For emerging pop singer Hayley Kiyoko, stripping down to her underwear isn’t part of her job description. However, when the reason for doing so is to promote self-acceptance, she’ll make an exception. “I hope when people look at the campaign photos of us staring at our reflection, they realize they need to see love for themselves and to feel comfortable in their skin,” the singer tells Billboard exclusively.
Kiyoko, who previously performed at the 2016 Billboard Hot 100 Festival, is partnering with LA-based underwear purveyor MeUndies in support of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The piece she models has the phrase “celebrate” on it, which is an exclusive print in honor of June’s gay pride month celebrations ($18, meundies.com). MeUndies and Kiyoko ultimately hope to spread the message of self-acceptance, and for every pair sold, $1 will be donated to the LA non-profit to help expand its Youth Center.
After shooting her campaign, Billboard exclusively caught up with Kiyoko, who’s finishing up her One Bad Night” North American Tour to talk about what it means to celebrate pride, advice for young women questioning their sexuality and why you just might make some new friends at her upcoming concerts.
It goes without saying, stripping down to your underwear takes courage and self-confidence. How did you become so comfortable in your skin?
[Laughs.] I didn’t know I was until I got there. I thought ‘oh my gosh can I model in underwear? I mean, I guess I can?’ It’s funny because it was actually pretty easy since I think when people are promoting self-acceptance and being yourself, you tend to compare yourself to others and you have to love yourself more, and I’m all about that. For me growing up, I’ve always put myself in situations where I had to act confident, and playing that role almost gave me that true inner confidence. It’s also realizing that you got to love who you are because you’re going to be yourself the rest of your life.
Tell us about your journey to self-acceptance, specifically as a biracial (Japanese, Scottish, and Welsh) young woman.
It’s so funny when people ask me because my race is just who I am. I think the only time I ever really felt I was feeling bi-racial was in Hollywood as an actress, but in music, we’re kinda colorblind. In the acting world, I’m never Asian enough and never white enough, so it’s like I had to fit in other places. I obviously didn’t let that keep me from acting, but it’s definitely made me even prouder to be who I am; you don’t see a lot of pop stars who are Asian in America.
What advice would you give other young women questioning their sexuality or struggling with coming out?
My advice is: if you are proud of who you are, how do you expect others who are struggling with the same issues to come out and be proud? So for me, it’s about kinda owning who you are, even if you’re scared, because if all of us live in fear then we’re not making progress. And pride is all about progress; growing together.
The underwear you’re modeling says “celebrate” on it. How do you celebrate being a member of the community?
I love seeing people show up for Pride because there’s strength in numbers. I celebrate by being myself, living my life, loving myself to the fullest and not comparing myself to other people.
Have you been to pride before?
Yeah, I have. It’s funny, I’ll find myself in random places and then realize it’s Pride weekend there. The first Pride festival I went to was in Vancouver where I was shooting a film. I was around 19-years-old and wasn’t out yet, but it was really cool to see the parade and everyone being themselves and I was thinking, ‘I can’t wait to do that.’
Let’s talk music. How did you find your voice as an artist?
It’s a life-long journey, and I’m still getting there, but it’s been wonderful. I’m working on my album and am back on tour as of today (June 1). It’s been a really amazing experience– meeting people who listen to my music–and it’s very inspiring to hear that people actually care about what stories I’m telling and knowing there’s a space for me in the industry. My fans have given me my voice almost. They’ve been like ‘hey we want to hear more. We love you for that!’ And it’s given me the courage and strength to tell the stories.
Since you’re kicking off the second leg of your One Bad Night Tour on June 1, what can fans in those towns look forward to at your upcoming shows?
A place filled with energy and positivity. It’s really cool because a lot of my fans will come alone to my shows because they maybe don’t feel comfortable telling people they’re going or they don’t want to out themselves. When I meet groups of fans, like ten people, and I ask if they’re best friends, they’ll say ‘no we just met five minutes ago.’ You can look forward to meeting great people, making friends and feeling comfortable in your skin. You’ll get to feel free with no pressure, but hopefully still enjoy a good performance.