Hayley Kiyoko Says Fan Reaction Helped Validate Her Identity: 'I Was Ready to Be Judged'

JUCO/Paper Magazine
Hayley Kiyoko in Paper Magazine.

Ever since the release of her single “Girls Like Girls” back in 2015, pop sensation Hayley Kiyoko has been on a mission to let her fans know that being queer is beautiful, both inside and outside of her music. But in a recent interview with PAPER, the singer also revealed that her fans helped her feel the same way.

Talking to PAPER for their Pride issue, Kiyoko said when the song’s co-writer Lily May Young asked her what she’d never written a song about, the singer decided to tell her the truth. “I came out to her and said, 'I just want to sing about being cocky and stealing someone's girl, because that's my dream.' She told me to write about it."

What ensued was a massive wave of fan support, especially following the singer’s self-directed music video for the track, which has racked up over 90 million views on YouTube. Upon reading the comments posted on the video, Kiyoko realized that she could openly live her truth without fear. "I was shocked at how people weren't judging me. I was ready to be judged, and I was ready to be labeled. That was a moment for me where I was like, I can be myself and people are okay with that.”

Kiyoko also opened up about the music that inspired her to be open with her sexuality. One group, she said, that made her realize that being a queer musician wasn’t quite the dealbreaker she assumed it would be was Tegan and Sara. “I loved how they were still cool and edgy but their melodies were so damn catchy," she said. "Only the really cool people knew about them when I was growing up. In some ways, I think that's how I ended up in pop: My strength is writing catchy melodies.”

But another song made Kiyoko realize that she could sing about liking women and not be shunned by society: “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. "I loved that song, and I still love that song,” she said. “When it came out, it was the first time I'd heard anyone in the public eye admit that they'd kissed a girl on the radio. I was like, wow, this is huge. Just to admit that she did kiss a girl, and she liked it?”

Read Kiyoko’s full interview with PAPER here.