Last night at the VMAs, there was one star that kept shining through our screen — and of course, it was none other than lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko. If you follow Kiyoko on Instagram, then you’ve been witness to her journey since being nominated for two VMAs (or as she calls them, VMGays). She’s been giving her fans special BTS (behind-the-scenes) videos, photos, and moments from her past year of touring to give us a glimpse into her fabulous lez life, and to get us excited to vote for her in the VMAs (as if we needed to get more excited!). And our votes paid off because Kiyoko was dubbed the FIRST EVER Push Artist of the Year last night at the VMAs. (She was also only points behind Cardi B. for Best New Artist, which is a feat in and of itself.)
We are so f*cking proud of Hayley for not only all she’s accomplished for herself — but the needed representation and visibility that she gives to young queer women, especially queer women of color.
“This validates any queer woman of color, that you can follow your dreams. And I love my fans! We did it, 20-gay-teen!” she exclaimed while hugging her brand new VMGay Award from the stage last night.
When the video collaboration with Kehlani for “What I Need” came out earlier this year, the lesbian internet collectively lost our damn minds. It’s so rare that we get media that is not only created with us in mind, but also created by someone who understands what our love looks like and how nuanced our life experiences are. “Life isn’t perfect and sometimes it sucks and sometimes you’re in situations that are scary and I like to show that because, to me, that’s what making real art is,” Kiyoko said in a video with Genius about her vision for “What I Need.” Watching Kehlani running into Hayley’s arms at the end of “What I Need” gave lesbians everywhere a collective rush in our hearts. We’ve all been there before — in that first queer love that feeds the air you breathe and makes you run wild with abandon and without fear towards her.
For decades LGBTQ fans have supported, cheered on, and bought tickets for Gay Icons that weren’t actually gay (*cough cough* Cher, Kylie Minogue, the list goes on…) and it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that! Us gays are some of the most diehard, loyal fans out there. We just have rarely been given an out pop star who identifies with us. Now we have Hayley Kiyoko. Lesbian Jesus. The swaggy lez that has been dubbed that girl version of early ’00s boy bands. Through her rise to fame, she has never backed down from giving us the gayest, most unabashed women-loving-other-women creative content.
It feels like just yesterday that Kiyoko gave us “Girls Like Girls,” her first true gift to baby dykes everywhere fighting to be seen and heard and validated. Her music speaks to experiences that simply can’t be reproduced through the cis-male gaze — as they so often do (ahem, Rita Ora’s “Girls” video). Her songs give queer women a home, a place where we can curl up and listen to her words on repeat, a safe space where we know we aren’t alone. Even if we’re facing homophobia and feel like the only gay kid out there in rural America. Even if we’ve been kicked out of our parents’ home. Even if we’re harboring a painful crush on our straight-girl BFF. We can hear Kiyoko’s lyrics and watch her videos and inherently know that we will be okay, life will get better, we will find love.
“My fans have given me purpose, and without that purpose, I would be lost,” she told Nylon. Kiyoko has spoken before about how when she first started out in her career, she didn’t want to be put in a box as a lesbian woman — but she soon realized that it wasn’t a box at all. It was much more expansive and limitless than the confines of a box. She has the unique opportunity to provide representation for a demographic that is so largely misrepresented or ignored altogether in mainstream media.
Kiyoko is the FIRST ever lesbian pop star to be signed on a major record label to create multiple music videos (directed by herself) where she is kissing and loving other women. And she pulls from her memories as a young queer girl, feeling misunderstood and confused about her crushes on girls. From that comes genius songs like “Sleepover” and “Curious” and “Feelings” — all of which provide a space for our love to be validated as real and authentic and wild.
And sure, one could say that Kiyoko is simply doing what any other artist does — making art that speaks to her. But we all know that she’s so much more than that. She’s the lesbian heartthrob we’ve been waiting for. The queer woman of color pop star, swaggy lez, filling stadiums with sweaty teenage girls screaming for her. She is the sexy poster hanging on the back of our still-in-the-closet teenage bedroom doors. She is paving the way for more queer women to have a platform for creativity about our lives, loves, and heartbreaks.
Congrats on your VMGay Award, Hayley! We know you have so many more awards and accolades and celebrations before you. Your queer and lez community is here, by your side, buying tickets to your shows, listening to your songs on repeat, and eagerly awaiting more of your art that is so vital to the heartbeat of our community.