Hayley Kiyoko Used to Be ‘Embarrassed’ by Her Culture. Now She’s Owning It

Hayley Kiyoko
Photo: Trevor Flores/Atlantic Records.

Last year, Hayley Kiyoko was the new face in town at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards as their Rising Star recipient. Fast forward to collaborations with Taylor Swift, a series of new singles, an international headlining world tour and a quick trip to Japan, our very own “Lesbian Jesus” returned to the Billboard Women in Music Awards on Dec. 12. But not just as an attendee—Hayley Kiyoko was this year’s host.

“It was one of my favorite nights of the year last year,” she recalls of her experience at the 2018 Women in Music awards. “To be a celebrated among such incredible, powerful women in the industry—I’m just really honored and lucky to be in a room of such great company.” Great company, like Woman of the Decade Taylor Swift, Savage x Fenty ambassador and fellow emergent artist Normani, and you know, everyone else wearing a power suit who strutted up on the pink carpet before the ceremony. But great company like this also meant massive jitters for 28-year-old Kiyoko, who’s never hosted anything like this before. Ahead of last Thursday night’s ceremony, she revealed to STYLECASTER that the whole thing seemed “pretty nerve-wracking, but I’m going to just have to be fearless about it.” And she was.

Kiyoko cracked jokes and made empowering comments over the course of the night like a seasoned pro. Turns out, she got through the most “fearless moment” of her career with a little help from a small, yet mighty item.

Starting this month, the pop star secured her first-ever beauty partnership with Olay Body—and ever since, she’s been obsessed with their Ultra Moisture Shea Butter Body Wash . It’s been the one beauty product as of late that’s made her feel consistently confident—whether that’s on stage or traveling overseas.

“I think beauty comes from within, [but] it’s about confidence, and confidence comes from being comfortable,” Kiyoko says. Kiyoko and I reminisce about how something as simple as a good body wash can do that for you—especially when it’s accessible, affordably priced and “saves time.” The idea behind her partnership, she explains, is to help others find whatever it may be that gives them that confidence. Whether it’s through an Olay product, self-love, or both.

Self-love is a journey that Kiyoko is always on. As an outspoken advocate and member of the LGBTQ+ community, she’s never shied from interweaving her experiences with her identity into her music. And that also goes for her background as a half-Japanese American woman. Kiyoko visited Japan recently, where she says she had to opportunity to “reflect on all of kind of judgment that I put on myself over who I was, and being kind of embarrassed of my culture [in the past.]”

Returning from her travels, Kiyoko is sure as ever that this embarrassment serves no purpose in her life. “Beauty is being different and embracing who you are and celebrating who you are. And now I am so proud of being half Japanese and my family and my culture, and I love learning about it. It’s something that I really celebrate and own,” she admits.

“I do think that we all are going through our own things, whether it’s dry skin or if it’s difficulty with your family or friends or loving yourself. We all have struggles that we’re trying to learn to overcome and then eventually embrace,” she says. It’s a perspective that makes sense of her most recent music project: I’M TOO SENSITIVE FOR THIS SHIT. Instead of succumbing to the pressures of the industry and the high-output model of the traditional album cycle, Kiyoko decided to release a series of singles—ultimately resulting in a full collection of songs in 2020. Her recent single, “Runaway,” was just released this Friday, Dec. 13.

“I thought it’d be really cool to just release a song every month up until tour and share what I’ve been going through and how I’ve been feeling,” she reveals. “I’m too sensitive for this shit, literally. Life is hard and we’re all taking it day by day and I want to share that without disappearing for a long time without any music. So I’m really excited about it, and I hope you love it.”

If the outpour of support following her Billboard appearance and the single is any indication, it looks like fans certainly do.