Changing the industry with Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko

Regarded as the “Lesbian Jesus” since she hit the scene in 2015, Hayley Kiyoko has amassed over 1 billion global streams, over 840 billion YouTube views, over 2.3 million YouTube subscribers, and has sold out venues across the country. In April she embarks on the Panorama World Tour, which includes shows in Philadelphia and two back-to-back dates in New York City. From being an out lesbian pop star to releasing the first ever gender-inclusive fragrance, Hayley Kiyoko is a queer voice for youth to aspire to.

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko photo by Trevor Flores

You just released your new single and music video for “Hungry Heart” featuring Steve Aoki and Galantis. How was it working with them?

Hayley Kiyoko: It has been a dream come true. I wrote this song after I had met my girlfriend of five years, Becca Tilley, and it has been a favorite of mine. The track hits hard. Upon writing it, my dream was to get someone like Steve and Galantis on the track. I did not think I could make this happen. To think, all these years later they were the ones to produce it and make the song what it is, is beyond exciting. I directed the music video for it. It has been so surreal to collaborate with two of the biggest DJs in the world.

Would you ever consider releasing a full-on EDM album?

HK: That is a great question, Will. It is funny, I never thought about it, although I love dancing. Life is long and there is plenty of time to explore that…

Who knows, maybe EDM may be the theme for studio album #3?

HK: (Laughs) You just don’t know; you just don’t know…

Keeping it on album #2, you’re kicking off the Panorama World Tour to celebrate your sophomore album, which you co-wrote and co-produced. What can fans expect on this tour?

HK: An amazing show that will be a very immersive experience full of dancing. I am excited to share this show and this era with fans. This has been a long time coming. I am losing sleep thinking about how much fun we are going to have on these shows.

Are you doing meet-and-greets?

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko

HK: I am! I am doing meet-and-greets, which will include Q&As. I will also be playing clips of my audiobook for my romance novel, Girls Like Girls. Most meet-and-greets will take place before the show.

Can you tell us more about your debut novel, a coming-of-age romance based on your breakthrough hit song and viral music video, Girls Like Girls, available for preorder now and being released May 30?

HK: It is a wide romance novel about embracing your truth and realizing we are all worthy of being loved back. I’ve been dreaming of telling the full story of what I always envisioned. To write, make, and share this book with fans feels incredible. I am so excited for people to get to read it and have it as a comfort especially if they don’t have support within their community or family life. They are able to read this book, feel seen, and validated in their experiences.

As a writer and journalist, I have so much respect for other writers. What would you consider some of your biggest inspirations? Do you find tragedy inspires you more than happiness?

HK: For me, tragedy and trauma has definitely inspired my art. For the worst and for the good because, if I hadn’t gone through heartbreak and isolation, much less feeling like an outcast for most of my life, I would probably not be who I am today. I am grateful for those hardships because I have turned them into art and utilized those stories to ignite hope for others to believe in themselves and know they are worthy of finding love and being loved back. We shouldn’t have to rely on representation being trauma-based. For me, creating queer narratives igniting hope has always been my number-one goal. With this novel, it ends in hope, and that is important. As storytellers, it is hard to tell stories that keep the hope without falling completely into the trauma. I am always challenging myself to find that hope. I think that is a good exercise for us in life in general.

Congratulations on launching the first-ever gender-inclusive fragrance, Hue, which became a 2022 finalist for the Fragrance Foundation’s “Universal Prestige Award.” So many artists launch fragrances, but this one actually has a purpose. Available on, how was it creating a fragrance?

Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko photo by Trevor Flores

HK: It was an incredible experience. I never created a fragrance prior to this and had no idea how challenging it would be. Everything you are seeing from the cap to the plate to everything you physically hold as well as smell, I was able to create from the ground up. It has been a wonderful journey because for me, I always found confidence through smelling good. If I was not comfortable to ask a girl out, I would complement her on her smell. I wanted to create a fragrance to inspire people to love themselves more. I wear Hue literally every day. I am Hue’s biggest fan (laughs) because it smells great on everyone due to its floral notes coupled with subtle musk. I am glad people are loving it and celebrating themselves along the way!

NPR acknowledged you as one of “The 21st Century’s Most Influential Women Musicians.” Rolling Stone acknowledged you as “at the forefront of an unapologetically queer pop movement.” As a lesbian artist, how does it feel to be breaking barriers and making a genuine difference within the music industry?

HK: For me, I always loved storytelling and expressing myself through art, especially through times I felt I could not express myself in everyday life. To know there are people who connect and resonate with my art and music means the world to me. Knowing my art inspires people to continue to chase their dreams, create their own art, love people harder, and be kinder to others as well as themselves, is the ultimate compliment.

See Hayley Kiyoko live locally on:

May 27, 2023 at Brooklyn Bowl Philly in Philadelphia

May 30-31, 2023 at Irving Plaza in Manhattan

Will Loschiavo
Will Loschiavo is Out In Jersey‘s entertainment editor. He has worked for Top 40 radio stations in New York and New Jersey, written for various publications, and currently works media tech operations for NBC. Will is the host of the Will Love Listen podcast available on iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple, and Google. Follow on Instagram: @WillLoveInc.