Entertainment

Hayley Kiyoko Is Making the Gay Reality Show of Her Dreams

The pop star known as "Lesbian Jesus" talks about the art that inspires her.

Design by Mallory Rosten for Thrillist
Design by Mallory Rosten for Thrillist
Design by Mallory Rosten for Thrillist

In her own words, the pop star Hayley Kiyoko is a “massive lesbian.” To her fans, she’s “Lesbian Jesus.” As a musician, she’s unabashedly herself, writing love songs with female pronouns and letting her own queerness assume center stage. Take, for instance, the self-directed video for “For the Girls,” the third single off her upcoming album, which puts a gay spin on the Bachelor franchise.

Kiyoko started her career as a member of a girl group called The Stunners, all the while acting in the Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place and Lemonade Mouth. But she really broke out in 2015 when she released the song “Girls Like Girls,” and her status as a bright, gay light of pop was cemented with her 2018 album Expectations. In honour of Pride Month and in anticipation of Panorama, which features songs like “Chance” and “Deep in the Woods,” Thrillist spoke with Kiyoko about her formative touchstones.

Stevie Wonder, No Doubt, and Pink

I was really inspired by people that were very unique and bold with who they were. I think the struggle was I didn’t really have a queer icon per se in my adolescence. But I loved Stevie Wonder because he told these incredible, wonderful, visual stories with his music. And I was inspired by Gwen Stefani and No Doubt because she was just authentically herself and she was also a tomboy. I loved Pink. I really looked up to the artists that were open with who they were and didn’t fit the exact norm of how we should present and how we should dress.

Coming out in the music world

The thing that sparked me the most was this conversation I had with my co-writer Lily May-Young when I was writing music with her. It was raining outside, and she was like, “What are you most afraid of expressing?” She was the first person I came out to in the music world and scene. That was this epiphany moment of “why am I not sharing my actual truth?” That was a turning point for me. So that was my movie or TV moment where I was like, “Hey, maybe I should share who I am, and why am I holding back? What am I waiting for?” That was the day we wrote “Girls Like Girls.” That was the moment. And I think that was in my early 20s. I’ve written songs since I was 5, and I always used male pronouns. And even in the comfort of my own bedroom and the comfort of my own journal, I was afraid someone was going to read it. I was never truthful to myself with who I wanted to really sing about. So that was a big deal for me.

Carol

I’ve always been cheering any type of queer representation in the film and television space, and I think we’re getting more and more. We still need more, but I am always comforted to see that representation start to really come about in a mainstream way. I loved the movie Carol-that was one of my favourite movies that came out. I’ve just always craved more. And I’ve always craved to create things that I’ve always wanted to watch or listen to. There’s been such a gaping hole for me, just as a queer woman of colour trying to find exactly who I am and exactly why my journey has always been hard. That’s always been a great motivator for me to direct my music videos and to hopefully direct features and television.

Reality TV

I love all those dating shows. I just love reality television, and I want to see people like me up there as well. I don’t know why we don’t have that representation, because queer people are everywhere and we are mainstream. And so I was really inspired to create a music video for “For the Girls” where anyone could find love. Directing this music video was a dream come true, as was casting the contestants. We had queer people in front of the camera, behind the camera. I think I was so surprised by how much in-person presence I needed from the queer community, because we’ve been in isolation and have been connecting with each other on the internet, and texting, and Zooming and all this stuff. But just being physically with people that have similar experiences and feeling that community was the greatest gift ever. It reminded me of when my fans tell me how wonderful it is to go to my concerts and what a safe space it feels like. I was experiencing that on my own music video shoot, like, gosh, this just feels like oxygen. This feels right, and I feel like I can truly be myself. Every single person, I think, felt very similarly. It was an incredible shoot, and it was so fun because we did multi-cam the way we shot it. I was just like, “Wow, should I get into reality? This is so much fun.”

Tegan and Sara and Lance Bass

Tegan and Sara were a huge influence on me and helped normalize my feelings. I think Lance Bass coming out, for real, when that happened, that was a big moment for me too. It’s been a culmination of many moments. Many moments of normalization that had led me to truly love myself and be who I am today. And so I think that it’s so important for people to encourage one another to have a safe space, to be their authentic selves, because every single branch on that tree is leading to someone fully emerging.

Being “Lesbian Jesus”

At the time, I didn’t know that nickname was going to stick, and it’s really stuck to the point of it being in the Urban Dictionary. I’m so grateful for my fans because they have made me feel so normalized and seen and celebrated. I just want them to feel the same way. Growing up, I didn’t feel that way. There’s always going to be challenges. Life is going to be hard. But why not make life a little easier and support one another and share our struggles and our triumphs and our experiences with one another to help bring ease to someone else’s journey? I don’t really have an answer to what Lesbian Jesus means to me now. To me, it just feels like a big hug from my fans. And I feel celebrated for being my true, authentic self, which is a massive lesbian.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.

Entertainment

Why the Shocking Twist in 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' Is So Killer

The A24 horror-comedy has a lot to say about how logged on we are today.

A24
A24
A24

This story contains spoilers about the ending of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.Even if you’ve tried to game the TikTok algorithm to feed you videos from #fashiontok, #foodtok, or whatever else you might be interested in, when you open the app, you tend to be inundated with a whole lot of discourse. In many ways, it’s incredible how attuned young people are in knowing who they are and how comfortable they are having frank conversations. But in other ways, sometimes it can feel like quick-hit platforms have a tendency to deduce real issues or strip things of their meanings-whether that’s teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental illness, or people labelling musicians as “female or male manipulator artists” without ever listening to their music.

A24’s latest horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies (out now in theatres) about a group of 20-somethings partying during a hurricane that turns into a hunt for a killer is like a movie downloaded from the current millennial-Gen-Z cusp moment of the internet we’re in. When the trailer for the movie directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a story from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, dropped earlier this year, it made that very clear. In just over a minute and a half, we hear the cast of cool girl breakouts yelling, “You’re always gaslighting me,” “you fucking trigger me,” “you’re so toxic,” and “you’re silencing me.” Even the movie’s tagline is, “This is not a safe space.”

Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much logged onto millennial/Gen Z social media-isms throughout, from lines hilariously pieced together by the Twitter zeitgeist to scenes featuring TikTok dances. The movie operates on a delectable kind of slasher-movie paranoia, making the audience just as unsure as the slumber party gone wrong with who is killing them off left and right. But given how much of a playful satire it is of contemporary youth culture, it ends up being a twist that feels all but inevitable, and couldn’t be more razor-blade sharp.

A24
A24
A24

Once the torrential downpour stops and the sun comes up, it seems as if Maria Bakalova‘s Bee is about to be our Bodies Bodies Bodies final girl, now that she’s realized how much her relationship with Sophia (Amandla Stenberg) is based on lies. As a test to see how easily Sophie can lie-and therefore deny killing all of her friends from midnight until dawn-Bee asks her if she cheated on her with Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan. It’s a fact that Bee already knows to be true, considering she came across a pair of panties in Sophie’s car that matched a bra she noticed in Jordan’s bag. When Sophie denies it, Bee tries to take her phone (which Jordan admitted would have texts about their recent hook-up on it), and the two start fighting outside in the remnants of the storm. Bee eventually pulls a phone out of the mud, and it looks like the WiFi and cell phone service that was gone all night is finally back. Thinking she’ll pull up the evidence she needs-and confirmation to get the hell out of there-she’s surprised when Sophie says, “That’s not my phone,” and even more surprised to see what’s on it.

It turns out that it belongs to David, Pete Davidson’s coked-out rich kid character whose parents’ house they’re partying at and was the first one to die in the movie. They know it’s David’s phone because it opens to a TikTok, soundtracked by the lockdown classic TikTok song “Bored In The House” by Curtis Roach and Tyga, that shows him waving around his dad’s decorative but very real sword (!) to try to open a champagne bottle (!), idiotically waving it towards himself, only to slice right into his own neck. As it turns out, nobody killed David-not an intruder, not Jordan, not Sophie, not Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) she knew nothing about (except for the fact that he was a Libra moon), and not their friend Max (Conner O’Malley) who left early the night before. David accidentally killed himself, and hysteria is what killed everybody else. You could say that it’s almost predictable that it turns out to be a clout-chasing TikTok that led to the movie’s murderous spiral of events. Although, that would undercut what Reijn and DeLappe are trying to say with the darkly funny movie with an especially dark, funny twist. Like TikTok or Twitter, the movie is a constant feed of discourse, buzzwords, and blanket statements that snarkily laugh at and with its ensemble. There are many moments in particular that drive this home-like Alice trying to be sympathetic in talking about mental health, only to make the conversation about her, and David ridiculing his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) for getting all of her thoughts from Twitter after she says he “gaslights” her. On top of that, David picks up the sword and tries to go viral to begin with because his masculinity felt threatened by Greg, who did the trick in the first place.

While it would be downright terrifying if a party with people who are supposedly your best friends turned into a slasher flick, in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the horror isn’t a vengeful or heartless killer. Everybody may become a psychopath of sorts when they feel physically threatened or legitimately toxic name-calling and backstabbing ensues, but Bodies Bodies Bodies and its devilish twist is about the humour and horror in the devoid way we can use social media today more than anything else. Like Sophie and Bee’s terrified realization at the end, it makes you want to log off for awhile… right after you post a 100K-worthy tweet about it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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