Lesbian Jesus Hayley Kiyoko is Nylon’s Pride Issue Cover Girl and I Wrote The Story

On the day after Hayley Kiyoko played Coachella for the first time — a dream she’d had since her first trip to the music festival as a teenager — I went to a photography studio in downtown Los Angeles where Hayley was getting her hair done and re-done and her outfits picked out and adjusted and removed and re-picked-out while photographer Lindsey Byrnes and her assistants unrolled giant sheathes of colored paper and taped them in place for Hayley to stand on while wearing the final outfits and final hairdos. She was being photographed for her first-ever cover story and Nylon’s first-ever Pride issue. (Technically, Hayley has been on a magazine cover before, when she appeared as one of Lemonade Mouth co-star Bridgit Mendler’s “BFFs” in a 2011 issue of Girl’s Life, but this was her first real, solo cover story as the musician Hayley Kiyoko.)

Later, I’d grab thirty minutes with the 27-year-old musician/artist/dancer/actress on a couch in another sparsely-furnished room draped in a giant American flag, and later still I’d see her after the ecstatic sold-out show in Santa Ana that I attended with her publicists (her parents were there too), and then the week after that we’d finish up on the phone while she was Utah on her “Expectation” tour. She was warm and funny and insightful and everything you’d expect her to be.

I was hired to write the story by Gabrielle Korn, Nylon’s first lesbian editor-in-chief and a former Contributing Editor for Autostraddle.com. (You may remember her columns How To Own It and Lez Get Dressed For Work.) This is Gabrielle’s first summer as Editor-in-Chief, and thus this June marks Nylon’s first-ever Pride Issue. She writes in her letter to the editor:

Since I joined staff as a senior editor in 2014, I’ve worked to increase our queer content online, from aesthetic representation to political takes. Stories that address queer issues have become some of our best-performing posts, evidence that our audience–you!–is made up of queer people and allies. In September of 2017, when we shifted to all-digital and I became Editor-in-Chief, one of the first things I did was change the monthly print themes to reflect what we’d learned from digital about what NYLON readers want, the queerness of our audience being a top priority. And, frankly, as NYLON’s first-ever lesbian EIC, it’s particularly important to me that part of the hallmark of my tenure here is making everything a little bit gayer. And that, friends, is how our Pride issue was born.

It’s been a crazy week for Kiyoko — when I talked to her in April she was already visibly delighted by the fact that she’d shot a music video a few months ago that hadn’t come out yet, and she wasn’t gonna tell me the song it was for. “It’s gonna come out, probably this summer,” she told me, grinning. “It might come out right before the cover, or it might come out right after. But it’s so good, I love it.” That video — for her duet with Kehlani, “What I Need,” debuted yesterday, and the internet lost its collective mind. This week, she starts doing press for the Facebook series “Five Points,” Executive Produced by Kerry Washington, which debuts next week.

Although the opportunity to do this story came at an inopportune time — the immediate lead-up to A-Camp, and (surprise!) a breakup — I took it anyway, ’cause I’m so stoked about Hayley Kiyoko’s existence and have been fascinated by her success as an out lesbian pop star, as well as her persistent refusal to stop telling authentic stories in her self-directed music videos. “Expectations” is my favorite album of 2018 and I’ve listened to it approximately every day since it debuted in March. We did a cover of “Curious” at A-Camp, and I noticed at least one cabin with one of Hayley’s TWENTYGAYTEEN rainbow flags flying outside their cabin. I haven’t been this excited about a pop star since I fell in love with Britney Spears in 1999, which probably made me gay.

I love that she loves girls too much to ever stop talking, let alone singing, about them. And if you wanna read me talk to her and talk more about that, then head over to Nylon Magazine right this instant.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2671 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check your sources. Most of what I have seen written about Hailey states that she identifies as BISEXUAL. I am so sick of bisexual erasure by the very news sources that want our money, but don’t actually care about us.

    It seems like almost every week I learn someone new is bisexual, and my partner often asks, how could you not know? THIS IS WHY. PLEASE CHECK YOUR SOURCES AND CORRECT THIS. This is so harmful to bisexual folks.

    • Erica, Hayley Kiyoko said to my actual face that she is not bisexual, does that count as checking a source? She identifies as gay, she’s a lesbian. My source on this information about Hayley Kiyoko is Hayley Kiyoko.

    • Quote from the article –

      The concept of a young out lesbian pop star is so outré, in fact, that “people still think I don’t like girls, or people think I’m bisexual. I’m like… why?”

    • To Erica, bisexual erasure is real and it hurts. It hurts a lot. It hurts a lot.

      To Riese, thank you fighting like hell every single day for queer women and nonbinary representation, media, and celebration. Thank you for making spaces for us to bring our hurting starving selves like you and Hayley talked about and filling us up with media that celebrates all our many varied experiences.

        • I understand that everyone carries wounds from erasure, but it would also be so much nicer if we could refrain from accusation when all the evidence points to erasure not actually happening. In the interview itself, Hayley Kiyoko identifies herself as a lesbian and even specifies that she’s not bisexual. This isn’t up for debate.

          Erica W’s attempt to protect bisexuals from erasure ironically erases Kiyoko’s own voice and experience. Lesbian erasure is also real, and refusing to accept that Kiyoko is a lesbian despite her own self-identification may arguably qualify. All of this could have been avoided by giving Riese the benefit of the doubt.

        • Considering that Hayley is basically the only more or less mainstream singer who openly identifies as a lesbian while there’s lots and lots of those who identify as bi, pan, fluid or “no labels”, and that there’s been really strong push to spread false informations that Hayley is bisexual – the comment above is just one example and also confirmation of that – your response stands out as really neglectful.

          The comment above, in all the context I described, is really outstanding example of lesbian erasure, and all you could write in response to that was basically yeah, it’s bisexual erasure that matters, let no one forget about that. Just wow.

    • Erica W. – out of curiosity, please share those “sources”. Let me guess, Tumblr entries?

      I’ve been following Hayley’s career since Girls Like Girls. If I’m not mistaken she officially said for the first time that she’s gay in August 2017 (in an interview for some article, she did it before on gigs), but even then there were some people insisting that she had to mean it as “umbrella term” (BTW, anyone knows since when younger folks started appropriating “gay” as a word for non-homosexual people?). But then she specifically said she’s not bisexual to finally silence those people, lol. Though as seen above, it still wasn’t 100% successful.

      I always wondered why there’s been so strong push from large group of her fans to insist that she’s bisexual. I mean, up until she specified that she’s gay all that was known about her orientation was that she’s not straight, so why people assumed she can’t be a lesbian? When I asked, it was never anything specific. There’s been some article years back, some gossip stuff, if I’m not mistaken it even preceded Girls Like Girls, but even in that article it was said that Hayley could be a lesbian (bisexual was listed as the first possiblity of course).
      I have some other suspicion. She had male fans back then, and while most of them dropped her, I think initially, in response to signs that the object of their desire is not straight, was to do what men usually do in such situations.

      I see the same thing right now for example in what people say about Maisie Richardson-Sellers, the actress from Legends of Tomorrow (who also almost ended up playing Ray on Star Wars). She has a girlfriend and as far as I know, she never publicly stated how exactly she identifies. And of course, on social media commentary there’s on one side lots of thirsty men insisting that she’s bi, and on the other, fools from our community who believe everything they see on the internet and spreading it further since if someone wrote something on the internet it must be the true.

          • I realize that there are probably multiple commenters named Amelia here, but I have a strong feeling that you are the one who accused Heather of perpetuating lesbian erasure when she put Waverly Earp on a list of beloved bisexual characters last year. If I am wrong, please disregard what follows.

            The way you talk about lesbian erasure ironically mirrors the way Erica W talks about bisexual erasure. The details of your arguments are opposed, but you both drink from the same well of righteous anger. Righteously angry lesbians and righteously angry bisexuals have more in common with each other than either group may realize. Both groups feel like Gryffindor, courageously defending an ideal. But both groups tend to see their respective forms of erasure in places where it isn’t happening, as Erica W did here, because rage distorts people’s perception. And for every Erica W who stares into a mirage of bisexual erasure, there is a lesbian commenter doing the same thing on a different Autostraddle article over perceived lesbian erasure.

            Yes, erasure sucks. Yes, we all feel pain when our sexualities are invalidated. This is a given. But we don’t have to assume the worst of Autostraddle writers in order to combat erasure. We don’t have to lob hyperbolic accusations at them. Even when we’re indisputably right and they’ve made a mistake, we don’t have to unleash moral indignation and contempt at them.

            The writers here invest a ton of emotional and intellectual energy into studying our communities and writing for and about us with generosity and complexity. Unfortunately, all too many of us carry unresolved trauma and pain and we end up taking it out on them. That sucks, regardless of which identity category we are aiming to protect when we lash out. We can also hurt them when we do this. Maybe our pain explains it, but that doesn’t justify it or make it an effective way to engage with people.

            My point is not that righteous rage is morally wrong and everyone who engages in it is bad and needs to be condemned (most of us have engaged in it at some point and no one group has a monopoly). But this style of confrontation can be hurtful and I don’t think it even works as intended. We will never stop lesbian erasure by scrutinizing bi/pan/queer women for fuckups and fighting with them online. Fighting can certainly feel satisfying. But fighting doesn’t invite bisexuals to empathize with us or enable us to empathize with them. Would we rather be righteous or have real, generous connections to each other and these writers? It’s not too late for any of us to start fresh, make corrections compassionately when errors are made, and assume the best of people. We would all be a lot less lonely.

          • Donna M – yes, it was me talking about the handling of Waverly’s sexuality, and I don’t see how my comment mirrors what Erica W. wrote. It was basically what I stated above in relation to Maisie (with that little difference that Waverly is fictional character).

            Namely, at that time (I’m not sure how it looks like now after ClexaCon) nothing was confirmed about Waverly’s sexuality. But Heather in her article called her bisexual, apparently only because the character had history with a man. So I pointed out that she shouldn’t assume her orientation from that and that such approach basically erases lesbians who came out later in their life.

            IIRC, I was of course jumped on for that, and this is another huge difference between us, how the majority of AS community handles the issues of perceived biphobia and lesbophobia.

            Straight up lesbophobic comments like ‘This is why I don’t hang out with lesbians’ (under an article that mentioned one lesbian doing something shitty – compare it for example to analogous ‘this is why I don’t hang out with black people’) receive dozens of likes here. In one of my previous arguments there was a person who compared lesbians to straight white men to argue that lesbians are privileged and don’t deserve “special treatment”, like their identity being recognized here (it was back when Autostraddle didn’t even acknowledge Lesbian Visibility Day or about how on bar above, where there is “Identities” category, there is section for bisexuals or trans women, but not for lesbians). And that comment, comparing lesbians to straight men as an excuse for neglecting us, received dozens of likes as well.

            Meanwhile I, when trying to talk about lesbophobia or lesbian erasure, receive reponses like above, trying to shame me, or my favorite, accusing me of biphobia, here’s the exact quote:
            “I call you biphobic because you only ever comment to shout about lesbians being maligned on articles that are about bisexual people”.

            The fact is that this community (by which I mostly mean commenters on this site as well as most of social media regarding LGBT issues) became very lesbophobic and it’s undisputable. When people here are stereotyping the whole sexual minority as bad people no one should have anything to do with, or are comparing us to over-privileged straight men to argue we deserve nothing, and when those people are only encouraged in that hate talk by receiving dozens of up-votes, while those who try to talk back only meet shaming, there is a real problem here. We should talk about that.

            So while it’s probably true that Erica feels strongly about bisexual erasure and biphobia, just as I feel about lesbian erasure and lesbophobia, she was objectively wrong here and felt so entitled that she didn’t need to check any reputable sources before she decided to shout her “truth”, which basically was an attempt commit lesbian-erasure on the only lesbian pop singer out there. And the source of this entitlement is what I suspect to be the root of the problem here.

          • When Erica W made an unfounded claim about bi erasure she received half a dozen responses challenging her, including from Riese. Those responses got plenty of upvotes. Lots of people didn’t tolerate the erasure of Hayley Kiyoko’s lesbian sexuality.

            Amelia, from the outside, the way you talk about lesbophobia/lesbian erasure etc is NO DIFFERENT from the style of Erica W’s comment. Instead of saying ‘I don’t think x evidence shows that Waverly is bisexual’ and leaving it at that, you wrote “All women are bisexual by default?” That’s super accusatory. Do you REALLY think so low of Heather? If you know better than to suggest that a lesbian writer thinks we’re all bisexuals by default, then why write it? I agree with you that Waverly probably isn’t bisexual, and yet the way you attacked Heather and the other commenters stood out to me as defensive, mean, and hyperbolic.

            Listen: I am a lesbian. I ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND that lots of people make unfair and discriminatory assumptions about lesbians being automatically more privileged, biphobic etc. Over the years people I don’t even know have approached me to say horrible things based on the assumption that as a masculine lesbian I probably hate or mistreat femmes and bisexuals. I have received the lectures about how monosexuality is less evolved/inferior. You don’t have to convince me that resentment of lesbians or invalidation of lesbian identity are problems, including here.

            I can also think of many spaces (bars, parties, the AfterEllen comments section) where I have witnessed lesbians saying downright nasty things to and about bisexuals, usually out of a misplaced belief that they’re protecting themselves by doing so. Lesbians have said nasty things to me about bisexual friends and partners. I have many other lesbian friends who report similar experiences. People from every identity category lash out with righteous, destructive anger. Honestly, I just don’t see Autostraddle writers, many of whom are proud lesbians, demonstrating a special level of hostility toward lesbians. In the comments I see people from all sides bringing in grudges that have nothing to do with the writers.

            Please take a moment to set aside the SPECIFIC ARGUMENTS you are fixating on and reconsider what I wrote about your broader reactive STYLE of engagement. You DO frequently comment to accuse people of maligning lesbians on articles about bisexual people. Perhaps these aren’t your only comments, but this is a pattern that has stood out to me and I don’t pay close attention to patterns among the commenters. You do often come across as a person with a grudge against bisexuals.

            As a lesbian who wants to sympathize and probably agrees with you about many things, I do find many of your comments very much fall into the same category as Erica W’s comment here in terms of their defensive, angry, and accusatory style.

            Perhaps you will reject all of this today, but I invite you to consider the following before you hit submit in the future:
            How would I feel if someone wrote this type of comment to me?
            Am I assuming the worst of this writer/fellow commenter?
            Am I separating this writer/commenter from other people who have hurt me before?
            Am I attacking someone when diplomacy would be more effective?
            Is it possible that I’m wrong?
            When I’m wrong about something, how do I like to be spoken to; am I speaking to this other person in that way?
            Am I expressing disagreement with kindness?

            Amelia, I swear to Hayley Kiyoko, I have taken the time to engage with you because I really do want good things for you. Thank you for reading.

          • donna i am just now reading this thread b/c someone told me about it and damn, you have articulated this thing so well!! jesus

  2. I love this so much! I never buy magazines but I wish with all my queer heart that Nylon was still in print so I could go out and buy it and hold this amazingness in my own two hands.

    Favorite line of many favorite lines, that made me almost spit out my coffee on the train: “Her celebrity is spreading like mono at an all-girls boarding school.” (Riese, please.)

  3. Wow this is so cool!!! I used to read Nylon all the time when I was in high school and I had no idea that they now have an editor-in-chief who’s a lesbian and a former Autostraddle writer!

    Congrats on the cover story Riese, I read the whole thing at work because I couldn’t wait til I got home, and it was great! Looking forward to going home and watching lots of Hayley Kiyoko videos now.

    Seconding the question above….is this coming out in print? If so when?

  4. “My dream growing up was performing in an arena and having hot girls screaming at me.”

    “Elvis is alive and she is beautiful.“

    Can Hayley and Madonna get a comment award too? 😀

  5. I read this article last night while wearing my black & gold Gal Pal tshirt, about to head out the door to a gayyyy bday party, on the Friday of the weekend of Pride here in my home county where I grew up and now live w/ my wife– waking up this morning I couldn’t stop thinking about this interview and HOW GOOD it is!!! (Riese. Riese!!) And now I’m about to leave to go march in our local Pride parade alongside my wife. ? I feel so affirmed and seen and I love that Lesbian Jesus Hayley is working miracles in the world just by being her bright damn wonderful self!!

    Happy 20GAYteen and bless us all!! ?✨

  6. Congratulations Riese! This looks incredible. I have one question – since NYLON is digital now, how do we read each issue? Like, I went on the site and is there a specific place to read each issue or is it everything published throughout June or…how does this work? Because I really want to read everything specifically for the Pride issue!

  7. ok confession, I was aware of hayley kiyoko but hadn’t really engaged with her stuff that much because idk, internalised homophobia or something. Like her first instinct not to be in a certain box, I guess I have the same one not to listen to a certain box. Well, your article has inspired me to take the plunge and all i can say is WOW what a woman! these videos are blowing my mind

    I will never wilfully ignore the lesbian consensus again

    • also it makes such a difference to have the same person who wrote the song direct the video! it makes so much sense! they actually go together properly! Japanese Breakfast are doing a similar thing and I am really digging it

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