In a year that has been affectionately dubbed “20GayTeen,” it has become almost commonplace to see openly LGBTQ artists speaking directly and honestly about their sexuality. But one song in particular from this year accomplished a rare feat, of bringing two queer women of color together to create a piece of art that is exclusively by and for queer people.
“What I Need,” the song by pop superstar Hayley Kiyoko and featuring fellow pop star Kehlani, was an anthem for female love that was only further bolstered by its loving and tender music video. The two singers star in the clip, which Kiyoko also directed, showing a love affair between two women who want nothing more than to simply be around each other.
Kiyoko and Kehlani interviewed each other for The Fader, where the two took fans behind the scenes of the video shoot and talked about what it was like getting to work with another queer artist on a queer project.
Kehlani said that going into the shoot, she was nervous — she had seen Kiyoko’s other videos and knew that she would have to do much more than lip sync and dance her way through the song. “I had never acted before,” she said. “I hadn’t really done any music videos that had dialogue…I was like, ‘Oh shit, I’ve never done anything like this before. Hopefully my emotions come off how they’re supposed to.’”
Kiyoko added that the days-long shoot was one of the more stressful directing experiences that she’d ever had, with losing six hours of footage, an imminent fire and Kehlani injuring her ankle at one point during shooting. “I thought that I broke Kehlani and I was never going to see another day,” she said. “I was like, ‘Great! This is going to be my legacy.’”
But both artists said that getting to work together as queer women was extremely rewarding. Kehlani explained that while they may not have everything in common, queer artists have a tendency to gravitate towards one another. “Every single queer person in the industry has this natural pull to each other, this natural incentive to really want to support and work with each other” she said. “It’s been a blessing to not only meet you but work with you and build with you and make something that really inspired a lot of people.”
Kiyoko added that at the end of the day, her audience wants good content, and that’s what she wants to give to them. “I really just want to continue to focus on the art,” she said. “I think that’s my responsibility and that’s where the pressure is: constantly putting out good work and being truthful and honest with everyone.”
Watch the music video for “What I Need” below: