Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani’s “What I Need” Video Takes Gay Agenda to Beautiful New Heights

One of the early standout tracks from Lesbian Jesus Hayley Kiyoko’s debut album Expectations is her duet with queer singer Kehlani, “What I Need.” It’s a song that addresses a common lesbian tale — being in love with someone who’s waffling on how open or committed they can be about the relationship. Today the pair dropped their music video for the song, playing best friends who eventually become more.

Lesbian Jesus has saved us again and is pushing the gay agenda to new, even gayer heights.

In the video, Kehlani leaves a homophobic and verbally abusive home for a road trip with Kiyoko, just two friends who flirt with each other sometimes — until the climax, when they finally seal the deal with a kiss. It’s a celebration of female friendship, for sure, but it also celebrates the specific queer / bi / lesbian female experience of falling in love with another woman.

Neither artist had announced that they’d be collaborating on a video until this week, when Hayley Kiyoko, a master of building up excitement amongst her fans, started dropping hints on her instagram, posting text conversations between with someone named “k” and eventually posting a picture of the two of them photoshopped together as children. Kehlani is the perfect collaborator for Kiyoko — another openly and outspokenly queer woman of color who loves to interact with fans, especially queer ones, on social media. These two coming together and being so loud and proud about their sexuality and their love for their queer fans is my favorite thing in the world.

It’s important to note that, once again, Kiyoko directed this video herself, bringing to the table not only her immense talent but her specifically lesbian gaze. Never before have I seen a mainstream pop artist this dedicated to providing women who love women with the kind of representation straight people are used to. This is a radically queer video that makes me feel entirely seen.

This is my favorite trend in pop music. Halsey and Lauren Jauregui sang together on “Strangers,” and now Kehlani and Kiyoko got together with this song. Hopefully we can look forward to a Demi Lovato/Janelle Monae duet next.

I’m going to go back to watching this video another twenty times in a row now!

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. So excited to be seeing Hayley in concert in a few weeks. She makes my queer heart go on and on.

  2. I always knew life had more meaning. 20gayteen and everywhere is shaking. Wow. If you had told me five years ago that girls singing to girls would become a norm in our media, I would have said thank you for the fantasy. And now it’s a reality. We deserve our own songs and stories too. Thank you to these artists for making us seen and represented. We are no longer invisible in music videos.

  3. Thoughts I had watching this video:

    “Awww, they’re wearing their seatbelts.”
    “Did he card them? They do not look old enough.”
    “I almost wrecked my Jeep once because I had .my hand down my girlfriends pants and wasn’t paying attention, to the highway. That was irresponsible.”
    “Do not get in that truck!”
    “I’m old.”

  4. Today is my birthday and there is no greater gift than this video. Thank you lesbian Jesus!

  5. Today has been stressful, but then the good lord* provides!
    *Lesbian Jesus

    also, “Hopefully we can look forward to a Demi Lovato/Janelle Monae duet next.” I audibly gasped. What a beautiful possibility.

  6. Feeling grateful to Mey and Autostraddle for their tremendous work on the Hayley Kiyoko beat. Also Kehlani’s acting in this is really good!

  7. The kiss, hands on her bare skin, laying her down by the side of the road, ohhhhh.

  8. According to Kehlani *all* the dialogue in the video is improv, and Hayley says they originally made the video in DECEMBER and she’s been sitting on it since then.

    Also between the A+ post and this video I am beyond twitterpated and excuse me I have to do something in my bedroom; can I put a Do Not Disturb or Scrunchie on my door even though I live alone?

  9. This video is just… so good. So so good. It’s everything I needed to see as a teenager, but didn’t have, and I am just so happy that it (and all of Hayley’s videos, and Hayley’s entire self) finally exists in this world.

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