Singer and actress Hayley Kiyoko is redefining what it means to be a role model. Her major breakthrough came last year when she dropped the video for her single "Girls Like Girls,” an emotional depiction of two teenage girls as they struggle to make sense of their feelings for each other. 43 million Youtube views later, the intimate portrayal of her own journey of love and discovery earned her massive attention and fostered a fan-base who found that this pop-star is someone they can identify with.
The 25-year-old singer, songwriter recently unveiled a new single and self-directed video for “Gravel to Tempo” from her upcoming fall EP Citrine. Co-directed by Austin S. Winchell, the fun, audacious video racked up over half a million views in just the first week.
Set in high school, Hayley’s video pays homage to her teenage self who sought validation by the girls she admired. Set in high school, it begins with Hayley longingly eyeing these “popular girls” and ends with her overcoming the insecurity with a defiant dance on the table. She sends a strong message: it’s not social acceptance, but self-acceptance, that is the ultimate victory.
I spoke with Hayley the night before she hit the next milestone in her career - her first music festival performance at the Billboard Hot 100. When I asked her how she was feeling she expressed nothing but excitement about performing and debuting some never-before-heard tracks off Citrine. Her confidence and enthusiasm is evident in her voice when she speaks about her work, which is completely fitting for the artist whose oeuvre keeps proving to be a bold one.
Citrine, the title of your new EP, has symbolic meaning behind it, can you tell me more about that?
I had a concussion in April and was dealing with complications and pain from the injury. One day I visited a recording studio that had a huge citrine wall, and I’ve never really believed in gem healing, but it felt like it completely got rid of my pain. I looked it up and found that it has a lot of healing properties: promotes happiness, promotes success, gets rid of self doubt, etc. That’s also what I aim for with my music - when people listen, I hope it helps them get rid of their self doubt. Now I wear a necklace of citrine everyday. Haha
With the upcoming release of Citrine, what are you looking forward to most?
I’m looking forward to all of the fans I’m going to meet! I’m continually inspired by all of the people who reached out to me and shared their stories. I’m a very sensitive person, I cry a lot haha. I’ll just go into my DM’s and read everyone's’ messages about how they were inspired by my videos or their personal stories with coming out.
Do the stories remind you of yourself own personal journey?
I think back to when I didn’t really have a person I related to like that or could reach out to. When you're younger you just want to feel loved and accepted, so it's awesome to hear their stories and know I’m giving something back.
Growing up, were there any artists that inspired the same in you or helped you overcome those feelings?
I loved a lot of artists, but I couldn’t really relate to any of them. That’s why I’m putting myself out there by telling my story. Not having an idol similar to me made me want to be that kind of person for a younger generation.
You first found serious fame as an actress, did you ever imagine yourself a mainstream pop-star?
Music has been my passion. I’ve always considered myself a musician first, it was just about developing my sound and getting my songs to the place I wanted it before releasing them. I actually never thought I’d be an actress! Haha. And I never thought I’d be able to direct, I just knew I wanted to write and perform music.
Why did you choose to direct your own videos? How was that experience?
I’m a very visual person. When I write my songs I envision the story I want to tell in the video. And because of budget I couldn’t afford the directors I wanted, haha. Austin gave me the confidence and guidance with directing and it ended up being a blessing in disguise because I never thought that was something I’d be able to do.
Do you have any other creative outlets you pursue in your free-time?
I really just like to watch movies and put my essential oil diffuser on! I’m obsessed with Sandra Bullock i think she's the funniest person in the world. I'm very particular about comedy she makes me so happy and giddy she fills my soul with pure happiness.
Photography: Gil Cope
Stylist: Gorge Villalpando
Stylist Assistant: Betsy Belle Camacho
Makeup Artist: Marla Vazquez
Hair: Nicole Whittman using Kevin Murphy
Interview by Alisha Wexler