonna smell really good, and people are gonna compliment you.”
The cover of Kiyoko's second studio album, Panorama
What has been your greatest professional and personal accomplishment?
“One of my favorite accomplishments was winning an MTV Music Award [editor's note: she won Push Artist of the Year in 2018] because that was a dream of mine to have a Moon Man from a very, very young age. A personal achievement is taking care of my mental and physical health, and really figuring out what my body needs to function at a high level and to feel good. It can be really hard when you're dealing with health issues to overcome them, and also find tools that can help you function better. I'm so proud of myself for not giving up during that time, and taking ownership and navigating it as best as I could.
How did you define success growing up, and how do you define it now?
“I defined success when I was younger through rewards, trophies or physical, tangible items. I did a lot of sports, like I always had like my softball trophy (a very lesbian thing), all my awards, all my medals—everyone had to know. And now having more wisdom and experience in life, I know that is not success. Success to me is not giving up and advocating for yourself and showing up for yourself. Success can be so fulfilling when you know you've done your best and you're truthful to who you are. And that's something to be really proud of.”
What advice would you give young, aspiring musicians?
“Write music that makes you feel vulnerable and almost uncomfortable. When you are writing things that are honest, it's going to make you feel a little uncomfortable and vulnerable. And that gives you the best outlet to really create something special.”
You’ve been coined “Lesbian Jesus” by your fans. How do you feel about that identity?
“It's not a Hannah Montana situation. It's a lifestyle [laughs]. I'm very grateful for the nickname. I love my fans so much. They make me feel so celebrated for just being a massive lesbian. Plus, I've always wanted a nickname. I never had a nickname growing up. It was always just like ‘Haley,’ so, I embrace it wholeheartedly.”
Photo Credit: Trevor Flores
And now onto the Rapid Fire… Who are you inspired by?
“I'm inspired by acts of kindness. I'm inspired by my mother. I'm inspired by nature. And I'm really inspired by hope.”
How many unread work emails do you have right now?
“0. I don't leave anything unread. I'm one of those psychopaths that cannot have an unread email. It stresses me out to look at someone's phone and to see like 1,000 unread emails—that is my nightmare.”
How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
“I love to take a shower and watch some mindless TV (I love Amazing Race, Friends, reality dating shows and crime stuff—but I can’t watch too much of that at night because I get bad dreams), or light an incense and just relax and watch movies. I am starting to read more before bed. I love Don Miguel Ruiz and I've been reading his book series.”
What do you look for in an employee/collaborator?
“Someone who's really passionate about working hard, who has that drive and thrives off of problem solving and challenges.”
Best piece of advice?
“‘Just make great art and things will come to you.’ Also, taking it one day at a time is really helpful for me, especially when I feel overwhelmed and I’m worrying about the future or even three days from now.”
What does the term 'girlboss' mean to you?
“Someone who's resilient. Someone who's a problem solver. Being a woman in this industry, having to create your own product or start your own company, it's not easy. You have to really advocate for yourself and believe in yourself four million times more than anyone else. And there's a lot of ‘no’s that come with that, but you only need one ‘yes.’”
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