Artist Hayley Kiyoko Says Love Whoever You Want
25-year-old Hayley Kiyoko is an actress, a singer, a songwriter and a director, but above all, she is human, which is something she wants to make sure everyone knows and something that her fans admire her so greatly for.
“My goal as an artist is to normalize feelings and validate how people feel and for them to not feel alienated, for them to have someone that they can really relate to,” Hayley explained to me before her show at The Bowery Ballroom for her One Bad Night tour.
Hayley has created a series of powerful art over the years ranging from her Girls Like Girls music video to her latest piece, Sleepover, each of which she had full creative direction in. We spoke to Hayley about her process, what it’s like working behind and in front of the camera, and her future aspiration.
Sleepover sheds a light on a very difficult topic and I know that you had said it was inspired by a very real situation for you. Why did you choose to call it sleepover?
Well, I think the word sleepover just was inspired by all those times when you go to sleep and you dream about the person that you like and you have that fantasy. For me, growing up, I never was really with the person I wanted to be with or I had a crush on someone and they didn’t see me that way. It wasn’t their fault, but it definitely effected me and there was a deep sadness with that feeling. I felt like it was important to sing about that sadness because a lot of my fans, and other people who don’t even know my music, I feel like all of us have fallen for someone that maybe the feelings weren’t reciprocated.
I think that what’s cool about it, even though it’s sad, there’s a comfort with the sadness. So when you watch it, it kind of comforts you in a weird way where it’s like, “Yeah I’ve been there, I’ve felt that way.”
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How does “Sleepover” differ from other work you’ve created?
In my mind, it was the most simple concept, you know it was one location and one room and one kind of scene really, so the video was more of a feeling as opposed to a narrative, which is normally what I like to do. So I found that very challenging and exciting because I was like, “ok, cool how do I make this not boring?”
It was great because I got to really focus on the aesthetic. I got to pick out the wallpaper down to the colors, we had a color palette and a mood board. Everything was very thought out and it was exciting because it was the way I imagined. I kind of see things in color and so the feeling that I get with that video, it was great because I was kind of able to capture that in the video as far as the color and the mood and the aesthetic.
You’re very involved in so much of the creative process for your music videos. Where do you begin? What is the process like?
The process is long and it’s not just me. It’s like, cool this is my vision, but it takes lots of people to really complete the vision and really execute it. You know, it’s a lot of pressure.
To be honest with you, we were going to do a video for another song and a week before the shoot, we decided to switch songs and we were like no, we’re going to do “Sleepover.” It was very just kind of a gut feeling like “ok, this is the song.” Then we were like, “alright fuck, what do we do?!”
I knew the feeling but I kept overthinking like, do I need to make it more complicated? It’s just going to be one room? My team helped me kind of just feel confident in the vision and just know that it wasn’t going to be boring and know that it was going to say something.
But it’s been interesting because when I did the video I was going into it going, “okay, this video isn’t life changing, but this video has a feeling, it shows who I am as an artist, it shows my perspective and it will be beautiful to watch.” So I didn’t really expect people to connect to it as much as they have so that’s been a really beautiful thing that we’ve discovered that it did connect and it does resonate with people. So that was a nice little extra present because I was just kind of was like ‘oh, this is very different…”
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In some of the videos like “Girls like Girls” you aren’t actually pictured in the video. Do you feel more comfortable in front or behind the camera?
I feel very comfortable in front of the camera because obviously I act, but when it comes to directing videos I personally don’t like to be on camera because I like to focus on being the director and really executing the video because if I don’t than no one will.
I try to avoid being in my videos when I direct them, but sometimes you have to show face, sometimes you have to be in the videos. For this video in particular for Sleepover, it was a feeling that has haunted me my whole life really so I needed to be in the video.
As a former Disney actress and a LGBTQ+ advocate, how did you feel when you heard about Disney including a gay character in Beauty and the Beast?
I’m so proud of Disney! I think it’s wonderful. I think Disney has such an impact on the world and youth and the newer generations. I think it’s important for them to include the LGBTQ+ community in their art because they influence so many people and there are so many kids watching their movies and their shows so I’m 100% behind them in involving a gay character in their film because they should, there’s a lot of us out there! That will only just help normalize people and that’s my goal as an artist is to normalize feelings and validate how people feel, for them to not feel alienated or have someone that they can really relate to.
So that’s my goal with all of my videos, like the One Bad Night video and having a trans actress [star in it]. I’m trying to include all humans, because we should! It’s 2017. We’re all so unique and we’re all so different and it’s important for us to help normalize truth.
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What are your goals for the future?
You know, it’s interesting. I’m kind of just discovering my purpose as I continue to write every song and direct every video. I’m kind of building where I want to be as it comes. I don’t really know what my goal is, but right now my goal is just to be honest and truthful to who I am and hopefully help others by inspiring them and feeling like there’s a space for them.
Photography and Interview by Keri Dolan