“They were like, ‘Oh, we’re 100 percent coming,’” recalls Sivan, smiling at the memory. “Even though it was mildly embarrassing -- I walked in the parade with my parents and my [two] brothers and my sister -- it was cool because I realized that they weren't just tolerant of their gay son, they were stoked and proud.” They still are -- it’s obvious in the way they dote on him and call his boyfriend, Jacob, by his Hebrew name, “Yakov.”
Sivan launched his YouTube career at 12 with videos that were sometimes silly, like his series Life’s Unanswerable Questions, though always sincere. But around age 18, secure in his identity, Sivan set the stage for his life to come with two videos: In May 2013, he posted an original song, inspired by the young adult best-seller The Fault in Our Stars, and in August, he came out to his followers. Both videos went viral. And then, so did he. Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential teens of 2014. He walked in Hedi Slimane’s fall 2015 Saint Laurent menswear show. By 2016, he had over 4 million YouTube subscribers and was reportedly making upwards of six figures in sponsorships. “At that point,” he says, “I was just along for the ride.”
Sivan’s eight-minute, 17-second coming-out video is a rare thing, equal parts star power and vulnerable humanity. He had promised himself he would come out before signing a record deal, knowing it was the only way he could write music that would be completely honest. When pressed, he now says he briefly wondered if it might have lost him some young, infatuated female fans, but he “had no other choice. It was a moment where I was like, ‘I have to put myself first.’"
Though he couldn't have imagined it as a kid in Perth seeking out episodes of Queer As Folk online, he’s suddenly living his teenage fantasy of adulthood, complete with Ariana Grande in his contacts and a model boyfriend with a pornstache. When Bixenman, also 23, wanders downstairs during Sivan’s fitting, the vibe is Ozzie and Harriet set in the Bravo Clubhouse. Sivan holds up a denim fringe look he’s considering for Swift’s show, but he can already tell Bixenman hates it.
“You’re not obsessed with it,” he says. His boyfriend shakes his head. (Bixenman prefers the Raf Simons cargo pants Sivan winds up wearing onstage with Swift.) Increasingly, domesticity is where Sivan seems to find his bliss. He has a song with Grande called “Dance to This,” but it’s not about life in the VIP section. It is, says Sivan, “about how, after a while, all of these parties and nights out kind of start to blur, and you get to the point where staying at home and making food and making out in the kitchen sounds like the ideal night.”
It’s now 3 p.m., and Sivan is due soon in Malibu to sound-check. We hop in his Tesla SUV, his parents climbing through the gullwing rear doors, and nose into rush-hour traffic. Conscientious as always, Sivan at one point glances in the rearview mirror and says, “Mum, I see you don’t have your seat belt on.” Bixenman had planned to join us, but he’s flying to Namibia later that night for a photo shoot -- “Some job with this fragrance company,” he says, shrugging -- and realized at the last minute that he had forgotten to pack. I take the opportunity to ask Sivan about his feelings on The Mustache. He laughs: “Um, hmm. It’s, like ... a choice that he has made. I tell him to shave it every few days. Then he grows it back, and I’m into it, then it gets to a point where it’s like, ‘OK, enough.’”