Illustration for article titled Who Is Hayley Kiyoko, Former Disney Channel Actress Turned Rising Pop Star?
Photo: Randy Shropshire (Getty Images for MTV)

Maybe, while out on a Friday night, you heard her single “Curious,” and thought: I like this song, who sings it? Or maybe you’ve read about how Hayley Kiyoko’s fans half-jokingly refer to her as their “Lesbian Jesus.” Maybe you heard (incorrectly!) that she threw shade at Taylor Swift. (We’ll clear that up in a second.) Either way, you’re bound to hear a lot more of her—Hayley Kiyoko is a former Disney Channel actress now attempting to make a name for herself as a maker of bops, telling stories about queer love and flirtation that, so far, the pop music machine has largely ignored.


Kiyoko is gay, and she doesn’t shy away from it—not in the songwriting on her debut album Expectations, which was released on Friday, March 3o, or in the press. That comes with a lot of responsibility, when you consider how gay and queer women are left out of the narratives of chart-topping pop music, but Kiyoko has developed something of a cult following: the music video for “Curious,” in which Kiyoko flirts with girl who came to a house party with her boyfriend, has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube. What’s left to be seen is whether she can translate that into things like sales, downloads, touring opportunities, and more. (So far, “Curious” has yet to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.)

Understandably, and let’s hope the public and press won’t render her as a one-dimensional character, Kiyoko gets asked a lot about LGBT representation in music, about what it’s like to be a budding pop star and queer woman. In an interview with Refinery29 last Friday, Kiyoko sounded off about how music execs have questioned her methods:

“I’ve had several music industry execs say ‘You’re doing another music video about girls? I literally looked at them and was like, um, yeah … Taylor Swift sings about men in every single song and video, and no one complains that she’s unoriginal.”


Taken out of context, it might sound like Kiyoko was actually calling Swift “unoriginal” for writing a bunch of love songs about men. Someone asked a Swift fan account about it on Tumblr, and they responded: “I don’t believe she was calling Taylor unoriginal or boy crazy. She was just defending her choice for wanting to make videos with female love interests.” Swift herself chimed in:

“Exactly. We should applaud artists who are brave enough to tell their honest romantic narrative through their art, and the fact is that I’ve never encountered homophobia and she has. It’s her right to call out anyone who has double standards about gay vs straight love interests.”


Phew! Crisis (of minor importance) averted. Kiyoko wrapped up the situation with a very sweet tweet, and it was a truly nice moment of women supporting each other’s decisions to write music about whomever they want:


And that’s how it done. Expect to hear more from Kiyoko, and soon.

Senior Writer, Jezebel

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